Claude Lafitte specializes in European and well as Canadian art, and is a fixture of the Canadian art market. He got his start as a young man of 20-years-old after attending an auction of European Masters in New York City. There he met a woman who needed someone who spoke French to buy art for her in France. Soon after, Lafitte began conducting monthly trips between Paris and New York City, buying art by the likes of Renoir, and gaining deep knowledge of the international art market. Lafitte’s achievements as an international art dealer set the stage for him to open Galerie Claude Lafitte, in Laval in 1975 and then Montreal in 1982. His ambitious and dynamic personality earned him enduring success in national and international markets, with collectors based across Canada, the United States, Europe, and Japan.
From the start, this gallerist saw big for Riopelle
At home and abroad Lafitte has championed Canadian artists, particularly Jean-Paul Riopelle, who Lafitte personally knew and whose work he has supported since the ‘70s. In 1987, Lafitte accurately predicted that within a matter of years Riopelle would be the first Canadian artist to sell for over 1 million USD. Indeed, a painting by Riopelle sold for 1.4 million USD in 1989 (1.9 CAD) at auction in New York City. In 1989 Lafitte also held the most comprehensive exhibition of Riopelle’s work since the Musée du Québec’s exhibition seven years prior.
Democratizing Painting in Canada, an Avant-garde View
To commemorate 35 years in business, Claude and his wife Nicole curated a year-long traveling tour across Canada of 20 of his most coveted works of art. The touring exhibition included superb examples of some of Canada’s most celebrated artists, including a four-foot Marc-Aurèle Fortin. The purpose of the exhibition was simply to share their passion by creating opportunities for the public to see exceptional Canadian art. As part of their tour, they offered visitors free verbal valuations of their own art collections.
Now celebrating 45 years, Lafitte remains driven by the same sense of devotion to his artists and the public. His life’s work is fuelled by the understanding that “a country without culture is a country without soul,” and the belief that happiness comes from giving back.
Lafitte on the Museum of Fine Arts Honour Roll
Lafitte has shared his success by actively giving to cultural institutions and initiatives including the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, to which he donated Hibou-pelle, a rare 7-foot tall sculpture by Riopelle, which the museum permanently installed for year-round public viewing at the intersection of Avenue du Musée and Sherbrooke St W. Lafitte also contributed annually to the museum toward pre-19th century Canadian prints and drawings. He was given the honour of being named one of ten individuals on the Funding Committee to raise funds for the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts’ second building. For his contributions Lafitte is personally named on the museum’s wall as a significant donor.
To a charity auction supporting OXFAM Québec in 1985 Lafitte donated 80% of the artwork for sale, including a stunning 1928 painting by Marc-Aurèle Fortin. The auction raised a total of $21,000, and true to his life philosophy regarding giving back, he donated an additional $4,000 out of pocket so that he could contribute an even $25,000 to the organization.
A beating heart for contemporary art for nearly half a century
After 45 years, Galerie Claude Lafitte continues to play a vital role in shaping the Canadian art market by promoting the best of 20th-century and Post-War & Contemporary art, and by advising emerging and established collectors. The gallery exhibits, buys, and sells high-end quality works by Les Automatistes, Les Plasticiens, the Beaver Hall Group, the Group of Seven, and other renowned Canadian groups of painters. Some artists include Marcel Barbeau, Paul-Émile Borduas, Emily Carr, Maurice Cullen, Jean-Phillipe Dallaire, Marc-Aurèle Fortin, Charles Gagnon, Jacques Hurtubise, Cornelius Kreighoff, Jean Paul Lemieux, Rita Letendre, John Goodwin Lyman, Jean McEwen, Guido Molinari, James Wilson Morrice, Alfred Pellan, Robert Pilot, Jean-Paul Rioppelle, Albert Robinson, Tom Thomson, Claude Tousignant, and Marc-Aurèle de Foy Suzor-Côté. Lafitte also specializes in the work of Marc Chagall, Fernand Léger, Marino Marini, Joan Miró, Henry Moore, Robert Motherwell, Pablo Picasso, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and others.