REAL PEOPLE. REAL SOLUTIONS.
When it comes to art, we are here to help.
A federally incorporated (1986) parent company, Artbank Incorporated, gave rise to Calgary based Levis Fine Art Auctions and Appraisals in 1992. As founder and principal, Doug Levis faithfully steered his company for over 25 years and before retiring in 2020 he facilitated a seamless transition of leadership to Cheryl Sonley and Andrea Lowe. This smooth succession was possible because of Doug’s principles: be honest and fair, explore all options, and allow generations to learn from each other. Here at LEVIS, an old world apprenticeship based approach to business expansion has come to a rewarding conclusion in the gradual passing on of skills, duties, responsibilities, and ownership to two dynamic, committed, and authentic women.
With over 23 years combined experience in the auction industry, Cheryl and Andrea are now business partners and leaders of the forward looking LEVIS team that has recently expanded to four full time staff. Having sold over 40,000 works of art since 1992 with a reputation of integrity and professionalism, LEVIS continues to consign and sell high quality fine art including historical and contemporary work by notable Canadian artists and select items by International painters and sculptors. And every year since 2008 we have held specialized auctions devoted to the spectacular work created by Inuit and First Nations artists.
In addition to auctions, LEVIS offers a full spectrum of art services to meet the diverse needs of both private and corporate clients. We provide professional consultations and written appraisals for insurance, estate, and import/export matters and our conveniently located premises accommodate secure art storage for personal and corporate collections. We also excel at packaging and shipping artworks around the globe. Cheryl, Andrea, and the team at LEVIS are dedicated to helping each and every client with practical expertise and scholarly knowledge, maintaining the tradition of superior customer service built on honesty and generosity that’s been the hallmark of the company since it was founded.
Our commitment to supporting the community at large finds expression through benefit auctions for charities such as the Southern Alberta Art Gallery [Lethbridge], the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies [Banff], Kiyooka Ohe Arts Centre, the University of Calgary Art Department, Trout Unlimited, plus many others. We also support art galleries and foundations all over Western Canada through pro bono appraisal services and consultations.
A native of Medicine Hat, Cheryl graduated from University of Calgary (2003) majoring in Sociology and minoring in Psychology. Having already proved herself a valuable employee in the retail and food services industries since a teenager, she spent the next 5 years building more complex skill sets through diverse employment experiences ranging from administration work in the financial sector to relational work with elderly people in permanent care. A desire for self-determination and self-confidence in her capacity to work both hard and smart gradually coalesced into a clear goal: to one day own a business where her core values of honesty and integrity could be fully enacted in the daily decisions of an ethical, collaborative, commercial venture with others. She joined Levis Fine Art Auctions and Appraisals in 2008 and never looked back. She became a business partner with founder Doug Levis in 2015, and after his retirement in 2020, she became majority co-owner with colleague Andrea Lowe.
Cheryl combines three outstanding traits that have groomed her for co-ownership of LEVIS; a good head for business, sound instincts for authentic and trustworthy connections with people, and a long time love affair with the visual arts. These attributes are woven together and skillfully expressed in her relentless commitment to be of genuine service to those who cross her path every day through her work in the secondary art market. Whether a buyer is hoping to acquire the next important piece for a personal art collection or a seller is reluctantly parting with an artwork treasured for years by family, Cheryl’s professional commitment to the client is the same: to work towards the best possible outcome with clear processes, transparent interactions, and kindness.
Cheryl has completed appraisal courses through the International Society Appraisers, the largest professional association of personal property appraisers in North America. This training allows her to provide clients with formal appraisals written to ISA and USPAP (The Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice) standards, meeting the varying appraisal needs of the Canadian art industry. She is a current member of CAPPA (Canadian Association of Personal Property Appraisers). An active participant in the arts and environment culture of Calgary, she has volunteered with TUC (Trout Unlimited Canada), the Calgary Folk Festival, the Honens International Piano Competition, plus others. Her proven ability to work successfully with private individuals, not-for-profit organizations, and corporate clients on all matters art related, including secure storage and confidential inventory, deaccessioning, and acquisitions provides strong leadership for the continued growth of the company.
Andrea is Calgary born and raised, an increasingly rare specimen in our civic landscape. She brings to LEVIS an intriguing blend of corporate know-how from years in the competitive retail side of fashion industry and human relations savvy from time spent in demanding roles delivering social services. Embarking on university studies with an interest in the field of Art Restoration, she graduated from University of Calgary (BA, English major) with a clear understanding of her need to work both with people and with complex creative problems in a hands on way. Something else she learned from experience by then was just how strong her ethical standards were: strong enough to risk secure employment by standing up for her values. Eventually, having lived and worked in London, UK for a time, she chose to return to Calgary and establish a career in the arts starting with LEVIS in 2015.
As Co-owner of LEVIS, Andrea is committed to expanding and strengthening the presence of the company in the Canadian art auction industry. Her allegiance to core values of honesty, dignity for every person, and ethical business dealings have been road tested and found to be road worthy. For Andrea, “How can we help?” is an authentic and passionate inquiry, not a marketing ploy. Her superb organizational and analytical abilities combine with nuanced interpersonal skills to bring dynamic and collaborative solutions within the firm and to facilitate win-win creative outcomes for LEVIS clients, both buyers and sellers.
Andrea completed the appraisal course through the CPPAG (Canadian Personal Property Appraisers Group) in January 2020. She has volunteered at the Calgary Public Library for the last 10 years helping people with literacy through ESL and enhanced reading skills.
Doug Levis founded Levis Fine Art Auctions and Appraisals in 1992 and held semi-annual live auctions without fail for nearly 30 years in addition to one-off auctions for corporate clients and fundraising auctions for many charitable organizations. Generosity and integrity have always been his trademarks in business, regardless of fiscal pressures to the bottom line or of fickle weather in Calgary’s boom or bust economy. “Doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do” is the guiding principle that governed all his business decisions along the way and it is the legacy and inspiration he now passes on to LEVIS.
Doug has lived through massive changes in the Canadian art auction industry from the period when the only art auctions of note were in Toronto and Montreal to the current global market for secondary art made possible by online auctions. His skillful navigation of the firm through these changes was due in large part to being both in the vanguard of technological advances in the industry and in the trenches of the local art scene. As early as 1985 he had developed a digital database which recorded auction results of the four major Canadian auction houses, while at the same time, these impressive analytical and inventive capacities were firmly anchored in his experience at a local gallery. During a 7 year tenure with Kensington Fine Art Gallery Doug worked his way up from the ground, from framer in the back to gallery director, learning every aspect of the business.
He credits his degree in Fine Arts (University of Victoria, 1976) with a deep respect for the open ended processes required in any creative endeavour, including that of risking an ambitious entrepreneurial venture on one’s own. His commitment to constant improvement by asking “What could we have done differently or better?” was implemented across all aspects of running the business right from the beginning and is foundational to the LEVIS drive for professional excellence now in the capable hands of co-owners Cheryl Sonley and Andrea Lowe.
Doug’s mentorship and lifetime career in the arts has earned him a new title at LEVIS: Auctioneer Emeritus. And, like all professionals with emeritus status, he now enjoys the luxury and freedom of contributing his skills and expertise to the firm in ways that most interest him as he shapes his own inimitable style of retirement.
Dave grew up in a mixed farming region of rural Ontario and knew from the get-go it was not the life he wanted. Leveraging his suite of precociously self-taught computer skills he found work in the technological sector, primarily in graphic arts, animation, and filmmaking. During most of this freelance career spanning 15 years he also managed a restaurant in Calgary. His tech wizardry contributes to unexpected solutions for computer issues when required and his calm focus during the fast-paced action of online auctions is appreciated in equal measure by clients and staff. His valuable skills in photography, database management, and graphic arts design, combined with his “Let’s figure this out!” attitude have earned him a solid place in the LEVIS team since becoming a full-time employee in 2022.
Brian moved several times between Asia and the United States before settling in Calgary as teenager. A graduate of University of Calgary (2015), it was an internship through the Museum and Heritage Studies program in his final year that brought Brian to LEVIS. Since that time he has worked behind the scenes providing support to various art businesses around town. He has extensive experience assisting with art installation for galleries and private homes as well as packaging artworks for transport locally and shipping internationally. His enthusiasm and attention to detail insures that the ‘back end’ of Levis functions smoothly. Brian joined LEVIS as a full-time member of the team in 2022.
Other-than-Human-Helpers: George and Kyle
Since childhood, the loyal and steadfast companionship of dogs has been central to both Cheryl and Andrea’s lives. And happily, it is part of the fabric of life at LEVIS as well.
George came to work with Cheryl every day for 11 years until his passing in 2021. Long time clients will remember his adorable Chihuahua face and humorous antics gracing many Levis Fine Art Auction and Appraisals media publications. These days it is sweet-natured Kyle, a Havanese poodle, who comes to work with Andrea and can usually be found sleeping behind her desk or gnawing on a chew toy … inviting the LEVIS team to balance hard work with rest and play. “Carpe diem,” Kyle reminds everyone, “and take pleasure in small things.”