The Heffel business began with Kenneth G. Heffel, industrialist and art collector, who founded Kenneth G. Heffel Fine Art Inc. in 1978. He poured his heart, soul and love for Canadian art into his budding business. He opened the gallery in a stunning heritage building on Vancouver’s established South Granville Gallery Row, and slowly built up his collection and clientele, starting with a small but robust group of paintings by several Canadian masters. Heffel became one of the foremost galleries in the country and established a reputation for handling the very best artworks by Canadian artists. In 1987, after nearly a decade in the fine art business, Heffel passed away suddenly, leaving his sons David, then 25, and Robert, 23, to carry on the family name in the art business.
The company was renamed Heffel Gallery the same year, and David and Robert held numerous successful exhibitions through the mid-nineties of important artists, such as B.C. Binning, Emily Carr, Lawren Harris, W.J. Phillips, David Blackwood, Alex Colville, E.J. Hughes, Jean McEwen and Guido Molinari, among many others.
As the business continued to grow, they identified a significant shift in art collecting, specifically the rapid growth of the fine art auction houses around the world. David and Robert harnessed their unique combination of skills, their fresh perspectives on the fine art market, and their shared interest in the growing phenomenon of internet technology and how it could be applied to their industry.
Heffel Fine Art Auction House was established in 1995, and held its inaugural live auction the same year, achieving more than $1 million in sales. This milestone set the company on a path to success, and each year Heffel continued to bring museum-quality masterworks to the auction block. Annual live auctions of Canadian art took place in Vancouver and drew attention and bidders from around the world.
It was not long before David, Robert and their small, dedicated team were fast at work, developing a new way to bring outstanding works of art to the public market. In September of 1999, Heffel set out to fill a hole in the marketplace and launched the very first online auction platform in Canada dedicated to the sale of fine art. Heffel began holding monthly online auctions to complement the semi-annual ballroom auctions.
The early 2000s saw major growth for Heffel. As the team grew, the company expanded into Eastern Canada, and Heffel opened an office in Ottawa and a gallery space in the heart of downtown Toronto. Heffel held its first live auction in Toronto in 2003 and for many years, divided its semi-annual sales between Toronto and Vancouver. By 2004, Heffel had emerged as the leading auction house in Canada, dominating the market and attracting global buyers and sellers. Heffel opened its fourth location in Montreal in 2005, and its fifth in Calgary in 2016.
In 2008, Heffel’s auctions reached new heights and the company once again revolutionized the way art was bought and sold in Canada. Allowing collectors to focus on artworks and periods of interest, Heffel began to divide its semi-annual live auctions into two separate sessions, then titled Canadian Post-War & Contemporary Art and Fine Canadian Art.
In October of 2015, Heffel established Heffel Online 2 (HO2), a second online auction platform for sales of high volume art collections, and in-particular, corporations. The inaugural auction showcased works of art from the collection of Imperial Oil Limited, and achieved a white glove result as 100% of the items were sold. Since its inception, the HO2 platform has facilitated the sale of artworks from BP Canada, Xerox Canada Limited, DuPont Canada and Vale.
Heffel’s fall 2016 live auction marked several milestones for the firm. Heffel held the highest grossing art auction in Canadian history, as more than 200 important artworks were offered, and achieved monumental sales of more than $42 million. Passion for major masterpieces from bidders around the world resulted in the sale of eight individual works for more than $1 million each. Lawren Harris’ iconic canvas Mountain Forms led the auction with a remarkable sale price of $11,210,000, a new artist record and a record for a Canadian work at auction worldwide, more than doubling the prior record of $5.1 million.
Today, Heffel is Canada’s leading fine art auction house, with the largest and most experienced team of specialists in the country. Internationally inclusive live auctions are held in Toronto in May and November, and online auctions are held monthly featuring hundreds of outstanding works of art from around the world. In 2018 Heffel was ranked among the top 10 auction houses in the world by the prestigious publication, Art + Auction. We continue to provide superior transparent and superior client service to sellers and buyers of fine art globally.