World records for mid-century modern artists Hernando R. Ocampo and Cesar Legaspi, ex-patriate Macario Vitalis and a stunning peak for Philippine tribal art were just some of the landmark results set at the recent León Gallery Kingly Treasures auction held last November 28th.
“The year-end results cemented the strong quarterly auction showings for 2020,” remarked León Gallery Director Jaime Ponce de Leon. He noted that each quarter’s results have increasingly improved. “This is a result of the market’s continuous adjustment to the pandemic as well as the unexpected amount of liquidity.”
H.R. Ocampo’s early work, “Tempo Rubato” a 1949 meditation on stolen time, leaped to P37.4 million inclusive of buyer’s premium after machine-gun like bidding from the floor as well as from phone bidders. The lot started at P5 million. One of the piece’s strengths,” said Ponce de Leon, “was its matchless provenance from the collection of Don Eugenio ‘Geny’ Lopez Jr., renowned for his impeccable taste.” The auction price represented a world record for Ocampo.
“It hit all the marks,” said the auctionhouse founder, “rarity, origin, beauty and its superb condition.”
Another work from Ocampo’s much in-demand “Visual Melody” series, entitled “Homage to a Lady,” performed creditably at P16.4 Million. The work also had the distinction of having come from one of Manila’s elite families.
Also an object of hot pursuit was Cesar Legaspi’s “Miners” which showed a pair of sinewy, helmeted workers wielding a power drill in a copper and verdigris tunnel. Starting at P5 million, it soared to almost P13 million, including premium, establishing a world record for Legaspi.
Macario Vitalis, the Filipino painter who first settled in Picasso’s Paris before becoming an adopted son of Brittany, also charted another world record at P3.3 million for the work “St. George and the Dragon.” This masterwork was also from the vaunted Don Geny Lopez collection.
An impressively-sized Benedicto Cabrera or Bencab, titled “Homage to Turing” romped off with P29 Million, also inclusive of buyer’s premium. The starting price was P16 million. The interest in the work is expected as it puts the signature styles of two National Artists in a single work—it is, after all, Bencab’s tribute to his comrade Arturo Luz. Interestingly, a ‘Hagabi’ or Ifugao prestige bench achieved P22 Million. Like BenCab, it represents the artistic pride of the north.
A world record was likewise set for charcoal sketches: One was by Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo for a study of a goddess bearing the cup of knowledge for the lost masterpiece “Per Pacem et Libertatem (Through Peace and Liberty)” commissioned by the Philippine Exposition Board for the St, Louis World’s Fair of 1904. It commanded almost P5 Million inclusive of premium. (Hidalgo was paid 25,000 francs or P7 Million, in today’s currency, for the 20-foot high masterpiece that was destroyed in World War II.)
Works by Fernando Amorsolo and Fernando Zobel both showed solid results, particularly the former’s classic “Lavanderas” and the latter’s “Atardecer…” which took in P 13 million and P8.2 million, respectively. Zobel’s protege, Lee Aguinaldo, reaped almost P12 million for the work “Linear No. 36”, the best of the “Linear” series that would catch Zobel’s attention.
The bellweather installation “Tearing into Pieces” by Annie Cabigting rang in P10 million. It was based on a controversial work by her mentor Robert Chabet in the 70s and attracted much interest in the weeks before the auction as a result of this backstory.
Also hitting another world record was Marina Cruz for the diptych “When We Were Ten Years Old — Elisa and Laura” which accomplished P4.4 Million. Jigger Cruz turned in a respectable return as well for an opus-like untitled work at P4.7 million; while abstract master Norberto Carating continued to strengthen his market with a P2.4 Million result for an imposing triptych entitled “Windows Nos. 2-4.”
Assessing the results, Ponce de Leon emphasized that “interest was strong across the board for all genres and periods, from a 19th century copy of Hidalgo’s lyrical “La Barca” to female stalwart Geraldine Javier’s “Hide and Seek” diptych, to Norman Dreo’s powerful homage to museums entitled “Journey to Louvre I and II” to young turk Dino Gabito’s shrouds, “Ides of March I and II.” Each of these works raked in P3.5 Million inclusive of premium.
“These robust auction results indicate once again,” said the León Gallery director, that “art is not just a thing of beauty but also a most attractive investment.”
All photos from Leon Gallery