Untroubled by another famous mutation called “Omicron,” Hernando R. Ocampo’s take on the evils of science and technology entitled “Mutants” set a world record at the recently concluded León Gallery Kingly Treasures Auction.
“I am happy to note — despite the shade thrown by recent news — that prices for the best works from the country’s best artists held firm,” remarked Jaime Ponce de Leon, director of the auction house.
HR Ocampo’s fiery work leapfrogged easily over the previous benchmark set by a piece once owned by Don Eugenio “Geny” Lopez, patriarch of ABS-CBN. It raked in P45.5 million, including buyer’s premium, as various collectors-in-the-know competed vigorously for the canvas.
“Mutants,” after all, came with an equally prestigious pedigree coming from the collection of Frederic E. Ossorio, emphasized Ponce de Leon. “He was an art connoisseur and the man who conceptualized the ‘Angry Christ’ church in Victorias, Negros Occidental on the sugar plantation and mill owned by his family.”
However, he related, it was Anita Magsaysay-Ho’s 1975 rendition of “Fish Vendors” that “once again cemented her reign as the country’s auction queen, scoring a four-peat for the highest price paid for a work in four successive auctions at León Gallery.”
In an auction that featured more than a dozen paintings by Fernando Amorsolo, one of his favorite themes, “Under the Mango Tree,” was another pièce de résistance and took home P26 million. “Dating from 1935, it sat squarely in a period most sought-after by Amorsolo aficionados,” noted Ponce de Leon.
A rosy-cheeked lass, “Girl with Banga” from 1937 brought in a hefty P17.5 million and was among several masterpieces from august Philippine collections as well as American legacies.
It was indeed a season for many more milestones, the director pointed out, with records set for Marina Cruz, Malang Santos, Justiniano Asuncion and Elaine Navas.
Marina Cruz’s “When Elisa Was Seven” exceeded her previous record for a work from the same series “When We Were Ten Years Old — Elisa and Laura” at the same Kingly Treasures Auction of last year. This December’s work brought in nearly P5 million, also inclusive of premium.
A series of watercolors depicting the garments of more than a century ago, or “Tipos del Pais,” by the celebrated Justiniano Asuncion were snapped up for nearly P12 million, another world record notched for the artist as well.
“These dazzling works were made even more appealing because each work was signed by the master,” added Ponce de Leon. “The lucky winner now has a collection that surpasses any to be found in either American or Filipino museum collections.” This cache once belonged to the eminent scholar Don Benito J. Legarda.
A festively bright work by Mauro Malang Santos entitled “Flowers” surpassed his previous record as it hit almost P15 million. It was repatriated from the United States.
BenCab’s “Larawan” depicting two scribes, teasingly looking like twin scholars, attracted over P20 million. “This gem was exhibited at the Philippine National Museum,” explained Ponce de Leon.
Annie Cabigting’s rendition of “Riders on a Beach” reflected the increasing rarity of her works at P14 million, he said.
Other headlines from the auction included a seductively translucent Romulo Olazo, “Diaphanous B-LIII” from 1981, which lit up the auction board at P10 million; while a luminously incandescent Sanso from the 1960s registered at P4.4 million.
Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo’s “Horse Carriage” with the impeccable pedigree from his descendants turned in a respectable P6 million.
The best news of all, said Ponce de Leon, was that “this edition of Kingly Treasures auction was able to raise funds for two very worthy causes.”
He explained that artworks earmarked for the International Care Ministries, a non-profit that serves the poorest of the poor in the Visayas and Mindanao, raised over P2 million.
For the benefit of the new Metropolitan Museum, recently dubbed “The M,” and for its new quarters at the Bonifacio Global City, a total of almost P20 million was amassed.
“It was thanks to the enthusiasm of several top collectors, led by Paulino and Hetty Que, that such a figure was reached. One work, in particular, Ang Kiukok’s ‘Table with Avocados’ from their personal trove, attracted both media attention and spirited bidding,” said a smiling Ponce de Leon. “What better way to start the Christmas season of giving? Personally, I think this is the most important kind of milestone to make.”