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What’s wrong with this picture?

Paintings by famous Canadian artists — including Lawren Harris and Tom Thomson — garnered record prices on Thursday night at the Heffel Fine Art Auction at the Park Hyatt Hotel in Toronto.

Mountain and Glacier by Lawren Harris was the biggest seller of the night, fetching a whopping $3.9 million.

I’ve made paintings for as long as I can remember. I’ve always loved paintings. We make art a significant part of our lives here at 27th Street. And yet, it strikes me there is something amiss when a painting sells for almost $4 million, yet we can’t feed everyone or provide shelter from the winter weather, or look after refugees whose lives are in shambles.

I get that Lawren Harris has an important place in the history of painting here in Canada. Sure, I studied his work along the way, and he is after all one of the Group of Seven. (Whenever I hear or see the name Group of Seven, I’m reminded of my teacher and friend, the late Ron Bloore, who used to say, “Canadians paint by numbers.” He was referring of course to the Group of Seven, The Painters 11 and the so-called Regina 5, of which he was a part).

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against selling paintings. I’ve very pleased and encouraged to have seen the sale of a few of my own over the past couple years (a big thanks to all those who bought one – I hope it brings you years and years of enjoyment). I just can’t get my head around 4 million Canadianos for some paint on canvas, no matter how famous the artist, no matter how accomplished the painting, no matter how critical it was to our cultural history.

Just imagine the fantastic collection a modest collecting contemporary gallery could amass for $4 million. It could be spectacular. I know a lot of artists, and I don’t think the combined lifetime sales of all of them together amounts to that kind of change – and just about all of them have to hold down a day job to support that nasty art habit.

Harris paintings are always a big draw, and there may have been increased interest in his work given the buzz around a Steve Martin-curated exhibit at the Los Angeles Hammer Museum.

Aha! Blame it on the banjo player.

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