top of page

$272,000 for a Cheese Sandwich

A Canadian painting that was swapped 50 years ago for a grilled cheese sandwich has sold at auction for an “astounding” C$350,000 (US$272,000).

Irene and Tony Demas holding their Maud Lewis painting
Irene and Tony Demas with the Maud Lewis painting, before the auction | Photograph: Jon Dunford/Miller & Miller Auctions Ltd

Pre-auction, OGN published news of the impending sale in Cheese Sandwich to Serve up Windfall, when Irene and Tony Demas decided to put Black Truck by the folk artist Maud Lewis, up for sale - which they had been given in 1973 in exchange for a meal at their restaurant.

The pre-auction estimate was C$35,000 (US$27,000). A pretty tidy sum! In the end, it has just sold for 10 times its assessed value, setting a new high mark for a painter whose popularity has surged in recent years.

“In a time of great turmoil and change the art world lived vicariously through Maud Lewis, her story, and her art,” Ethan Miller, head of the Ontario auction house, said in a statement.

Irene Demas, who as a young chef acquired the work in exchange for a grilled cheese sandwich, said she was in “disbelief” at the sale.

She and her husband, Tony, had an arrangement with the artist John Kinnear that in exchange for grilled cheese sandwiches, they would be able to choose from a selection of paintings by Kinnear and in some cases, works by his friends.

“Mind you, it wasn’t just an ordinary grilled cheese. It was a great sandwich, with a five-year-old cheddar and beautiful bread,” Irene proclaimed.

One morning in 1973, Kinnear brought in a series by the Maritime artist, whose distinctive style caught his eye and whose struggles tugged at his sympathies. Among those paintings was Black Truck, which has hung in Demas’s house for five decades.


bottom of page