A mythic Anita Magsaysay-Ho called “Tinapa Vendors”, said to be the artist’s personal favorite among the market scenes she’s painted, snared P84 million (with premium) at the León Gallery Asian Cultural Council Auction Saturday.
Among five interested buyers, bidding was intensely brisk, with non-stop volleys that recalled a Wimbledon match. At one point, it appeared to have settled down at the P30 million mark but only momentarily so. As one seasoned art aficionado proclaimed, “Undoubtedly, if one had to own just one Anita — this is it!”
The painting was done in the artist’s favorite medium, egg tempera. “It actually glows and stands out even from a distance,” said an art expert in the audience. “It draws you in and you can’t help but be mesmerized.”
Jaime Ponce de Leon of León Gallery said, “There is something to be said when Anita Magsaysay-Ho went on the record to say this was her favorite work and in her favorite medium.” Impelled by that logic, the competition for the piece helped to thunder it to a new world record for the artist. Previous record-holder for a much larger and newer piece was below the new mark for just US 1,000, noted Ponce de Leon.
Meanwhile, mid-century modern Vicente S. Manansala drew in a still-astounding P32.7 million for his “Pila Sa Bigas.” This masterful canvas on an iconic theme — a commentary on the rice-rationing of the 1970s — was from the collection of the San Gabriels, the family of the maestro’s physician. “The colors of this work are just perfect,” said one observer. “It certainly helped the piece is in tiptop shape.”
One of the star lots, a painting called “Sorprendidos” by Juan Luna, sold at P35 million. This parable on love and marriage between the mestiza Paz Pardo de Tavera and the indio genius managed to capture the hearts of many collectors.
Another 19th-century masterpiece of a vanished Manila by Jose Honorato Lozano was snapped up for P17.5 mIllion. It was created for an Anglo trading house and was discovered by collector Don Benito Legarda at the fabled Argosy bookstore in Manhattan while on his travels to New York in the 1950s. This work is one of the few signed by Lozano, making it a doubly rare beauty.
BenCab’s “Dance of Isadora,” a massive work that measured nine feet long, scooped up a dazzling P40.9 million.
Other important works that sold well were Cesar Legaspi’s “Village on Fire” which registered P12.3 million, followed by H.R. Ocampo’s “Side Show” which sold for P9.3 Million. Both were post-war early works, both in-demand.
An emerald-colored “Mandala” by Lee Aguinaldo brought in P7.4 million; while a Manila aparador — one of two known to be extant with a double-headed eagle — fetched almost P5 million.
A Nena Saguil from the F. Sionil Jose collection hit nearly P4 million while Rodel Tapaya’s “Repatriated Bodies” came in at P6 million.
Lao Lianben’s “Prediction 12” had already been on the Leon auction floor twice before. In fact, Ponce de Leon calls it the “Manny Pacquiao piece.” When it was first auctioned, he noted, it made a world record for Lao, and it happened again last time it was auctioned. This time was no exception, with the painting selling for P12.8 million. “It’s moved up from featherweight, to lightweight to heavyweight. And each time, it’s a champion,” remarked the auction house’s main man.
Of course, the biggest winner was the Asian Cultural Council, with a portion of the auction funds going to their mission of sending more Filipino artists abroad to perfect for further studies and residencies.
All prices mentioned are hammer prices with premium.