León  Gallery reveals highlights of September auction 2
Epic-sized John Santos entitled “Paperweight I” from a landmark Singapore show; (Right) HR Ocampo’s “Fifty-Five A”, owned by best friend Jose F. Zaide
Culture

Epic-sized John Santos, important H.R. Ocampo among highlights of León’s September auction

One of the year’s biggest auctions is showcasing important works from HR Ocampo, Zobel and Bencab
EA Santamaria | Aug 26 2022

Art in its many forms and shapes fill the treasure box that is the forthcoming León Gallery Magnificent September Auction 2022 slated on September 10th, 2PM. 

There are two works significant to the personal histories of two of the most electric of artists of the mid-century. The first is the glorious “Fifty-Five A”, painted for Hernando R. Ocampo’s closest confidante and intellectual sparring partner, Jose Fernandez Zaide. Jose was the equally brilliant younger brother of the more famous Gregorio, once one of the best-known historians in the country and whose works dominated Philippine textbooks for entire generations. Jose, like HR, was a journalist although it was in their different lives afterwards that the two became fast friends; with Zaide as diplomat, HR as artist and the first Filipino neo-realist.

“Siga-Siga” from Fernando Zobel’s’ first PAG
“Siga-Siga” from Fernando Zobel's’ first PAG show and the last of its kind to come to auction

The second work is the equally glorious Zobel work “Siga-Siga” which debuted at the artist’s very first one-man show at the storied Philippine Art Gallery in February 1953. It was a season of firsts in that brave, new Manila and the work, depicting a brash cigarette vendor whose ilk would prowl the sidewalks of the city, was symbolic in more ways than one of the bold spirit of the times. “Siga-Siga” would furthermore catch the eye of a young collector, the man who would eventually captain Ayala y Cia and preside over the historic expansion of Ayala Corporation, making it to this day, a force to reckon with. That man would be Enrique Zobel, known to Philippine business and industry simply as “EZ.” “Siga-Siga” is the last work from this landmark series to come to auction.

An ivory brush pit depicting Paul de la Gironiere’s crocodile-hunting adventures in the Philippines
An ivory brush pit depicting Paul de la Gironiere’s crocodile-hunting adventures in the Philippines

The collection of artworks up for bids spans centuries: beginning with an extraordinary and rare sculpture by National Artist Vicente Manansala created in 1959 and coming from the Don Benito Legarda collection. Also intriguing is an ivory brushpot from 1889 by the Paete artist Visente Acat, capturing the Philippine adventures of the French crocodile-hunter Paul de la Gironiere.

There is also a rare copper plate of the portrait of the conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legaspi, first governor-general of the Philippines and founder of Manila. The item is made even more rare since it captures a lost masterpiece by Juan Luna.

ine escritorio (drop-front desk) to be found in a cabinet from the 1850s
Fine escritorio (drop-front desk) to be found in a cabinet from the 1850s

Not just one but two seminal pieces by BenCab from his landmark “Larawan” series are also on offer; so are two riveting works by the master Romulo Galicano—one capturing the lives of fisherfolk and a second, an homage to Vincent Van Gogh’s Potato Eaters — that feature an enchanting cameo of the artist-author himself in the shadows. 

Meanwhile, Rafael Enriquez, who would become the first dean of the newly formed University of the Philippines’ School of Fine Arts, makes his academic finesse felt with the lyrical “Two Sisters” from his Paris years. His rightful heir, Fernando Amorsolo, is also to be found in a vista of the Legaspi-Urdaneta Monument outside Intramuros as well as a sultry nude that smolders with reflected light. There is also a variety of paintings of Amorsolo’s countrygirl-muses.

 

The Baul Mundo from the Zacharias Rocha Collection
The Baul Mundo from the Zacharias Rocha Collection

More National Artists are represented in this collection including the “Elegant Debutante,” a gift to an equally beautiful young debutante, from Victorio Edades; a powerful, towering Arturo Luz of one of his favorite themes, “Carnival Forms.”

Detail of the holy-grail of “mesa altar” the Batangas “Olympic”
Detail of the holy-grail of “mesa altar” the Batangas “Olympic”

The fine furniture offerings are led by an exceptional Baul Mundo from the Rocha family of Bohol. (They would produce one of the first pensionados to be sent to the United States by the new American regime.) Also remarkable are a Batangas mesa-altar of the kind known as “Olympic” for its curlicued carvings; as well as a stately “escritorio” and a “comoda de poste”, both grandly confected for the lord of the manor.

[For more information on the Magnificent September Auction 2022 slated on September 10th, 2PM, visit Leon Gallery by clicking on this link.] 

Photos by Patrick Diokno