History Of Gardner Galleries

The story of a fourth generation family auction business:

George Gardner held his first auction in London, Ontario in 1922. One of his early sales was selling horses for the City of London when they switched from horse-drawn to gas-powered trucks.  Some of his major auctions include Tecumseh House, at one time the largest hotel in the British Commonwealth, as well the contents of many of London's finest homes in the 1930's, during The Great Depression.

 

George Gardner auctioning in London, Ontario, 1940

 

Shortly after serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force in World War II, George’s son, Jason, became his partner in the business.  When George Gardner passed away unexpectedly in 1952, Jason carried on as an auctioneer and appraiser.  He purchased his first permanent auction house at 2 Langarth Street West, London in 1960.  He also sold for Fyfe's of Edinburgh throughout Canada and made international headlines, including Time Magazine, when he was hired by a Toronto syndicate to auction antiques from Castro's Cuba in the mid 1960's. Throughout the decade Jason held regular estate sales but also auctioned real estate, cars, factories, bankruptcies and even the contents of London's old city hall.  Having outgrown the Langarth Street location, Jason purchased 186 York Street in 1971, an historic building located in the heart of downtown London directly across from the Via Rail Station. 

 

Jason Gardner in the main office at Gardner Galleries
186 York St., London, Ontario, 1998

 

Grant Gardner, Jason's son, joined in 1975 and changed the direction of the business from a general auction company to one specializing in estate furnishings, namely antiques and fine art.  Some of Grant's major sales include the contents of Castle Kilbride in Baden, Ontario and the Dr. Richard Law estate of Toronto whose antique furniture collection realized over a million dollars.  The antique market was so strong in the 1980's and 90's that by 1999, a second building at 407 Hamilton Road in London was purchased to host weekly live auctions.  These auctions quickly became a regular attraction to dealers, collectors and the general public from across Ontario. 

 

Grant Gardner, specializing in jewellery and decorative arts

 

The fourth generation, James and Mark Gardner, learned the business from the ground up and could often be seen in their early teenage years working live auctions and setting up sales during summers, evenings and weekends.  The Gardner brothers attended the world’s leading auction school, Reppert School of Auctioneering located in Auburn, Indiana in 2002 and eventually took on managing rolls.  In 2011, James pioneered monthly online art auctions in London, as well handles auctions of high value collections for estates and private individuals.  Mark managed the Tuesday evening live auctions for many years and now runs monthly estate, furniture and collector auctions which attract a worldwide audience.  Today, after nearly 20 years of working in the auction industry and being accredited appraisers with CPA (Canadian Professional Appraisers), the Gardner brothers are proud of their great success story and are often called upon by other industry leaders for advice.  They also participate in appraisal seminars and charity auctions, along with their father Grant.  

 

James Gardner, specializing in Canadian and international fine art

 

Online auctions were first introduced in 2011. Recognizing that the auction industry was evolving more and more to online, the York Street location was eventually sold in 2014 and a new integrated website and auction software suitable for mobile devices was set in motion.  All online auctions are now out of the newly renovated 407 Hamilton Road location.  Along with 20,000 square feet of floor space, clients enjoy the location with easy access to the 401 highway, the large parking lot with free parking and loading area, everything located on one level and of course, the assistance from our staff.  Alongside the main auction floor, two online auction showrooms, the "George Gardner" and "Jason Gardner" galleries display items for current auctions.  Other recent updates to the facility include new bathrooms, LED lighting, refinished hardwood floors and new bay windows. The live auctions are missed but Gardner Galleries encourage clients unfamiliar with online bidding to give it a try.  You can bid anywhere in the world at anytime of day and when the clock is counting down to the last minute... and then the last second... the excitement of an auction is reborn! 

 

Mark Gardner, specializing in furniture and collectibles

 

Now approaching 100 years in business, Gardner Galleries have conducted thousands of successful auctions with many achievements and world record prices.  Some major highlights include an Arthur Elsley painting which sold for $350,000, a Simon Willard American tall case clock for $64,000 and a 1970 Jaguar E-Type 2+2 coupe for $110,800. Gardner's have also broken several Canadian art sales records including a Florence Carlyle painting for $115,000, an 8 1/2 x 10 1/2in A.Y. Jackson oil on panel for $160,000 and numerous works from the Dow Canada Art Collection, including a Ronald York Wilson oil on canvas for $12,000. In 2011, Gardner Galleries made headline news worldwide including CNN when a rare Australian book, the Captain James Wallis album of hand-coloured engravings and watercolours was found in a Thamesford, Ontario estate residence and sold for an outstanding 1.8 million dollars. Grant, Mark and James have also been featured on CTV and other news media in recent years for handling well known collections, such as The Guy Lombardo Museum and the the Ivan Kasiurak autograph collection. 

 

Gardner Galleries auction facility at 407 Hamilton Road, London, Ontario
A newly renovated art deco building close to downtown London and the 401 highway

 

The auction business has changed significantly since George Gardner's humble beginnings in 1922.  Whether live or online however, the purpose of an auction has stayed the same since the times of the Roman Empire.  With a new and improved website in 2019 and well over 22,000 registered bidders worldwide in 2020, Gardner Galleries now conduct 150 auctions per year with 50,000 lots sold annually.  The entire staff are proud to be the oldest auction firm in Canada under continuous ownership and look forward to another 100 years in business. 

 

Some recent photographs inside our gallery:

 

 

 

Visit our Past Auctions page to view past sales and prices realized from the past year.