Leon Gallery will hold its first auction this year, Glorious Easter Auction, on March 22, training the spotlight on antique sacred art objects as the Catholic world observes Lent.
But acccording to León Gallery director Juan Ponce de León, the billing is a double-entendre: It refers to the glorious season of Easter, the culmination of Lent, as well as the glorious items to be auctioned off.
“This auction is different largely because of the entry of a number of pieces from a highly prestigious provenance, like the Tony and Cez Gutierrez Collection,” Ponce said. “The couple’s collection, considered one of the finest in the country, is filled with museum-quality pieces and objects that have been exhibited at the Musée Quai Branly in France and the Singapore National Museum, as well as published by local and international publications.”
The event will bid over 140 different antique furniture and sacred objects as well as artwork from 79 renowned artists.
The auction contains several artworks from National Artists. National Artist for Architecture Juan Arellano’s “Self Portrait” has a starting bid of P300,000, while biddings for his two other works, “Golf at Wack-Wack” and “Mi Jardin,” start at P240,000.
According to social historian Martin Imperial Tinio, Arellano had produced only 300 paintings in his lifetime, each one exhibiting the strong and distinct imprint of European post-impressionism.
The two works, said Tinio, are “demonstrations of his penchant for the post-impressionist style fused with his knowledge of landscape architecture.”
Meanwhile, National Artist for the Visual Arts Vicente Manansala’s “Angono Rizal” depicts a vista of Metro Manila from the higher mountains of Angono, where the artist would seek refuge and rest from the fast-paced lifestyle of the city so as to have concentration on his artmaking.
Works by Arturo Luz also make an appearance—“Two Men on Wheels” and “Variations on a Golden Scroll 2,” whose starting bids are P700,000 and P25,000, respectively.
“The works of Luz have been invariably described as being ‘austere,’ ‘discreet’ and ‘minimalist,’ and rightfully so: his pieces are controlled and restrained, bereft of any flamboyance,” Tinio said. “His figures, though marked by its simplicity, put forth movement and kinetics.”
Jerry Elizalde Navarro is represented by “Island of the Gods,” “The Man Who Loved Birds,” and “The Minuet of the Mist and Bird Songs,” whose starting bids are P240,000, P120,000, P340,000, respectively. The three works bear the National Artist’s trademark lively and bright colors.
Other National Artists whose works will be auctioned off are Fernando Amorsolo’s “Sabungero,” P600,000; Federico Aguilar Alcuaz’s “Tres Marias Series,” P240,000; Ang Kiukok’s “Android,” P70,000; and BenCab’s “Dancer,” P70,000. Another National Artist represented in the auction is Cesar Legaspi.
Works by Filipino Modern masters will also be be bidded out, such as those by Alcuaz, Onib Olmedo, Malang, Galo Ocampo, Eduardo Castrillo, Juvenal Sansó, Anita Magsay-say Ho, Norma Belleza, Angelito Antonio, Romulo Olazo, Romulo Galicano and Roberto Chabet.
Religious artifacts up for bidding are from the Hispanic colonial period and generally refer to the celebration of the Mass. One of them is a silver chalice from the 18th century used in the consecration of the wine. The chalice is usually kept in a wooden case to avoid dents. Bid starts at P60,000.
“Chalices in the colonial period were highly decorated and often made of precious metal and even enameled and jeweled,” Tinio said. “This particular piece is a silversmith’s masterpiece with typical Philippine rococo designs embossed and chased with great delicacy. The multi-lobed foot is particularly difficult to make and and required great skill and precision to accomplish.
Another Eucharistic antique for bid is the ciborium, a covered cup which is used to store hosts that were not consumed during the Mass. With a starting bid of P60,000, the ciborium has a cup resembling the shape of a chalice but with a more round than conical bowl.
“The base and cup of the vessel are engraved in what is locally called ysod, (from the Tagalog ‘to push aside’) and was accomplished by following the outline of the design with a buril, V-shaped chisel that was moved from left to right to firm a zigzag line,” Tinio said. “It was an engraving technique that required great skill and a very steady hand, as the process had be done at one go without lifting the chisel and ensuring at the same time that the width of the zigzag was even. With time the engraved lines oxidized to create shadows on the silver.”
A two-century old monstrance is also up for bid with a starting price of P80,000. The monstrance is a vessel originally used during the Middle Ages for the public display of relics, it eventually was mainly used to display the consecrated Eucharist during the Eucharistic Adoration or Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.
According to Tinio, the monstrance is considered very holy and treated with such respect that priests do not touch the vessel with their bare hands, and its bigger size means that it must’ve used by an important and wealthy church.
“This particular piece shows the great skill of 18th-century Filipino silversmiths,” he said. “Well proportioned, the monstrance is completely decorated from top to bottom with embossed and chased rococo patterns and motifs that show the delicacy of Philippine rococo.”
Tinio further said, “Several crystal stones, called piedra de Bohemia (aka Swarowski crystal today) in inventories, are gem-set to decorate the object. Due to two centuries of use, however, the stones have lost their sparkle.”
Contemporary paintings in the auction include Ronald Ventura’s “Animal Race.” With a starting bid of P1.5 million, it’s the most expensive auction item. The painting depicts a male figure riding on a horse with its head separated from its body.
Horses, like the human anatomy, form part of the Ventura iconography, Tinio said. “His nudes serve as commentary on gender issues, while his horses are said to denote the drives and impulses emanating from the subconscious.”
Ventura’s fellow artist from the University of Santo Tomas, Andres Barrioquinto, is represented by an untitled work from his “Skulls and Butterfiles” series. It will have a starting bid of P120,000. Typical of many of Barrioquintos’ works, the painting shows the extreme close-up of a smiling person juxtaposed against natural motifs such as leaves and flowers.
“In this work, Barrioquinto consciously renders the human face to the point of exaggeration and alteration—totally removed from reality—wherein he delves on emotions that are drawn from his own moments of introspection, a retreat into his own mysterious inner world,” Tinio said.
Jose Santos’ “Godiva at 72” is autobiographical as it documents his experience of travelling for the first time outside the country. With a starting bid at P800,000, it is the cover artwork of the auction catalogue.
International avant-garde artist David Medalla’s showcases his love for poetry and juxtaposition in his 1989 painting, “Untitled,” which has a starting bid of P60,000.
“The artist relates that he has been composing poetry as far back as when he was a child” Tinio said. “Later on, the beauty of classical Chinese art, what with poetry adorning their canvases, would have a profound effect on him as an artist.”
Other contemporary paintings for bidding are Annie Kabigting’s “Painting after Chabet,” P500,000; Pacita Abad’s “Singapore,” P60,000; Elmer Borlongan’s “Hari Sonik,” P40,000; and Mark Justiniani’s “Sa Iyong Kalipayan,” P70,000.
Auction preview will be on March 16-21, 9 a.m.-7 p.m., at G/F, Eurovilla 1, V.A. Rufino Street, Makati City. Auction will be on March 22 at 2 p.m. León Gallery is at Corinthian Plaza, 121 Paseo de Roxas, Legazpi Village, Makati. Visit www.leon-gallery.com/auction.