Artprice.com, an online art-and-auction industry monitor, has listed the Top 10 most expensive Philippine art works sold at auction. While its previous listings consisted of works sold in Hong Kong via Christie’s and Sotheby’s, the new listing is dominated by works sold in the local market, in particular by León Gallery.
Nine of the Top 10 works were in fact sold by the Philippine auction leader, notably the first placer, National Artist José Joya’s “Space Transfiguration,” which officially became the most expensive Philippine painting during León’s Asian Cultural Council Philippines auction on March 3. It was sold for P112.13 million.
“The stunning $2.2 million paid for José Joya’s iconic work ‘Space Transfiguration’ at León Gallery emphasized the truism known instinctively by all major collectors: that the best prices for a work of art can be achieved first and foremost at auction,” noted the online publication.
Including buyer’s premium, the “Top 10 Most Expensive Paintings Auctioned in the Philippines as of March 2018,” according to Artprice are:
1. Joya, “Space Transfiguration”: The Asian Cultural Council Auction 2018, for P112,128,000, at León Gallery; world record for the artist and world record for Philippine modern art;
2. Ang Kiukok, “Fishermen”: The Spectacular Mid-Year Auction 2017, for P65,408,000, at León; world record for the artist;
3. Anita Magsaysay-Ho, “Fish Harvest at Dawn”: The Spectacular Mid-Year Auction 2015, for P52,560,000, at León;
4. Magsaysay-Ho, “Women Amidst Bananas”: The Magnificent September Auction 2017, for P49,056,000 at León;
5. Benedicto “BenCab” Cabrera, “Sabel”: The Magnificent September Auction 2015, for P46,720,000, at León; world record for the artist;
6. Juan Luna, “A Do… Va La Nave (There Goes the Ship)”: Important Philippine Art 2015 for P46,720,000, at Salcedo Auctions;
7. Fernando Amorsolo, “The Peracampos Amorsolo (Under the Mango Tree)”: The Spectacular Mid Year Auction 2018, for P46,720,000, at Leon; world record for the artist;
8. Félix Resurección Hidalgo, “La Inocencia (Innocence)”: The Kingly Treasures Auction 2016, for P40,880,000, at León; world record for the artist;
9. Magsaysay-Ho, “Lavanderas (The Washerwomen)”: The Magnificent September Auction 2015, for P39,712,000, at León;
10. BenCab, “Sabel in Motion”: The Magnificent September Auction 2016 for P37,376,000, at León.
Artprice.com calls its list “the ultimate list for every collector.”
“Space Transfiguration” was exactly that piece that had masterpiece collectors —those who only purchase the crème de la crème of artists and only the best works of those artists—flock to the auction, the online industry monitor said.
Artprice.com likewise noted that three works by Magsaysay-Ho are on the Top 10, “reflecting the strong demand for her artworks not only from Filipino, but also from Southeast Asian collectors, a tribute to her indisputable international appeal.”
Aside from Joya, Ang and BenCab, other modernists that have performed well in León Gallery’s auctions are Vicente Manansala and Fernando Zobel, Artprice noted.
“Auctions secure the public validation of the value of a masterpiece that would not be possible in a private sale,” the online publication noted. “It thus provides public recognition of the masterpiece’s worth from the community of discerning collectors.”
No. 17 worldwide
In 2015, Artprice noted the rise of the Philippines as an auction marketplace.
The local auction market rode on the crest of the rising international demand for some of the Philippines’ 20th-century artists, especially modernists such as Magsaysay-Ho and contemporary superstars such as Roland Ventura.
“In recent years, the market for Filipino artists has enjoyed renewed vitality with the development of the country’s internal market and the dissemination of Filipino artists via Hong Kong sales to a more international audience (mainly at Christie’s and Sotheby’s),” Artprice said.
“By the end of 2015, the Philippines had emerged as the world’s 17th art auction marketplace, behind Belgium!”
The local auction market was partly driven by increasing domestic art prices, with the Philippines “now posting an average transaction price above $28,000 compared with Japan’s average price of less than $6,000!”
More recently, Artprice.com has noted that the Philippine art market has taken off, thanks to very busy local auction houses such as León Gallery.