For years I’ve looked at the rainbow painted tunnel south of Lawrence Avenue when we drive or bike the Don Valley and thought it was a charming Toronto landmark but not much more. Well, apparently it is more… $16 million more!
Peter Doig’s painting Country-Rock (wing-mirror) based on this same rainbow tunnel was the centre piece of Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auction in London on June 30, 2014. A link to that event can be found here. There is a video on the Sotheby’s web site that depicts a dreamy inspirational drive and that can be found here. The final sale price at auction was £8,482.500 British pounds or $15.46 million which includes the buyers premium. The buyer bid £7.5 million pounds and must pay the auction house a percentage in commission.
Doig’s painting The Architect’s Home in the Ravine (seen here) sold for $12 million in 2013 at a London auction and when his White Canoe (seen here) sold at Sotheby’s for $11.3 in 2007 the sale set an auction record for a living European artist.
The subject matter for Country-Rock was originally created 40 years ago by mural artist Berg Johnson when he was 16. He arrived from Norway and noticed that “People in Toronto never looked up. They looked down. They never smiled too much.” The self-proclaimed “Caretaker of Dreams” decided to create an uplifting piece of art. Johnson rigged up a swing system to lower himself from the train track above to the grey cement tunnel. Great plan except the train promptly came along the tracks, sliced the rope of his swing and sent Johnson tumbling down the bank breaking his leg. That first attempt was painted over by the city back to the inspiring grey. In 1994, after four arrests and 40 attempts the mural was finally finished. The city now provides touch-ups as needed and the site was recently restored by a group of volunteers. See the Toronto Star’s story on the tunnel here.
So a piece art inspired by a piece of public art created to uplift the spirits of Torontonians for free, has now been sold for tens of millions of dollars.