How Juan Luna became the first Filipino art superstar 2
With fellow ilustrados, the brothers Pardo de Tavera (left), brothers Paterno (seated last row) Valentin Ventura (top right) and his wife to be, Paz. COLLECTION OF PEDRO PATERNO

How Juan Luna became the first Filipino art superstar in Europe

He wasn’t exactly the sociable type but he was certainly celebrated among the hip crowd
ANCX Staff | Mar 03 2022

On the occasion of an important Juan Luna work joining the roster of offerings in the upcoming Asian Cultural Council Auction 2022, the latest ANCX Forum centered on the topic of Filipino artists who have gained world-class stature. Juan Luna being the first to earn this distinction, the writer and filmmaker Martin Arnaldo, currently at work on a Luna documentary, was invited to speak about the great artist. 

While Luna’s claim to fame was the triumph of his “Spoliarium” in the Exposición Nacional de Bellas Artes in 1884 in Madrid, Arnaldo, speaking from Paris, says it is first and foremost his genius that really brought the Filipino artist considerable recognition in Europe. This gift became his ticket to popularity in the art circles, despite the fact that he wasn’t exactly the sociable type. “He was rather quiet,” says the filmmaker. “He painted more than he talked.”

Juan Luna with friends
Luna with friends Juan Antonio Benlliure, Pedro Paterno, Juan Jose Puerto Villanueva, Felix Resureccion Hidalgo, Mariano Benlliure and Miguel Zaragoza. Photo courtesy of Archivo Fundacion Mariano Benlliure

According to Arnaldo, in Rome, various artists, models, and musicians would congregate in Luna’s studio while he painted. He was also frequently invited to parties, in the day’s in cafes and restaurants in Madrid and Paris. 

What else brought about Luna’s success? Did his race matter to the European audiences? What factor ushered in his notoriety in the 19th century art world? Watch this clip from the special ANCX Forum below hosted by Ces Oreña Drilon to find out the answers.

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[The Asian Cultural Council Auction 2022 is set on Saturday, March 5, 2PM at the G/F Eurovilla I, Legazpi Street corner V.A. Rufino Street, Legazpi Village, Makati. For more information on the auction, visit the Leon Gallery website. Interested parties may view the auction lots in the gallery until Friday, March 4.]

Images courtesy of Leon Gallery