In a weekend bookended by the announcement of new National Artists Awards and the commemoration of our Independence Day, there were plenty of symbolisms in the art world. But it seems the chief arbiter of Philippine art remains to be — not the committees composed of academics nor even the museum-tologists — but that hardy and enterprising species known as the Filipino collector. And his natural habitat is León Gallery, which yesterday marked its latest Spectacular Mid-Year Auction.
Here are 10 fascinating facts gleaned from that momentous occasion:
1) The star of the auction was the poignant but powerful “Moriones Festival” by Carlos V. Francisco which ascended to P35 Million. This happened to be, said León Gallery director Jaime Ponce de Leon, the third highest amount paid for a Botong at auction. (It was at León Gallery that three of the top 4 prices ever were made.)
2) Women in red sizzled. Victorio Edades’ “Poinsettia Girl” romped off with P23 Million, (representing hammer price plus buyer’s premium.) In one fell swoop, said Ponce de Leon, “Poinsettia Girl” made a world record for this otherwise underrated of our Filipino National Arists, his title as the Father of Filipino Modern Art notwithstanding, said Ponce de Leon. It was Edades who was first to bring to the country the idea of non-academic art.
3) The Hagabi is eternal. This once little-known object of Ifugao gentility made history as the world’s most expensive piece of Filipino tribal art at P22 Million at León Gallery in 2021. A second “prestige bench” was just auctioned off at P20 Million this weekend, propelled by a three-tier provenance spanning all the important collectors of tribal antiquities in the last century.
4) Another world record was reached by Ramon Orlina’s glass masterpiece “Torso”which soared to P7 Million. “It was the perfect storm of being a large piece — measuring 21 inches high — and a provenance coming from visionary collector Don Geny Lopez,” said Ponce de Leon. “Both played huge factors in hitting this figure.”
5) Don Geny’s magic touch rang in a total of P20.5 Million for two H.R. Ocampos, from both ends of the artist’s colorful career, from his proletariat period as well as when he became prince of the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
6) Most Cinderella outcome goes goes to Pacita Abad’s “Tevan Galano” from her Batanes Series. From a P300,000 starting bid, the price leapfrogged to a world record for the artist at P9.3 Million. “There are less than a dozen Philippine scenes by Pacita,” explained Ponce de Leon, “so this was a work of great rarity.”
7) Jigger Cruz’ “Blissful Thrones in the Tune of a Lazy Afternoon” bounced jubilantly to almost P12 Million. This was another world record, said our gallery director, borne aloft by its exhibition record in New York — and its record of Jigger’s personal history, being a snapshot of his bedroom.
8) It was a very good day for the mid-century moderns: “Madonna No. 2” by Manansala and “Offering” by Jose Joya zoomed to almost P12 Million each.
9) The oldest Amorsolo “Sabungero” from 1914 brought home P10.5 Million.
10) The oldest work of art on auction was a copper engraving by the enigmatic Laureano Atlas of the miraculous Lady of La Naval, which held its own at P2.2Million.
Photos courtesy of Leon Gallery