Saturday, November 24, 2012

David Heffel Q&A at Canadian Art

Here is another long and rangy Q&A.

 It was mostly a learning conversation for me about an art-related business I was curious about: Heffel Fine Art Auction House. Heffel is a home-grown Canadian operation, and often seems to be a the top of the Canadian art auction market, even with the presence of internationally hefty competitors like Sotheby's.

I was interested in finding out more about how Heffel might have succeeded in this unusual and difficult field. This curiosity was what drove the interview, timed to coincide with Canada's fall auction season—which was kicked off by the Heffel event and its 10th anniversary of opening a Toronto gallery. (The company is based in Vancouver.)

Here's an excerpt:  

LS: How did Heffel begin? 

DH: Well, my dad was in the steel business. He was a co-founder of Great West Steel, and was also a collector starting in the late 60s and 70s. So Robert and I were very fortunate to grow up with some fantastic paintings—paintings by Emily Carr and Lawren Harris and other members of the Group of Seven. My dad retired quite early out of Great West Steel while still in his 40s. He dabbled in ranching, but then turned his hobby, which was collecting paintings, into his vocation. In 1978, he founded the art gallery in Vancouver. He died young, at 52, in 1987. And that’s when Robert and I took over the gallery business. We didn’t branch into the auction business until 1995. 

LS: So how old were you when you took over the gallery? 

 DH: 24. 

LS: And your brother? 

DH: 22. LS: That’s quite young. There must have been some big learning curves, to say the least. 

DH: There were tremendous learning curves. But there was also sort of a fearless, youthful enthusiasm that allowed us to be, I think, quite creative in what we tried to do—without worrying too much about not succeeding. And I think it has been very beneficial for us in the long run.

Read on for the rest at Canadian Art.

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