If there’s a big winner at the León Gallery Kingly Treasures auction last weekend, it’s the Metropolitan Museum of Manila, newly re-invented as ‘The M’ and soon to open its doors at the Bonifacio Global City. No small thanks to the generosity of well-known collectors—as well as some who would like to remain anonymous—the museum reaped P19.4 million in donations, noted Jaime Ponce de Leon, director of León Gallery.
The figure is the accumulation of the sales of “Table with Avocados” by Ang Kiukok, which came from the personal collection of Paulino and Hetty Que and took in P7.5 million at hammer; another Ang Kiukok, this time a “Seated Figure” which accomplished P6 million; Arturo Luz’s “Six Cyclists” which went for the hammer price of P3.8 million; while a donation by Manuel and Alice Que of a stunning Raffy Napay brought in P1.2 million alongside a Jigger Cruz from the trove of Mario and Mimi Que which rang in at almost P 1 million.
Mid-century modern artists, Hernando R. Ocampo and Anita Magsaysay-Ho continued to do their magic at the yearend auction as well.
For Anita, she once again registered the highest auction bid, cementing her title as “Auction Queen of the Philippines.”
Her 1975 depiction of a favorite subject, “Fish Vendors”, drew rave reviews from collectors, said Ponce de Leon, who recognized the work as “among the first of her sought-after ‘Green Series’ after she moved from the ‘Chinese Inkblot Series’ of the early 1970s.”
“The particular green of the women’s skirts is unique to this period, too,” said the auction house director, “as she veered towards a different shade of green later on.” He also highlighted the fact that “Anita painted this masterpiece very much to the period, with the newspapers used to wrap the fish with the headline ‘Oil Crisis,’ for example, which was ravaging the world in those days.” Thus, the work towered over the auction at nearly P50Million inclusive of buyer’s premium.
It was HR Ocampo’s “Mutants”-A, another prototype of its kind, which established a world record for the artist, easily skirting the previous milestone for Don Geny Lopez’ “Tempo Rubato”, also established at León Gallery. “‘Mutants’-A” climbed to over P45 Million in spirited bidding from several enthusiastic parties.
“This was propelled,” said Ponce de Leon, “by its glamorous and impressive provenance from no less than the collection of Frederic E. Ossorio who was the low-key brother of the Abstract Expressionist Alfonso.” According to notations at the back of the painting in HR’s own handwriting, enthused Ponce de Leon, “Ossorio acquired the work for P900 pesos in 1965 from the artists cooperative called Gallery 7 which HR himself founded alongside Ang Kiukok and Malang Santos.”
Speaking of Malang, Ponce de Leon reported that his work “Flowers” also made a world record at the auction, hitting almost P15 Million for his image of a colorful bouquet of flora.
Not to be outdone was a Marina Cruz, titled “When Elisa Was Seven”, which also blew up a world record for the artist at nearly P5Million. This particular work was selected as the cover of a recent Harpers Bazaar’s Art edition.
Justiniano Asuncion’s set of signed watercolors reaped another record for the artist at P12 Million. Created for the American trading barons, this captivating collection came from the holdings of Don Benito J. Legarda who had kept them under wraps, jealously guarded from the public’s eyes, during his lifetime. “Don Beniting had an Aladdin’s cave of treasures that continuously reveals more wonders,” Ponce de Leon said.
Among the contemporary artists, Annie Cabigting with “Riders on a Beach” achieved P14 Million just missing by a whistle her previous benchmark at León Gallery. A BenCab Larawan called “Two Scribes” grossed P22 Million, while a “Mother and Child”, also by Cabrera and perfect for the Christmas season, took in almost P19 Million. Ronald Ventura’s “FrancisM”, from the year when the artist dominated the Ateneo Art Awards brought in P13 Million. It was Elaine Navas, however, who charted new territory at nearly P2Million, a world record again for the artist.
Excellent prices were likewise achieved by Elmer Borlongan, Emmanuel Garibay, Abdulmari Imao, and Vietnam’s Amorsolo, Le Pho.
Photos courtesy of Leon Gallery