Will the Leon Gallery break its record again for its Magnificent September 12 Auction?
Here, just three months before, Anita Magsaysay-Ho’s 1979 oil-on-canvas, “Fish Harvest at Dawn,” (122 centimeters x 152 centimeters), which had a starting bid of P6 million, sold for P52.56 million.
Now, the gallery will put the personal favorite of this “female Amorsolo”, “Lavanderas”, oil on canvas – a smaller one, at 76 cm x 60 cm, under the hammer, for a starting bid of P5 million.
“We are privileged that another precious work of Magsaysay-Ho has been entrusted to us. Humbler in size as the previous one we had, ‘Lavanderas’ possess a magnificent nobility as a famous work reproduced in print and famed to be the artist’s favorite,” says Director Jaime L. Ponce de leon.
In addition, the gallery will auction off another Magsaysay-Ho canvas, a 39 cm x 27 cm oil on wood salvaged for US$20 at a garage sale, “Boti! Garapa!”, for a starting bid of P1 million.
By contrast, National Artist Benedicto Cabrera or BenCab’s “Sabel” looms from one wall of the gallery, a 244 cm x 183 cm canvas, one of his largest singular figure “Sabel” paintings of his half a century series, with a starting bid of P8 million.
Sabel, was a wandering mad woman, a flesh and blood person, BenCab confirmed. “She died in 1972. I used to see her in the streets of Bambang, scavenging around garbage cans. I used to be fascinated by her; I did a lot of on the spot drawings and sketches of her. I also used to take photographs of her.
“I thought she made a terrific image visually. I thought she made a terrific subject matter for my paintings. She used to gather these plastic sheets and wrap them around her body. They made the most beautiful abstract shapes.”
Another BenCab opus for auction is “Woman with Winnowing Basket”, a 104 cm x 56 cm acrylic on canvas, for a starting bid of P3.6 million. It’s part of his “Larawan” (Portrait) series of Filipina women seemingly emerging from sepia-colored old photos.
“I started the ‘Larawan’ series in 1972,” the artist recounted. “I was buying a lot of Filipiniana books in London with old photographs from the colonial era. I was showing the parallelism between the past and present. When I was at UP I loved reading about history, like Nick Joaquin’s ‘A Question of Heroes.’
“When I showed the ‘Larawan’ series here in 1972, it was a big hit. Most people thought it was about nostalgia, but it’s actually commentary, my personal feelings about what was happening with martial law. But I think, beyond that, what I was really trying to show was my skill as a painter.”
Interestingly, Leon Gallery will also auction off BenCab’s “Scavengers”, an oil on wood (46 cm x 46 cm) painting discovered at a Salvation Army site and disposed of for US$5. This was part of his first exhibit in 1966, depicting his trademark subjects – the deprived and the bereft. Starting bid for this piece was pegged at P 800,000.
An untitled work by Juan Luna – signed and dated 1884, oil on canvas – and featuring a European lady depicted in full figure in the formal dress of the time, will be under the hammer too.
It was acquired by National Artist Carlos Quirino, then the aid-de-camp of President Elpidio Quirino, during the latters State Visit to Spain in 1951.
Two pieces by Romulo Olazo, preeminent modernist master, from his Diaphanous series, whose recent passing surprised the art word, stand as testaments to his indomitable commitment and devotion to his craft.
“Sin Titulo”, Fernando Zobel’s stunning oil on canvas work from 1963 is one of the largest and more complex art pieces by Zobel to come out of this period. The resulting work presents a totally different approach to canvas, all the more ethereal and sophisticated.
A pair of silver Paliteras (Palilleras) from the Suarez-Joven family of Bacolor Pampanga, harkens to bygone, halcyon era – the 1850’s – of refined and elegant living.
There’s also Ronald Ventura with his untitled work from 2010 and a series in mixed media from 2005 and 2006, Jigger Cruz’s “Wandering Carnival” signed and dated 2015 bares his trademark agitated, viscous style of deliberate defacement, Rodel Tapaya with his “The Fairy’s Flower Garden” is a powerful narrative where his vivid renditions give to form what we ourselves imagine.