Malang’s women, Amorsolo’s dalaga, and the ‘lost goddess’ of Escolta flexed their individual powers this weekend at the León Gallery Asian Cultural Council (ACC) Auction, kicking off International Women’s Month. The biggest star of the show, however, was the painter Betsy Westendorp whose towering floral bouquet (measuring almost 11 feet long and 7 feet wide) from 1986, rang in P 17.5 million including buyer’s premium. This set the tone for the entire auction’s female-centric results.
Juan Luna’s ‘Odalisca (Odalisque)’ earned the 19th-century genius another world record. The first Filipino artist to put the Philippines on the map set a milestone for Luna watercolors when the 1882-signed and dated work sold for P11.7 million. The languorous depiction of a harem woman comes from the master’s fertile Roman period which produced his memorable ‘Death of Cleopatra’ as well as the historic ‘Spoliarium.’
The imposing ‘Caryatid’ — a column sculpted in the shape of a Grecian maiden — from the Edificio Tuason Building once defined Escolta at the turn of the century. Last Saturday, its iconic status led it to stroll off with P1.6 million.
Meanwhile, the working women of Fernando Amorsolo followed suit, beginning with a fetching ‘kayumanggi’ portrait titled ‘A Typical Filipina Beauty’ from 1926 which brought in P10.5 million. A largish ‘Mango Gatherers’ from 1970 reeled in P13 Million, thanks to its distinguished provenance—the society doyenne, Doña Nene Tuason Quimson.
Leon Gallery director Jaime Ponce de Leon revealed that the graceful portrait of another illustrious society matron, Doña Nena Tambunting, was withdrawn from the auction floor last minute—it will instead be donated to the Philippine National Museum’s roster of portraits. (The companion portrait of her daughter, Mrs. Teresita Liboro, was snapped up, however, at just over a million pesos.)
Virgin Marys from the 18th century from the Legarda collection as well as a glorious Ang Kiukok “Rosary Queen” were other notable catches, as was Malang’s “Barrio Scene” which reaped over P8 million. Other notable sales include a Philippine School ‘After Resurreccion Hidalgo’ that captured several of his most beloved characters. It hit P4.4 million while a pair of ‘Tipos Filipinos’ from another master, Felix Lorenzo Martinez, took in P5 million.
A portion of the proceeds of the annual ACC auction is earmarked for the benefit of Filipino artists intent on spreading their wings abroad. Ponce de Leon reported that one of the auction’s featured artists, ACC grantee Nikki Luna, has an ongoing show at the Casa Vicens Museum in Barcelona. She now has the distinction of being the first Filipino to exhibit there. “It’s a fitting tribute not just to the Asian Cultural Council but also to the cause of all women artists,” said Ponce de Leon.
[The Asian Cultural Council Auction 2022 is presented by Leon Gallery and co-presented by ANCX]