By Paul Gessell
Serious art collectors take note: A very unusual art sale begins Friday, Aug. 12 at Patrick Gordon Framing.
Ottawa collector John Irving, founder of the tech company Epals.com, is selling off about one-fifth of his 250-work collection at the venue that serves as the framer to the stars — well, the star artists of Ottawa, anyway.
Irving’s collection includes some of my very own favourite artists with links to this area, including Jean-Francois Provost, John Barkley, Claude Marquis, Heidi Conrod, Juan-Carlos Noria, and Eric Walker. (Conflict of interest alert: Some of those artists’ paintings grace the walls of my home. And some, I wish, would appear on my walls).
Irving most definitely has good taste.
Many of the works being sold are from the artists’ early periods, when they were very unknown and commanded low prices. Some of these artists have since gained fame locally and nationally. Prices have risen accordingly. The Provost and Barley paintings, for example, were purchased by Irving for a fraction of what those two artists now sell for at St. Laurent-Hill Gallery in the ByWard Market.
But what will those paintings sell for on Aug. 12?
During a recent visit to Patrick Gordon Framing, Irving was spotted still hanging the paintings on the walls. Prices had not yet been posted. And, in some cases, Irving was still calculating what price to ask.
Irving is not selling many recently acquired works from emerging artists in Ottawa. Methinks he is awaiting for the market value to increase when the artists become better known.
A Facebook page devoted to the sale contains this message from Irving:
“I have been collecting Canadian art for almost 20 years. One of my first notable acquisitions was a large painting I commissioned a close friend to produce for a freshly decorated town house. In the intervening years I would frequently acquire new pieces to commemorate significant points in my life and ultimately the collection necessitated bigger and bigger residences to showcase. Presently my collection numbers 250 or more paintings and objects of art.
“Having solidly entered a new cycle of life, with different priorities such as travel and study, I have arrived at the conclusion that parting with some of the collection would allow him [readers: I suspect he means “me,” not “him] to more readily embrace these opportunities. This decision was arrived at after four years of angst ridden deliberation as I am very attached to these objects and many will only continue to increase in value as they have done consistently over the years. However, the irresistible and undeniable calling to be ‘light on one’s feet’ has inevitably won the day and therefore some of the collection will be offered for sale at this event.
“Collectors know that earlier works by established contemporary artists are difficult, if not almost impossible, to come by. Artists represented in this exhibition include: James Lahey, Tom Hopkins, Gerald Ferguson, David Sorenson, John Barkley, Rene Pierre Allain, and numerous notable emerging artists some of whom will surely achieve notoriety eventually. So, come by the exhibition — each piece has a story to tell and I enjoy sharing them.”
Irving will be on hand this Friday to answer questions.
The collector has been something of a man about town since he sold his company Epals.com in 2003. He has spent his time acquiring his art collection, smelling the roses and, for a time, was the boyfriend of Genevieve Thauvette, one of the most talented photo-artists in Ottawa these days (best known for her stunning Dionne Quintuplet series). And no, he is not selling any of Thauvette’s work; in fact, Irving does not own any of Thauvette’s work. But that’s a story for another day.
So, what is in the cards — make that the stars — for Irving after he sheds some of his possessions?
He wants to travel the world and engage in serious study in the field of astrology. He has some ideas about matching astrology to the hi-tech world. You read it here first.
Aug. 12 to Sept. 3. 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Patrick Gordon Framing, 160 Elm St. www.patrickgordonframing.ca