HR Ocampo painting is new star of auction floor at P48M 2
Details of Hernando R. Ocampo's Fifty-Five "A". Image from Leon Gallery

HR Ocampo masterpiece previously owned by artist’s best friend sells for P48M at auction

Meanwhile, another Zobel takes home a Zobel painting used to be owned by Enrique Zobel
ANCX Staff | Sep 13 2022

A glorious painting by Hernando R. Ocampo — and belonging to his best friend, fellow journalist Jose Zaide — was the star of the recent León Gallery Magnificent September Auction. Entitled “Fifty-Five A”, alluding to the year it was painted and the first to be painted in that series, this mid-century masterpiece scaled the heights and landed at P48 million, including buyer’s premium. It set the auction floor burning and also set the first world record at the weekend auction, a much awaited event for both seasoned collectors and budding aficionados.

Hernando R. Ocampo's Fifty-Five 'A'
Hernando R. Ocampo's Fifty-Five "A"

A “double Zobel” — a work that was not just painted by a member of one the country’s most illustrious clans but also owned by one its most famous captains of finance and industry — was a close second. Titled “Siga-Siga” for the brash portrait of a Manila cigarette vendor, it was one of the sales’ most hotly contested works. It was painted by Fernando Zobel and exhibited in his first-ever solo show at the legendary Philippine Art Gallery. Ultimately, a Zobel scion romped off with the honors—Iñigo Zobel, according to a report by Ces Drilon in Bilyonaryo. The painting was a gift to Iñigo from his mother and used to hang in his room, said the same story. Bidding for this elusive work began at P10 million and volleyed upwards until reaching P44 million, again with buyer’s premium.

Fernando Zóbel's Siga-Siga
Fernando Zóbel's "Siga-Siga"

A second, abstract Fernando Zobel from his Saeta period, and once owned by his American mentors, Jim and Reed Pfeufer, easily leapfrogged to P26 million. 

The León Gallery auction next produced a solid world record for the contemporary maverick John Santos, whose epic work “Paperweight” leapt effortlessly to P19 million. This work had been dubbed by his devoted collectors as one of his strongest, if not one of the most beautiful pieces at his landmark show at Pearl Lam Galleries in Singapore almost a decade ago. Meanwhile, a figurative work also by Santos named “Naghaharing Reyna” brought in P9 million.

Not to be outdone, the maestro from Cebu, Romulo Galicano, broke not just one but two world records in a single auction. The work titled “Sea Breeze”—depicting fishermen hauling in their catch—pulled in a new benchmark for the artist at P6.4 million. Shortly afterwards, an autobiographical opus entitled “Poor Man’s Meal”, peopled by characters from the master’s own life and featuring Galicano himself in a cameo, smashed that earlier record to reach over P9 million. “Only at Leon Gallery,” commented one collector. 

Jose John Santos III's 'Paperweight 1'
Jose John Santos III's "Paperweight 1"

Lao Lianben and glass whisperer Ramon Orlina continued their winning streaks, with strong showings across several works. A massive ode to quietude by the Zen impresario Lao, entitled “Voices”, reaped nearly P15 million, while collectors continued to compete briskly for even smaller works.

Perennial favorite, Fernando Amorsolo, continued to spark interest as he marked his 50th anniversary as the country’s first National Artist. The first-ever “Bombing of the Intendencia”, a memorable portrait of the horrors of war, took centerstage at P11 million.

Romulo Galicano's Sea Breeze
Romulo Galicano's Sea Breeze

A richly-carved memento of the Manila Galleon Trade, a specimen of the Baul Mundo, rang in P4.4 million; while an elegant comoda and a stately “Olympic” altar table raked in amounts in the tenor of P3 million each; so did exemplars from BenCab’s Larawan exhibit, his first after a London hiatus.

Works across the centuries of Filipino artistry, from a charming Rafael Enriquez to riveting works from modernists Lee Aguinaldo and Arturo Luz as well as contemporary stalwarts such as Kawayan de Guia and Louie Cordero reflected the continuing strength of the Filipino market, said León Gallery director Jaime Ponce de Leon.

Images from Leon Gallery