First Arts inaugural auction breaks record

Joe Talirunili, Migration Boat, photo Credit: Dieter Hessel

On May 28, 2019, First Arts held its first-ever live auction of Inuit and First Nations Art. 75 works from important Canadian and American collections were up for sale which, in the end, realized a total of over $1.2 million – selling an astonishing 95% of lots offered.

Held at Waddington’s Auctioneers in Toronto, the First Arts sale included historical, classic and modern sculptures, graphics and textiles. The sale established new record prices for several artists, with 36% of lots selling above the high estimate.

The record-breaking sale highlight was Migration Boat by renowned Kuujjuarapik-born carver, Joe Talirunili. The work realized a remarkable $408,000 – a world record price for a work of Inuit art. Fisherwoman by Osuitok Ipeelee also exceeded expectations, realizing $90,000, well over the initial estimate of $30,000 – $45,000.

“We couldn’t be happier with the results of our first live auction,” says Ingo Hessel, First Arts partner and Inuit Art Specialist. “The success of the sale shows that there is a strong and growing interest in top quality Indigenous art. First Arts’ careful selection and thoughtful curation of diverse and rare works has resulted in a strong public response, and we look forward to expanding our ambitious program of auction and retail sales.”

First Arts is committed to fostering the development of Indigenous visual artists and scholars, and will be announcing the establishment of a programme of educational scholarships in the immediate future.

About First Arts
First Arts is a new company promoting and marketing the art of Canada’s First Peoples. With over 150 years of combined experience in retail, auction, academia and education, the First Arts partners (Ingo Hessel, Patricia Feheley, Mark London, and Waddington’s Auctioneers) aim to broaden the appreciation of Indigenous art in accessible and creative ways for both experienced and novice collectors. For more, see: