The Heffel reputation in the Canadian art business was started by industrialist and art collector Kenneth G. Heffel in 1978 when he set up his business in an old Royal Bank of Canada heritage building on Vancouver's Gallery Row. The gregarious Heffel slowly built up his collection and clientele armed with an initial investment of valuable paintings by Canadian masters. Heffel Sr. established a reputation for buying and selling the best works of Canadian artists. In 1987 after nearly a decade in the fine art business, Heffel passed away leaving his sons, David, then 25, and Robert, 23, to carry on the family name.
Brothers David and Robert Heffel grew up in a home filled with fine Canadian art and both studied Art History at the University of British Columbia. Within a few years of taking ownership, David and Robert identified a significant shift in art collecting with the rapid growth of the international fine art auction houses Sotheby's and Christie's. Further down the West Coast, the success of regional fine art auction house Butterfield & Butterfield, San Francisco, confirmed to the Heffels that there was a need for a leading fine art auction house in the Pacific Northwest.
Heffel Fine Art Auction House, a division of Heffel Gallery Limited was established in 1995 and in their first auction accomplished the goal of becoming the first western Canadian fine art auction to achieve a $1,000,000-plus auction sale. Heffel's revolutionized the way art is sold in Canada, and now conduct two live auction events annually: one in May in Vancouver and one in November in Toronto, both featuring sales of Fine Canadian Art. Challenged by the prejudice towards their youthful age in a fine art industry that prides itself on old-age wisdom, the Heffel brothers began to take advantage of a unique combination of skills - years of experience in the fine art business and an understanding of how Internet technology could be utilized by art business.
Based on the success of Heffel Fine Art Auction House and emerging dominance of the Internet, Heffel's was soon fast at work creating another way to bring quality masterworks to the public. In September of 1999, Heffel.com Online Auctions was launched. The monthly online auction combines the buzz and anticipation of a live auction with the dynamism of the Internet. Says David Heffel: "When we hold a live auction in a ballroom, there is a buzz in the room, an excitement, a thrill. We have found that same sort of excitement and anticipation generated online." The success of Heffel's monthly online auctions has grown vigorously, with specialty sales that include Canadian, American and European art. In April of 2007, Heffel's completed their 92nd consecutive monthly online auction with a record online sale of Fine British, European, Russian, Asian and American Art sale at $2.4 million.
Heffel.com soon increased the services it offered to the serious art collector by introducing the Canadian Art at Auction Index, a subscription resource database of over 36 years of Canadian art at auction sales. The sophisticated index contains in excess of 60,000 records and 45,000 image reproductions. Today heffel.com has become the number one Internet resource site for the Canadian art market.
Heffel's publishes its entire live auction online (www.heffel.com), from initial promotion and illustrated lot listings to the auction's live multi-camera web cast and final sale results. This, combined with their printed catalogue, has generated unparalleled collector participation in sales, with bidders from across Canada, the United States, the U.K. and Asia. Because of Heffel's strength in the Canadian and international art market, a large percentage of the fine art offered is purchased by collectors residing outside of British Columbia, reflecting the growing worldwide prominence of Heffel's semi-annual auctions. It is no wonder collectors from across Canada send their important artwork to Heffel's for resale.
Heffel's expanded into a national auction house with the opening of their Toronto gallery in 2002 and their Montreal gallery in 2005. Today, works by important contemporary and historical Canadian painters hang in all three galleries. With offices and galleries in Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and representatives in Calgary and London, England, Heffel's has the most experienced team of fine art specialists in the business, providing customers with the best opportunity for maximizing the value of their works. Business can also be conducted in English, French, Italian, Portuguese and Korean.
In May 2000, Heffel's achieved the highest priced Canadian painting sold at auction in that year, an Emily Carr canvas that sold for more than one million dollars. The most recent sale in November 2008 was Heffel's twenty-third consecutive auction to sell more than $1 million worth of fine art, and the sixteenth in a row to top $2 million. In November of 2004 Heffel's conducted what was at that time the largest dollar value art auction in Canadian history with their live auction of Fine Canadian Art at $8.49 million dollars. Heffel's subsequently surpassed that sale total on November 24, 2005 with a $12.4 million dollar sale, then broke that record on May 23, 2007 with the unprecedented sale total of $23,000.000. This sale holds the record for the highest grossing art auction in Canadian history. In fact, Heffel's has the top three auctions in Canadian history with the November 2006 sale at $11,800,000, the November 2007 sale of $20,000,000 and the May 2007 sale at $23,000,000. Heffel's is the number one fine art Auction firm in Canada with total sales in the 2007 year of over 50 million dollars.