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Picasso portrait snags Canadian record-setting $9.1M at Toronto auction

A Pablo Picasso portrait has sold for $9.1 million, making it the most valuable work by a non-Canadian artist to sell at auction in the country.

The 1941 painting sold Wednesday at the Heffel Fine Art Auction House in Toronto depicts photographer Dora Maar, who during her relationship with Picasso served as the principal subject of his "Weeping Woman" series.

The pre-auction estimate was $8 million to $10 million.

Femme au chapeau was one of the paintings Picasso showed in 1956 at the Kootz Gallery in New York, his first commercial art show in the U.S. The most expensive Picasso ever sold at auction was Les femmes d'Alger ("Version O"), which fetched $238.7 million Cdn at a Christie's auction in May 2015.

The Canadian highlight of the auction was the Emily Carr painting Street, Alert Bay, which fetched $2.4 million.

Emily Carr painted the oil-on-canvas work Street, Alert Bay in 1912. (Heffel Fine Art Auction House)

It was painted in 1912 upon Carr's return from a trip to France and depicts a First Nations village in British Columbia.

A second Carr painting, Spring, sold for $390,000 and a Lawren Harris painting consigned by American actor Steve Martin, Mountain Sketch LXX, also sold for $390,000.

Martin co-curated a 2015-2016 exhibition of Group of Seven founder Harris's northern landscapes that made stops in Los Angeles, Boston and Toronto.

Lawren Harris's Mountain Sketch LXX was consigned to the auction by comedian and actor Steve Martin. (Heffel Fine Art Auction House/Canadian Press)

A total of 113 works of art were presented for auction in the annual fall sale, including five Carrs. 

The highest price ever achieved at auction for an Emily Carr work is $3.39 million[1], which an anonymous buyer paid at the 2013 Heffel fall auction for the large format, mature period painting The Crazy Stair (The Crooked Staircase).

The increasing number of artworks offered for sale in Canada by foreign art collectors indicates the country's rising place in the global art market, according to David Heffel, president of Heffel Fine Art Auction House.

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