Felicia Hung Atienza lives among some of the finest, often provocative pieces of contemporary art. The well-appointed Malate home she shares with husband Kim Atienza is testament to the couple’s penchant for pieces that are not only beautiful but also create an impact. “We usually choose an artwork together,” says the former Merrill Lynch stockbroker. “We choose art not necessarily for hanging but to be appreciated even if its not hung. In other words, it doesn’t have to match the furniture.”
For Felicia, who is busy these days running two world class educational institutions—the Chinese International School Manila of which she is founder and President, and the Domuschola International School—the importance of the artist and his or her contribution to the art world also become part of what draws the couple to a work. And this is clear in her reasons for choosing her five favorites from the upcoming Magnificent September Auction, slated to happen this Saturday, September 11 at 2PM.
The Atienzas have been serious art watchers and collectors even before the art boom of the mid-2000s—hence they’ve closely followed the artists on this list, aware of their range, their talent, and their trajectory. Looking for a guide on what to bid on this weekend? The astute collector dispenses some valuable advice.
16 | “Otto Dix, The Artworld, 1972” by Manuel Ocampo
“We’ve always been fans of Manuel Ocampo but this particular Manuel Ocampo is of a very different style,” says Feli. The elements of coarseness and vulgarity is there but it’s “not as bastos and sacrilegious” as his works of late. “You can see that he did this early on, when he was still very mellow—which makes this distinct,” the collector offers. “So if you are to collect a Manuel Ocampo it would be this one.” It’s a good price, too, she says, for a Manuel, considering the medium and its large size.
17 | “Tree of Life (Kinetic Art)” by Gabby Barredo
“We’ve always been fans of his kinetic art and his chairs, his clocks,” says the collector. “Gabby always gives that eerie, macabre feeling that is mixed with such beauty that you can’t quite place. It’s a mix of macabre and beautiful that you can’t help but be moved.” Atienza commends the artist for having kept this quality in his work throughout his career. Since the art openings in the 90s of Hiraya Gallery, Feli says Kim has been fascinated by Barredo. “And this particular Gabby is beautiful,” she adds.
32 | “Perpetual Deluge, Perpetual Guidance” by Louie Cordero
“Kim and I were the first to collect Louie Cordero's works and we've always been fans of his, his sense of humor and his Dadaist touches. We remember getting his first piece in the year 2000 when nobody collected him still, and we are amazed at how much progress he's made in his art. The good thing about a Louie Cordero is it’s very distinguishable yet his style is constantly evolving every year. Now, as i can see, it’s getting more whimsical—but the DNA is still very Louie Cordero: that mix of rock, punk, and that Dada kind of art.”
59 | “Alaga” by Elmer Borlongan
“Just like with Louie Cordero, we collected Borlongan very early so we have his early works, from the 80s to the year 2000s,” says Feli. Thus the collector recognizes in this auction lot the marks of the artist’s early style: the gritty social realism, the influence of Onib Olmedo in the distorted shapes. “The theme is also very nice,” Feli offers. “Cats are very popular with the public. In case you want to sell this work, it will be very easy for you to unload.” It’s a good price, too, for such a big name like Borlongan, and it comes from a good stage in his art-making.
61 | Checkmates by Charlie Co
“If a book is to be written on Philippine art, Charlie deserves a whole chapter,” says Atienza. “He's also very underrated among Philippine artists but he’s among the pioneers of modern art in Bacolod together with Nunelencio Alvarado.” Why does Feli like “Checkmates”? She says she likes the play of colors, the figures, and the fact that it’s very detailed. “You could see Charlie was happy while doing this. It’s a happy painting. Happy enough to put in a kid's room! Charlie kasi can be very dark sometimes.” Atienza says the starting price is a reasonable one (Php 300,000). “Charlie, because of the way he manages his art career, is a good investment because he can get reasonably priced but the prices will never go down. A Charlie will always go up even. It’s all a matter of time. His career is phenomenal, long term, and very well managed.”
The Magnificent September Auction is happening on September 11 beginning at 2PM. Check out the e-catalogue and auction offerings by going to leon-gallery.com or click on this link. The event is presented by the country’s premiere auction house Leon Gallery together with ANCX.ph, the urban man's guide to culture and style, the lifestyle website of ANC, the ABS-CBN News Channel.
[Artwork images courtesy of Leon Gallery. Portrait courtesy of Felicia Atienza]