Kiss of Judas by Napoleon Abueva, starting bid Php400,000
Nuestra Señora de la Soledad de Porta Vaga, starting bid Php700,000
Talking Birds by H.R. Ocampo, starting at Php1.8M
If you want to convert your cash into a piece of Philippine art history, there’s Vicente Manansala’s “Mother and Child” from 1971, opening bid Php2M; a landscape by Botong Francisco, oil on board, Php2M; “Talking Birds” from H.R. Ocampo’s transitional period, starting at Php1.8M, and Napoleon Abueva’s sculpture in oak, “Kiss of Judas”, Php400,000. If you’ve decided that anyone can buy a Birkin and a Jaguar, but art always has cachet, there’s Ronald Ventura’s take on Leonardo’s Vitruvian man, “In Memorial”, starting at Php7M. If your money makes you feel guilty, contemplate the Passion of the Christ with a three-foot image of the Nuestra Señora de la Soledad de Porta Vaga. Made in Manila in the 1800s, the image ponders the whips, crown of thorns, hammer and nails at the center of the Catholic religion. Php700,000 opening bid.
Unless you’re very rich, the most memorable part of that last paragraph is the money. By my estimate, art auctions are 20 percent art and 80 percent commerce. I’ve looked in on a couple of auctions to watch people spend money without blinking, and they are not like the proper, gracious affairs in movies like North by Northwest. They’re more like sabong (cockfights)—rowdy, democratic, casually-dressed and probably as lucrative. Many of the bidders choose to be invisible, sending emissaries or joining the action online. The competition can be ferocious: the excitement as a Magsaysay-Ho or a Ventura crosses the Php20M mark is intense, even if you have nothing at stake. The tension is so thick, you can feel rich by osmosis.
Read our column at InterAksyon.com.
You can preview the Kingly Treasures auction from November 28 to December 4 at Leon Gallery, G/F Eurovilla I at the corner of Rufino and Legazpi Streets in Legazpi Village, Makati City. The auction is scheduled for December 5 at 2pm. To see the full catalogue and find out how to get a paddle, visit www.leon-gallery.com.
Tinio-Gabaldon cabinet, 19th century, starting at Php3M
Blue Harbor by Jose Joya, starting at Php3.6M.
Landscape by Carlos “Botong” Francisco, starting at Php2M
Update: Reader kotsengkuba alerted us that Vicente Manansala’s Mother and Child is at the Singapore Art Museum. According to the auction catalogue, the Manansala on offer is similar to that one, but painted later. Artists did paint the same subjects over and over again.
Good sleuthing! Sharp viewers make life more difficult for forgers, although the demand for masterworks keeps them employed.