The Latest 'Prized and Personal' Exhibition Showcases Sansó in His Prime

It includes some of the artist's rarest and most coveted pieces.
IMAGE FUNDACION SANSÓ

Juvenal Sansó's paintings are some of the most sought-after in the contemporary art world. The market puts the value of Sansós in the same range as the rest of our Philippine masters, including the likes of, let's say, Mauro Malang Santos or Romulo Olazo.

Whether it's from his earlier "Black Period" or from his signature florals and landscapes from the later portion of his career, Sansó has continously fascinated even newer generations of collectors. And one of them is businessman Raffy Simpao. 

An undated photo of the artist in his studio during his younger days.

Photo by FUNDACION SANSO.

The collector has some of the most prized Sansó collectibles in the country. These paintings are currently on display for the third series of Fundacion Sansó's Sansó: Prized and Personal collection. The exhibition is meant to show the various motivations collectors like Simpao have in acquiring Sansó’s art.

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“When you talk about Philippine masters, Sansó is definitely on the list,” he notes. “I started acquiring artworks in the late 1990s. My influence from the start was heavy on masters, but since budget was an issue, I looked at the works of young artists and started with their abstracts and portraits."

He adds: "Until now, I’m attracted to clean, monotone abstracts and portraits…and I continue to acquire artworks of hot young contemporary artists, but I still have a greater focus on masters.”

"Fishing Boat Ashore" by Juvenal Sansó, Acrylic on Canvas.

Photo by FUNDACION SANSO.

Simpao inherited this love for Sansó from his father, banker Rafael “Babes” Simpao II. As a child, he would join his father during visits to friends' houses and studios to see works of various Filipino masters, including Malang, Olazo, Arturo Luz, and, of course, Sansó. Interestingly, Sansó himself would drop by the Simpao household, bringing pieces that his father and friends would eventually purchase.

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The younger Simpao would eventually leave the banking business to focus on collecting, which resulted in a stronger father-and-son bond over art. “My father only collects Philippine masters and with Sansó, he focused more on his early works, and I touched more on Sansó’s colorful and later works," he points out. As a result, Simpao is now in possession of some of the rarest En Vase florals and Brittany landscapes around. It took him roughly 25 years to do so, too.

"Solemn Peacefulness" by Juvenal Sansó, Acrylic on Canvas.

Photo by FUNDACION SANSO.

Professor Reuben Ramas-Cañete once wrote of the Brittany Series in his book La Definitiva Sansó: A Life Lived Thrice: “A consequence of his summers in Brittany coast, Sansó used the endlessly fascinating play of forms and lights on the tide pools, outcrops and cliffs in his deliberate, almost obsessive conversion of memory and experience into ‘poetic expression.'"

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Composed of 36 pieces, Simpao's collection also includes a handful of dramatic Reverse Series pieces influenced by the artist’s work as a stage designer. The Breton House Series, on the other hand, shows us the artist's logical emotional progression. These paintings are classic Sansó, painted during arguably the artist's prime, from the 1970s to the 1990s.

"Measured Repose" by Juvenal Sansó, Acrylic on Paper.

Photo by FUNDACION SANSO.

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When we look at the floral En Vase series, for instance, we get to see an explosion of vibrantly colored blooms, punctuated on massive 45 x 65-inch canvases. It is, however, the Brittany seascapes that offer some of the most striking pieces of Sansó's illustrious career.

Simpao says that those vintage Brittanys have endlessly attracted him to Sansó's visual language. In particular, the artist's seascapes, depicting island life, rock formation, sea bend, and solitary boats, really piqued his curiosity.

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"With Royal Countenance" by Juvenal Sansó, Acrylic on Canvas.

Photo by FUNDACION SANSO.

The 22x18-inch Brittany Series is arguably the most meaningful to Simpao. The collection is a by-product of a chance encounter the artist had with Yves Le Dantec in Paris. The Le Dantecs wound up inviting Sansó to their Brittany home, and it was there that the Presidential Medal of Merit Awardee had gazed upon the marvelous ever-changing landscapes of the region. It helped him recover from his wartime trauma back home, as well.

This latest cycle is part of a grander retelling of Sansó's various periods, subjects, styles, and techniques. This is part of Fundacion Sansó's goal to let the public rediscover the iconography of one of the Philippines' most revered artists, through some of the artist's most loyal patrons.

Sansó: Prized and Personal Raffy Simpao Collection will run at Fundacion Sansó in San Juan until October 8, 2022. 

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Bryle B. Suralta
Assistant Section Editor
Bryle B. Suralta is the assistant section editor of Esquire Philippines.
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