Walker’s Fine Art & Estate Auctioneers Inc. is a Canadian auction house chiefly known internationally as one of the main auctioneers of Inuit Art, but this auction house also handles other types of art, plus antiques, collectables, and more.
Walker’s Auctions hold their auctions in Ottowa and Toronto. Sometimes, previews are arranged in Montreal. In Ottowa, most of the auctions are held at the Tudor Hall on 3750 North Bowesville Road.
Within the area of Fine Arts, Walker’s Auctions introduced Inuit Art as a speciality category in 2011, assisted by Inuit Art expert Ingo Hessel. Soon, the sale of 285 lots of Inuit Art placed the auction house on the international radar. The auction – which included many objects from an art collection created by Inuit Art dealers John and Mary Robertson – was a huge success, with many objects selling for considerably more than their start price. The print “Dog Sees the Spirits” by Cape Dorset artist Kenojuak Ashevak did for instance sell for $22,420 after being valued at $6,000.
By the time Walker’s Auctions held their fourth major Inuit Art auction in spring 2013, they had become widely acknowledged as one of the major – or perhaps even the major – auction house for Inuit Art in the world. In addition to bidders present at the auction site, the event attracted 743 registered online bidders from a few dozen countries around the globe.
Walker’s Auctions history
Walker’s Auctions founder William “Bill” Scott Walker (1910-1987) grew up in Edinburgh, Scotland but left Great Britain in 1929 and moved to Canada to become an apprentice at his uncle’s firm Fyfe’s Antiques in Vancouver.
Each month, Fyfe’s Antiques imported period furniture and fine art from Great Britain to the Montreal harbour, and young Walker was put in charge of coordinating the sales of these items.
The early years
In 1937, Walker moved to the capital (Ottowa) and this is where he founded the business W.S. Walker Auctioneer.
The outbreak of World War II made it difficult to import items from Europe, but Walker’s business survived. After the war, his reputation had reached a level where he became a favoured auctioneer for the capital’s upper echelons, and he did for instance handle the famous Booth Estate Auction of 1957. This was the estate of Count Erik of Rosenborg (d. 1950) and his wife Lois Frances Booth (d. 1941). Count Erik of Rosenborg was a danish prince, the son of Prince Valdemar of Denmark and Princess Marie of Orléans, who had reliquished his rights to the throne upon marrying a commoner. He and his wife left behind an impressive collection of art, furniture, porcelain and more, including notable English impressionist and Barbizon school work, art by Henri Fantin-Latour, signed French furniture from the 1700s, Ming porcelain, and palace carpets. The auctions were a huge success with items selling for trend-setting prices.
William (Bill) Walker’s son Peter Walker became a partner in the company in 1964, prompting a name change to W.S. Walker & Son, Auctioneers & Appraisers.
The company continued to blossom with a series of notable auctions, including the highly publicised Rochester and Billings Estate Auctions.
When William Walker died in 1987, the company was renamed Walker’s Fine Art & Estate Auctioneers, reflecting the firms increased focus on these two branches.
Jeffrey Walker & Christine Walker Ross
Peter Walker’s son Jeffrey joined the family business in 1995, followed by his sister Christine two years later.
It was around this time that Walker’s Auctions started a new tradition: one spring and one fall auction of Canadian & International Fine Art and Collectables in Tudor Hall, Ottawa, with previews in Toronto and Montreal.
Another company innovation of the 1990s was the bi-monthly Discovery Estate Auctions.
Since Peter Walker’s death in 2009, Jeffrey Walker has been the President of Walker’s Auctions with Christine Walker Ross as Treasurer & Secretary.
- The Booths Estate Auction in 1957 (see above).
- Dr. Naomi Jackson Groves Estate Auction in 2004. She was a niece of Canadian A. Y. Jackson and the auction included many personal items used by him, such as his paintbox, tray, record player and monogrammed briefcase.
- Walker’s Rare Book Auction in 2010. This auction, held in association with D & E Lake Ltd, included original drawings of Canadian artist James Archibald Houston, depicting arctic natural history. The 1959 Nous Avons with etchings by Miró was also featured at this auction, as was Lahontan’s “New Voyages to North America” from 1703 and Kalm’s “Travels into North America” from the early 1770s.
- The 2011 First Asian Art Auction in Toronto. This auction included over 200 lots of fine Asian art and decorative Asian art. One of the high-points was an album of 100 prints of kabuki plays by Utagawa Toyokuni III (Kunisada), the most popular, prolific and commercially successful designer of ukiyo-e woodblock prints in 19th-century Japan.
- The 2011 First Inuit Art Auction (see above)
- The 2013 Fourth Inuit Art Auction (see above)
- The 2013 Fall Canadian and International Fine Arts Auction. One of the high-points of this auction was the 1.2 million CAD sale of a Chinese plate from the Yuan or early Ming Dyansty.