05/18/2012 01:33 EDT | Updated 07/17/2012 05:12 EDT

Heffel's spring auction of Canadian fine art tops $14 million in sales

VANCOUVER - This spring's Heffel auction of Canadian post-war and contemporary art far exceeded organizers expectations with sales totalling $14.6 million.

Before the bidding began the auction house had said it expected sales in the $9 to$12 million range.

The painting "La plage américaine" by Quebec artist Jean-Paul Lemieux fetched the highest price at $1,813,500 — nearly three times the pre-auction estimate.

Lemieux, who died in 1990, is considered one of the foremost Quebec painters of the 20th century.

Another of his paintings, "Le mois de juin," sold for $380,250 at Thursday night's auction.

As anticipated, there was huge interest in the works of Emily Carr — considered one of North America's most influential female artists.

Her "Eagle Totem" went for $1,638,000. Seven of Carr’s works, including "War Canoes," "Alert Bay" and "Autumn Woods," went under the gavel, ringing up blistering sales of $2.8 million.

Another auction highlight was what Heffel termed the "triumphant return to Canada" of Lawren Harris’ "Lake Superior," a sketch for a canvas that sold for $526,500.

Harris' "Building the Ice House, Hamilton" sold for $380,250.

Another bidding war drove the price for J.E.H. MacDonald's "Early Autumn, Montreal River, Algoma," to $526,500 — more than five times the original estimate, and a record for a MacDonald sketch.