On April 29, 2014, Waddingtons
presents one of its most unusual auctions on record: the William (Billy) Jamieson Collection, featuring the estate of one of Torontos most colourful collectors. The late Mr. Jamieson (1954 2012) was a passionate collector and highly respected dealer of tribal and ethnographic material, primitive artifacts, art deco, and in his words oddities and curiousities.
Duncan McLean, President, Waddingtons said Working with this wildly diverse collection has been a rare experience for all of us. Tribal art and weaponry, together with stylish art deco fixtures, alongside the graphic realism of Mark Prent sculpture, ethnographic items from Jamiesons travels to South America and the South Pacific, rounded out by oddities from the Victorian era so defines his unique personality and lifestyle.
McLean noted that in addition to Jamiesons international reputation in the museum and academic communities, he was celebrated for his purchase of the historic Niagara Falls Museum, and its nine mummies, one of which was King Ramses I. Ramses has been repatriated to Egypt; other items from the museum are included in the April 29th auction.
Waddingtons President Duncan McLean likens the Jamieson auction to that of the house-clearing auction of Toller Cranstons downtown Toronto manse conducted in 1991. Toller declared: I am reinventing myself recalls McLean. Waddingtons sold everything from ornate furniture, to artwork to Day of the Dead Mexican puppets as the flamboyant figure skater-turned-artist planned his move to San Miguel del Allende for the next phase of life.
McLean says working with the Jamieson collection has also been a labour of love, working with the estate of a much loved, larger-than-life Canadian personality. It has been an adventure and an education.
William (Billy) Jamieson was described as many things, including long-haired, leather-clad, macabre-obsessed, anthropological rock star. He was certainly unique, and truly genuine.
A school dropout at 14, Jamieson would become a self-taught collector and eventually a world-renowned dealer of tribal art. He was known for many things, like his collection of the bizarre and macabre, including instruments of torture, old execution photographs, ceremonial cups made from human skulls and shrunken heads. His purchase of The Niagara Falls Museum, included examples of sideshow taxidermy like two-headed calves and nine Egyptian mummies. One of the mummies was later to be identified as the missing Pharaoh, Ramses I a priceless artifact later repatriated back to Egypt. (Jamieson later named his pet dachshund Ramses.)
Jamieson was also well-known in the international ethnographic antiquities field for his frequent expeditions to the South Pacific and South America where he travelled among head-hunters and cannibals, collecting rare artifacts, oddities and curiosities most notably real human shrunken heads. (Note: there are no shrunken heads in Waddingtons auction.) Part Indiana Jones, part P.T. Barnum, the eight-episode series Treasure Trader, on History Television, was created around his exploits with fiancée and business partner Jessica Phillips.
Jamieson was colourful and eccentric. Guests to his home/gallery included Mick Jagger, Steven Tyler, members of the Hells Angels as well as the Metro Toronto Police (on social visits) and he hosted events in support of organizations like the Canadian Wildlife Federation. Jamieson had serious credibility he worked as a consultant for the National Geographic Society on their educational series about headhunting, human sacrifice and cannibalism. In 2003 he helped revive the Explorers Club of Canada, an academic group that works to preserve the exploration industry. And he sold artifacts to the art world's biggest names including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the ROM.
Jamieson had a sophisticated eye for art and design. His three-storey, 6,000 sq. ft. downtown Toronto loft included a Cornelious Krieghoff painting hung alongside equatorial war gear, a rendering by Queen Victoria under disco ball lighting, art deco bronzes and 19th century American lithographs next to a South Pacific war shield decorated with a portrait of superhero, the Phantom and a full size ostrich sculpture next to his big screen television amongst much more.
Jamieson was also the consummate social animal. He threw the best parties his Halloween party was a coveted invite. He was a great storyteller; he was passionate, visionary, undaunted. He was a great friend to many. He was the great Billy J.
Jamiesons legacy and spirit will live on even as his collection is dispersed at auction on April 29.
Note: Waddingtons also auctioned off the contents of iconic Maple Leaf Gardens in November 2000. A marathon ten-hour auction televised live on TSN included everything from the locker rooms to penalty boxes to banners from the rafters.