Lot Sale Results

Jack Hamilton Bush

Jack Hamilton Bush

Jack Hamilton Bush
Post-War & Contemporary Art Live auction

Lot # 009

Jack Hamilton Bush
ARCA CGP CSGA CSPWC OSA P11 1909 - 1977 Canadian

Three to One
acrylic on canvas February 1971
on verso signed, titled and inscribed "Toronto, February 1961 [sic], Acrylic Polymer W.B."
56 x 78 in  142.2 x 198.1cm

Collection of the Artist
Waddington Galleries, London, England, 1971
Horace Richter, New York, 1971
Galerie Wentzel, Hamburg, Germany, November 1980
Sold sale of Contemporary Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, November 13, 1980, lot 73
Lonti Ebers Fine Arts, Toronto, 1980
HCI Holdings Ltd., Toronto, 1980
Private Collection, Vancouver, 1982

In the spring of 1971, Jack Bush sent several unstretched canvases to Leslie Waddington’s gallery on Cork Street in London, UK. Waddington mounted a solo show for Bush that October, but Three to One had sold just one week before the exhibition’s opening. The buyer was from New York City, and it is possible he was a preferred client whom the gallery aimed to please by allowing pre-show access to new paintings by the artist. From there, Three to One resided in the United States until about 1980, when the painting surfaced at Galerie Wentzel in Hamburg, Germany. Despite the seeming distance, the painting maintained its ties to the USA, since Galerie Wentzel was run by Bogislav von Wentzel and Elizabeth von Wentzel (now Elizabeth Lyman-Cabot), who is the sister of Lewis Cabot, another long-time supporter of Colour Field art and donor of several Bush paintings now at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Three to One returned to the USA in late fall 1980, to be auctioned by Sotheby Parke Bernet under an incorrect date of 1961. The error was rooted in the artist’s own mistake, as he inscribed the verso with a 1961 date rather than its actual date of 1971. The painting is, however, listed by the artist in his own records as being executed in February 1971 and fits perfectly within his stylistic tendencies for the early 1970s, including a rollered ground and stark shapes in bright, opaque colours that often grace the canvas rhythmically, in a manner analogous to jazz – surprising and lively. Three to One is an exemplar of this comparison, as if the three arcs of colour are enjoying a breakout solo by the strong and confident bar of blue. Altogether, the distinct elements of this painting make a striking composition.

After being auctioned in New York, the painting spent two years in a corporate collection in Toronto; from 1980 to 1982, Three to One was owned by HCI Holdings Ltd., which was originally a fireworks manufacturing company. HCI was largely shaped by a business partnership that included Andrew Sarlos (1931 - 1997), once known as “the Buddha of Bay Street.” HCI was transformed into an investment fund that, at its peak, made $9 million in one day in a hostile takeover move; it was a kind of aggressive financial manoeuvre that Toronto had not witnessed before. In 1993, one year after receiving the Order of Canada, Sarlos published a booked titled Fireworks: The Investment of a Lifetime.

As is often the case, a widespread depression in the stock market results in corporations selling some of their assets. Long-hidden paintings suddenly surface at fair prices and the art market surges. When the recession hit in the early 1980s, Sarlos lost many millions of dollars and HCI took a dive. Sarlos approved the sale of Three to One in 1982. It sold to a private collector based in Vancouver, BC, where the painting has resided ever since.

From the UK to the USA, from the USA to Germany and back again, and from Toronto to Vancouver, Bush’s Three to One has been appreciated far and wide. It is arguable that Bush’s market remains strong because of a particularly Canadian habit: to eagerly embrace that which has been validated by UK and US markets. Still, the path of Bush’s global market remains distinct from other historical Canadian painters, such as Lawren Harris. It was during Bush’s lifetime that his international market was strongest, not posthumously with curatorial gilding and strong marketing campaigns. Bush’s widespread successes came directly from his own work and those who loved to live with his paintings, then and now.

We thank Dr. Sarah Stanners for contributing the above essay. Dr. Stanners brought the definitive Jack Bush retrospective to fruition with Marc Mayer at the National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Alberta (2014 - 2015). She launched Jack Bush: In Studio (2016) at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, where she served as Chief Curator from 2015 to 2018, overseeing 27 exhibitions and 8 publications on Canadian art. Dr. Stanners is now director of the Jack Bush Catalogue Raisonné and holds a status-only appointment as assistant professor at the University of Toronto, Department of History of Art.

This work will be included in Sarah Stanners’s forthcoming Jack Bush Paintings: A Catalogue Raisonné.

Estimate: $250,000 ~ $350,000 CAD

Sold For: $301,250.00 CAD (including buyer's premium)

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