Last Saturday's auction action at Leon. Photo courtesy of Leon Gallery
Culture Art

A Lao Lianben painting found in segunda mano haven Bangkal sold for P4 million at Leon auction

And Mark Justiniani’s painting of pop culture icons sold for P13.4 million, breaking his own record from 2018.
ANCX | Jun 23 2020

The big news at last Saturday’s León Gallery Spectacular Mid-Year Auction was the slew of several world records —as well as the coming of age of key contemporary artists, led by Marc Aran Reyes. It was the culmination of a heady, high-octane alliance between the country’s most trusted auction house and ANCX.ph, the lifestyle website of ABS-CBN targeted at the urban man.

“We always want to think ‘out of the box’,” said Jaime Ponce de Leon, director of León Gallery. “We have pioneered, for example, the virtual auction room and have developed our abilities at online auctions. Gratefully, we had the infrastructure in place years before the quarantine. An alliance with ANCX was therefore a no-brainer.”

Ponce de Leon added that the partnership received rave reviews. “Clients were constantly reminded by the FB or IG hourly reminders brought about by ANCX,” he smiled.

The first-ever partnership was exhilarating indeed, as ANCX expanded León Gallery’s tradition of taste-makers’ choices. On the Spectacular Auction’s roster were art cognoscenti Julius Babao, Kim Atienza, Fe Rodriguez, Miguel Rosales, Ricky Carandang, Toto Salgado, and Dr. Steve Lim of the influential ArtRocks community.

ArtRocks was also a launchpad for a members-only poll of who would, in fact, become the auction world’s next king (based on percentage increase from starting bid to hammer price.) The candidates were : Mark Justiniani, Marc Aran Reyes, Jigger Cruz, Andres Barrioquinto, Zean Cabangis, Dino Gabito. Marc Aran Reyes, incidentally, was unanimous choice.

Mark Justiniani's Spectator (b. 1966), signed and dated 2013 (lower left), oil on canvas, 57” x 90” (145 cm x 229 cm)

Based on absolute numbers, however, Mark Justiniani would have been named the monarch with a hammer price of P13.4 Million for “The Spectator,” more than double his last record of P6.4Million in 2018. This lavish work filled with an audience of the world’s who’s who prophetically featured a figure putting a crown on his own head. (From the top of the bleachers, a Justiniani lookalike is said to be witnessing the whole scene avidly.)

Marc Aran Reyes’ aptly titled piece “The Audacious Future” likewise predicted his extraordinary 7-figure auction debut at P7.7 Million. Not bad at all for an artwork acquired for a mere fraction of that price at ArtFair Philippines less than three years ago. (It was part of “The Onerrific Timepiece” series that was one of the event’s focal points.) Art world insiders say that the pent-up demand for this artist, as a result of a waiting list about five years long, pushed prices to these heights.

Marc Aran Reyes's The Audacious Future (The Onerrific Timepiece Series) (b. 1996), signed and dated 2017 (lower right), oil on canvas, 60” x 120” (152 cm x 305 cm)

Several artists were also welcomed into the “Million-Peso” club, including Ronson Culibrina, whose two works — one was a riff on Juan Luna’s “En el Palco (In the Theater Box)”, the other on Fernando Amorsolo’s “Under the Mango Tree” — actually came in just under double or P2Million.

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World records were set for Culibrina as well as Zean Cabangis (at P1.9 Million). Dino Gabito’s ‘Shroud No. One’ or the first-ever of the series ever painted also hit a milestone.

Romulo Galicano and Macario Vitalis stretched their wings and landed on very firm footing, all their works landing well above the million-peso mark.

Lao Lianben's Tryst 7 (b. 1948), signed and dated 1973 (left), mixed media, 48” x 34” (122 cm x 86 cm)

A Lao Lianben, unusual because of a red crescent, came in at just under P4 Million — another treasure-hunting feat since it was discovered at the Bangkal flea market.

An extravagantly-sized 17th-century ivory Cristo accomplished nearly P4 Million as well.

The Spectacular Mid-Year Auction came at the end of the traditional two-week preview period. Instead of the usual cocktails, León Gallery and ANCX teamed up to host a Zoom forum on the “Thrill of the Auction Chase”, a fast-paced review of the sale’s top lots with an informative Q&A portion offering behind-the-scenes insights. The auction itself was live-streamed on leon-exchange.com as well as ANCX’s facebook page. It featured a live auctioneer responding to online and telephone bids.