Wednesday, December 17, 2014Light Snow 1°C
Arts

Shrunken heads, 2-headed calf at Toronto auction

Posted by Robyn Urback / November 17, 2012

billy jamieson auction torontoThe room is filled with shrunken heads, ancient war clubs, and sculpture of resin bananas with penises inside. Yup, this is definitely Billy Jamieson's collection. Media has gathered at Richies Auction House on the eve of the first official preview for an auction of Billy Jamieson's incredible possessions. The lot is simultaneously beautiful and terrifying, with an elegant Tang Dynasty ceramic figure on one end of the room, and a taxidermy two-headed calf on the other.

billy jamieson auction torontoBilly Jamieson was known as one of Canada's foremost dealers and collectors, with an eye for the eccentric and a personality to match. He travelled the world looking for one-of-a-kind antiquities that he could buy and sell, with the leftovers (or the especially beloved) landing in the 6,000-square foot loft/museum he shared with his fiancée, Jessica Phillips.

billy jamieson auction torontoJamieson was working on the History Television show, Treasure Trader, when he died suddenly in his Wellington Street apartment back in July 2011. Jessica, however, saw to it that the program went to air, and continues to immerse herself in the world of antique trading. And she is the motivating force behind the Billy Jamieson auction this weekend.

billy jamieson auction toronto"All of these things meant something to someone," Jessica says when I ask her how she chose which items to put up for auction. "Each one has a story; someone made a remark about it, or was connected to it, or it's just something I think someone else will appreciate."

billy jamieson auction torontoJessica strikes me as remarkably poised, especially since I can imagine the process would be emotionally draining. "It is hard," she admits. "People keep asking me what my favourite item is, and I don't want to say it because I'm afraid I'm going to pull it off the wall!"

billy jamieson auction torontoThere are definitely a few items going to auction that are garnering a fair degree of attention. There's the 1966 Austin Healey 3000 convertible, for one, which is parked outside the auction hall and somewhat lost in the evening darkness. Inside, the 18th century Ojibwe war club, on the other hand, is getting the attention it deserves, especially for its finer details which include 11 human figures carved on its side, indicating just how many people the owner of the club had killed in war. That piece alone is estimated at somewhere between $125,000 and $140,000.

billy jamieson auction torontoTaking in the sheer volume of collectibles in the room, I discover a few coveted lots of my own, including a collection of 20th century Chinese lotus slippers for bound feet, and a somewhat cringe-inducing gilt bronze miniature bed with a iron mousetrap built into the mattress.

There's also an incredible painted "Phantom" shield from the Western Highland Tribe of New Guinea (estimated at upwards of $8000), plus a framed picture of Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Roger Maris with signed baseball cards and a World Series ticket from 1962. So, really something for everyone.

billy jamieson auction torontoBefore leaving I catch up with Jessica and ask her what she's hoping to get out of the weekend. "Really, I think this is going to be great," she says. "I sort of see this as a way of giving people a little bit of Billy, even though it's hard," she continues. "But Billy taught me that you can't really own anything; you just hold it for a little while."

Photos by Lodoe Laura

Discussion

12 Comments

Gloria / November 17, 2012 at 12:35 pm
user-pic
I'd find the lotus slippers cringe-inducing myself.
Moneesha / November 17, 2012 at 03:03 pm
user-pic
Wow! That's a crap load of junk. My turds are even worth more.
bones / November 17, 2012 at 04:17 pm
user-pic
He died of a cocaine overdose while banging 2 hookers on his birthday.. Pretty crazy way to go out
James / November 17, 2012 at 05:10 pm
user-pic
Had the pleasure of visiting Jamiesons Wellington studio when he was alive and can attest the collection is MIND BLOWING, was especially struck by the shrunken head with RED hair...chilling. Pay no attention to the no brain comments already posted. Very cool stuff.
Craig MacPherson / November 18, 2012 at 12:31 am
user-pic
I'm a little late, I suppose, but sorry to hear that Billy passed at such a young age. I had the good fortune to visit him in his ineffible loft/museum back in the late nineties. I was putting on a very unique party in California and hired Jamieson to put his shrunken head collection on display. Few in attendance will forget that evening. Coincidently, it was right around the time that Joe Pesci's movie "Eight Heads in a Duffel Bag" was in theatres, and that is literally what Billy did when he travelled down. I've often wondered what would have happened had they checked his bag at the airport. He was definitely one of the most interesting and unique people I've met. RIP Billy.
Craig MacPherson replying to a comment from James / November 18, 2012 at 12:43 am
user-pic
That one with the red hair and mustache was chilling! Sure looked like an English businessman had wandered into the Amazon and ended up having a very bad day. ;-)
Mal replying to a comment from Moneesha / November 18, 2012 at 09:08 am
user-pic
Classy. By any chance does your mouth bleed every twenty-eight days?
Max / November 18, 2012 at 10:39 pm
user-pic
I have fond memories of watching Billy & Jess drive past our neighbourhood coffee place on sunny days in the Austin Healey. He and Jess were by fairly frequently, both so lovely. Billy had a passion for sharing all his unusual collections - many of them simply just stories.
Hats off to Jess for putting together the auction. It looks magnifique.
dave / December 9, 2012 at 07:18 am
user-pic
Hm....... seems to me that the purpose of the auction was for the sole sake of income. nothing more, nothing less. If people left feeling a stronger connection to Billy then that would be fantastic. Unfortunately, this is no more than a desperate sale for income. and, as I understand it kinda flopped. Even with the "secret Bidders". Too bad.
dave replying to a comment from bones / December 9, 2012 at 07:21 am
user-pic
you're right. It's mostly crap. the good stuff is still being owned by some sort of investor so It isn't a total loss. this was mostly housecleaning stuff. Didnt really do so hot....
François Gagné / July 15, 2013 at 11:50 pm
user-pic

Hello Ms. Jessica.
My name is Francois ...
A few years ago a friend of mine, Mr Jim Castner told me that Bill Jamieson sought a Munduruku head Brésil.I'have contacted Bill a few times but has not spoken to me.
The Mundurucu head is complete, it is a reproduction, but is verry nice peace of art tribal hand made reproduction.

Take Care.

François...
really true
Angelo / August 13, 2013 at 01:08 am
user-pic
Hello, what is the name of the artist that does painting that Billy traded a shrunken head for?

Add a Comment

Other Cities: Montreal