The Qube art gallery is the concern of Jon Gotiong and Maris Holopainen, at the Henry Hotel in Banilad. It has just celebrated its first anniversary. To mark the occasion, they brought in their most important art exhibit so far.
It features celebrated international artist Juvenal Sansó, whose body of work ranges from the 1960s to more recent years. Best of all, the artist came to Cebu, spry and agile at 84.
He spent time with the Cebu press before the show’s opening, guided by Jack Teotico, who intimated to the journalists which was Sansó’s good ear. He managed quite well, speaking as he does very good English, French, Spanish of course, and even his native Catalan.
Sansó’s repartee was marked by expressions and whole commentaries in Tagalog. He began to pick up some Cebuano expressions, to the delight of Gerard Pareja and Thea Riñen from the Cebu Daily News.
Did we know that at age 14, during the war, a Japanese soldier almost beheaded him? They were on a boat in the Pasig, and Sansó was asked to kneel, the posture for beheading. He slid over the edge of the boat, hid under it, and eventually escaped.
Sansó was born in 1929 in Spain; to be precise, in Reuss, near Barcelona. At age 4, he came to the Philippines with his family. His father was a sculptor.
They set up “Arte Español,” famous for its ornate wrought-iron furniture. These pieces became very popular in Manila, and from all over the Philippines patrons went to the capital to bring back to their provinces. Through the years, they have became collectors’ items.
His parents would have loved Sansó to take an interest in the family business, but he was more inclined to be a painter. “Yes, a painter,” he insisted. “I don’t call myself an artist. Others do.”
Sansó’s first teacher was Alejandro Celis. He recounted some hilarious anecdotes about the art lessons, and “nude models,” when he studied at the University of Santo Tomas.
Sansó was greatly influenced by Fernando Amorsolo, Ireneo Miranda and Dominador Castañeda, his mentors at the University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts. Eventually, he went to Paris in pursuit of mastering his craft.
While there, he had opportunities to visit Italy, England and the United States. During his early years in France, he survived designing patterns for neckties with prominent designers such as Cristobal Balenciaga. Some of them, framed, are featured in this exhibit, and for sale.
The title of Sansó’s Cebu exhibit is “Rare Essentials.” These works were done in Paris, themed after summer beach scenes, lush greenery and golden landscapes painted at dawn. They have recently been brought to the Philippines, and collectors are snapping them up.
At Qube, Jose Mari and Chichi Martinez couldn’t take their eyes off a dreamy landscape of rich blue-green patterns bathed in luminosity. The price did not daunt them. It is perfect for their new home in Amara, where the scenery is pretty much like the painting.
Juvenal Sansó maintains his Spanish citizenship. It is because of this that he has not qualified to be National Artist of the Philippines. Nevertheless, he has received the highest award that can be granted in the Philippines, the Presidential Medal of Merit. His spot in Philippine Art and History is beyond definition.
He also has received the French Legion of Honor, and from Spain’s King Juan Carlos, the highly prestigious “Orden de Isabel la Catolica.”
Sansó enthusiasts and friends
His 40 colorful works at Qube Gallery have attracted numerous art enthusiasts. They have until Feb. 8 to view, admire and buy the paintings. This we learn from A-List’s Kaye Sala, Cybill Gayatin and Ian Balo, who took charge of the opening-night bash. The choice of wines, obtained from the Bibendum shop, made it all the more fun.
Among the first nighters were Cebu painter Bart “Boy” Kiamko, Annie Aboitiz and Teresin Mendezona, whom Sansó had toured around Paris when they visited him in 2000, and Arcy Gayatin who was fascinated by the necktie patterns.
More: Jaime Labilla, here visiting from San Francisco; Butch Carunggay whose artistic prowess is channeled to his Avatar accessories; Alice Plaza who was eyeing the floral paintings; Cheling and Susan Sala, duly impressed; Ed and Bernadette Gallego, expressing themselves in superlatives.
Boy and Maia Franco were with a group of Italian friends. Talking about Sansó’s Paris in the 1960s, someone asked about Rome in that same era. Is the Piper Club still there? Blank looks. Café Doney at Via Veneto must surely still be there!
It was nice reminiscing about real family-owned trattorias that attracted all manner of celebrities all over Rome. And speaking of excellent Italian fare, Maia reminded the group they were due for dinner at nearby Michelangelo.
There, chef Massimo La Magna does serve more than just the best pizzas in town. There’s a whole menu card to ponder on, Presto!