A market scene by Anita Magsaysay-Ho from a Philippine Art Gallery show in 1957. A joyous Jose Joya from the Forbes Park living room of Manila society’s favorite ‘elder sister.’ An exquisite dagger from the arresting officer of Jose Rizal.
A heady mix of exceptional beauty, rarity, and provenance characterize the offerings in the upcoming Asian Cultural Council Auction 2023 at León Gallery, the country’s premier auction house for all things Philippine. This is the eighth year León has teamed up with the ACC, a partnership that has helped send deserving Filipino artists to art residencies abroad.
The ACC auctions, which usually open the year for the auction house, usually attract the most generous donations from collectors owing to its cause. This edition is no exception. The well-loved society figure and construction magnate Alice Eduardo donated her mural-sized Jose Joya, which used to hang in her Forbes Park living room, for the auction. “She felt it had a certain symmetry for giving back,” says León Gallery director Jaime Ponce de Leon, “since Joya was the first Filipino to receive a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, which is the precursor of today’s ACC.”
Several masterpieces included in the February auction offerings are from the collections of other society and cultural figures like New York-based philanthropist Loida Nicolas Lewis (from her is the exuberant Manuel Rodriguez Sr’s portrait of young women on swings), former Senator Leticia Ramos Shahani (the Manansala Madonna, an Olazo beloved by Betty Go-Belmonte, and an Ang Kiukok watercolor), the late esteemed journalist Letty Jimenez Magsanoc (an enthralling Betsy Westendorp oil painting of poppies and daisies), collector of avant-garde art Olivia Yao (a spectacular Nena Saguil from her time in Paris), the patrician Don Benito J. Legarda Jr. (a serene Alfredo Carmelo) and the antiques expert Tony Martino who passed away recently.
Of equal note is the presence of works from the legendary Philippine Art Gallery’s stalwarts, beginning with Anita Magsaysay-Ho’s Fruit Market that once belonged to an American lumber magnate from Mindanao, Frank Anderson; to several Vicente Manansalas from every era (a 1945 Baguio Nose Flute Players, a mid-century Madonna, and a later Planting Rice); the aforementioned Nena Saguil which is entitled Composition Red; Hernando R. Ocampo’s symphonic Evensong; and Portrait from one of the youngest members of PAG, the remarkable Norma Belleza who had her first solo exhibition at the influential gallery.
There are treasures from every century of Philippine artistry, many with patriotic resonance including the Despujol-Rocha Dagger that once belonged to the man with the difficult assignment of arresting Jose Rizal and sending him to Fort Santiago before he was brought to Dapitan for exile — and another exquisite piece of Rizaliana, Fernando Amorsolo’s rendering of Rizal’s Elias and Salome, from the lost chapter of the Noli Me Tangere. In addition, there are silver floral bouquets known as ramilletes, a towering Manila aparador, bishop’s chairs, and a beatific Niño in precious ivory.
For the giants that cast a long shadow in the modern as well as contemporary era, there are two epic Lao Lianben and an Elmer Borlongan (Borlongan the painter has just returned from his first Parisian show); as well as a piece from Leo Valledor, the Fil-American minimalist master; and several riveting Ang Kiukoks. Works by Romulo Olazo and Fernando Zobel complete the marquee lots of the auction.
The ACC Auction, co-presented by ANCX, happens February 18th, Saturday, 2 p.m.; with previews beginning February 11th to 17th, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, at the León Gallery sale rooms at Eurovilla I, Rufino corner Legazpi Streets, Legazpi Village, Makati. To browse the auction offerings, visit the León Gallery website by clicking on this link.
Images courtesy of Leon Gallery