By Ces Oreña-Drilon
Leon Gallery’s ‘The Spectacular Mid-Year Auction’ left the art world amazed as it witnessed a cascade of shattered world records.
The auction floor was filled to capacity, and frenzied bids poured in from online platforms, phone calls, and raised paddles for highly coveted artworks by Philippine artists and a select few Southeast Asian masters.
Juvenal Sanso’s 1956 oil on canvas “Window Shopping,” sold for a world record-breaking P8.76 million (hammer price plus buyer’s premium). The work is from the artist’s rare and coveted Parisian “Black Period,” – from 1953-1957, where he explored themes of anguish and alienation after World War II.
A well-known collector remarked that Sanso’s works featuring human faces as subjects like “Window Shopping” were probably limited to only 20 pieces.
Juvenal Sansó “Window Shopping”
The oil on canvas dated 1956 is said to have been acquired by a property tycoon whose father was Juvy’s BFF.
The painting is from the Don J. Antonio Araneta collection. J. Antonio is the older brother of Luis, the more well known art connoisseur, who is the father of Greggy Araneta, husband of Irene Marcos.
The painting depicts an old man gazing at a store window of decorative objects, capturing the hard times Parisians had to go through after the war. Even the artist, who left Manila to hone his craft in the art capital of the world suffered a tough life there.
The future super mall king Henry Sy, who struck a friendship with Juvy in his teens when their respective fathers had neighboring businesses (Sy’s father had a small general store while Sanso’s father made wrought iron fixtures for homes), recounted to Sanso’s parents upon returning home from a business trip, “I could barely hold back my tears when I saw how Juvi is living in Paris!”
The two eventually excelled in their respective fields and formed a lasting friendship.
Speculation was rife that the world record breaking piece was acquired by one of the sons of the deceased property tycoon who was told to “take care of my friend, Sanso.”
“Diaphanous B-XLIV” is among the largest in Romulo Olazo’s acclaimed Diaphnous Series. Created in 1980, it won much acclaim and international exposure for the artist.
Another world record in the auction was made by Romulo Olazo’s breathtaking “Diaphanous B-XLIV,” which fetched P26.1 million (hammer price of P21.5 million plus buyer’s premium) to loud applause from an admiring crowd on the floor.
An exciting exchange of bids kept auction participants on the edge of their seats which led to another world record for a work by National Artist Guillermo Tolentino, famous for being the sculptor of the magnificent Oblation which has been the symbol of the University of the Philippines and the imposing Bonifacio Monument in Caloocan.
“A Country Scene,” A rare painting by National Artist and Oblation sculptor Guillermo Tolentino went more than twenty times the opening bid.
Tolentino’s oil painting, “A Country Scene,” began at a humble P200,000 and led to a flurry of bids which ended with the hammer banging at a handsome P4 million, eventually selling at P4.67 million with the buyer’s premium.
The painting was a wedding gift of the artist to Benito and Amalia Natividad. Benito was a courageous military leader who became a judge and then governor.
For his valiancy, Benito became one of the youngest brigadier generals at the age of 24.
“Country Life” fetched a world record for Ramon Peralta at P 934,400. The painting exudes more of a dignified and humanizing atmosphere rather than a charming, idyllic picture of the countryside.
Another early work is “Country Life,” an oil on canvas painted by Ramon Peralta in the 1900s.
The artist is a master of Philippine genre painting in the early 20th century. He belongs to the same generation as Fabian de la Rosa, Teodoro Buenaventura, Jorge Pineda and Emilio Alvero.
Peralta produced a series of works depicting the battle of Tirad Pass and one of the paintings is on display at the National Museum.
“Sad Emitting Pancake” by Marc Aran Reyes where we are thrust into an alien yet familiar world.
Another world record making work was Mark Aran’s “Sad Emitting Pancake,” an opus emblematic of his hyper-realistic surrealist scenes. It went for P9.92 million (hammer price with buyer’s premium).
The work of foremost abstract artist, Gus Albor, “Etherfield,” from the collection of Grace Kalaw Katigbak fetched a world record of P2 million.
“Etherfield” by August Albor who continues to adhere to the minimalist aesthetics championed by Fernando Zobel, Arturo Luz and Leandro Locsin.
Isabel Diaz’ untitled monumental oil on canvas with her trademark floral still life hammered at a world record breaking price or P 2.8 million.
In this monumental work, Diaz presents an array of flowers, the most prominent of which are hibiscus (gumamela) and carnations.
Edwin Wilwayco’s “David’s Column,” an early oil on canvas made by the artist in 1975 fetched a record P1.28 million.
Edwin Wilwayco’s work has a spellbinding affinity and resemblance to Joya’s work. Wilwayco has held Joya in great reverence. In this painting, the artist’s choice of subject matter and style evoke Joya’s expressionist black like forms including the ancient Tagalog script baybayin.
Modern master Vicente Manansala’s prize winning “Pounding Rice,” scored a Philippine record, fetching P40.88 million. The piece belonged to the collection of Doña Dely Tambunting-Ongsiako, whose mother, Doña Nena reigned over a bustling business empire.
Doña Nena and her husband Don Antonio expanded the Casa Agencia de Tambunting, founded in 1906.
The Filipino Values of hard work and family are captured in Vicente Manansala’s opus “Pounding Rice”
Another much awaited lot was Anita Magsaysay-Ho’s “Women with Flowers” from the collection of Zita Feliciano, who in the seventies was known as the original among the ‘Blue Ladies” of former First Lady Imelda Marcos. The painting, made in Hongkong where Magsaysay would stay for 17 years and consider her most productive period, fetched a whopping P31.53 million (hammer price with buyer’s premium).
Ito Feliciano, son of Zita Feliciano says this Anita Magsaysay-Ho was the piece de resistance in their living room which has an Amorsolo, a Sansó, Manansala and Ocampo.
Bidding was also energetic for the mid-level lots.
“Market Scene” by Oscar Zalameda fetched a healthy P4.43 million (hammer price with buyer’s premium).
This 1960 oil painting “Market Scene” is from Zalameda’s earlier experimental artistic phase where the subjects’ forms are reduced into simplified images.
Federico Aguilar Alcuaz’ tribute to the Ateneo De Manila University, “Blue Eagle”, sold at P3.97 million (hammer price with buyer’s premium).
“The Blue Eagle” by Federico Aquilar Alcuaz. The artist had so much to thank the Ateneo for it gave him the liberty and opportunity to zealously pursue his art.
Leon Gallery’s director Jaime Ponce de Leon was extremely pleased at the turnout, “The art market is very strong and the clear indication are the results of the mid-level lots that sold for far higher than expected. The Zalamedas sold very well, the Acuazes, Sansos, and Malangs. And the Amorsolos did very well! “
A well applauded work of Fernando Amorsolo, “ A Firelit Night with Musician,” dated 1938 fetched P5.6 million.
Fernando Amorsolo is hailed for his homage to Philippine sunlight. In contrast, this rare 1938 work, romantically titled “A Firelit Night with Musicians” diverts from the majesty of sunlight to focus on the sublime grandiosity of the moon.
The piece is from the Dr Wenceslao Pascual collection. It was a gift from the Lopez family when Pascual joined the Nacionalista Party around 1953 to 1955. The Lopezes then backed the candidacy of Nacionalista standard bearer Ramon Magsaysay who eventually won, while Fernando Lopez Sr also won a senate seat.
In “Hunter” Ronald Ventura takes us from reality in our stream of consciousness to sweet oblivion.
Auction star Ronald Ventura continued to bring in the big bucks with five diverse pieces on auction. The world renowned artist’s arresting mixed media and oil opus, “Hunter” sold for P28 million.