Books & Art

The Best Things That Caught Our Attention at León Gallery's Midyear Auction 2021

Among the prized lots are works by Manansala, Amorsolo, BenCab, and Magsaysay-Ho.
IMAGE LEÒN GALLERY
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Leon Gallery's Spectacular Mid-Year Auction features a potent selection of pieces ranging from historical items to works by distinguished local and foreign artists. The following are some of the pieces that caught our attention as we browsed its lots of more than 150. 

“Fish Vendors” (1972) by Vicente Manansala

Oil on canvas 27” x 31” (69 cm x 78 cm)
Starting bid: P10,000,000
Photo by Leon Gallery.

“Vicente Manansala’s oeuvre is characterized by renditions of folk and rural living inspired by his affinity and familiarity with the people associated with this lifestyle,” writes Leon Gallery.

Even in his depictions of urban settings, Manansala highlights his influences of folk and rural life. In “Fish Vendors,” Manansala’s style reflects Cubism during its formative years between 1907 to 1910. 

“Evident in this piece is the diminution of its surface and composition and the dilution of color to a single hue or its most analogous combinations, specifically an amalgamation of green and yellow hues. Manansala’s women vendors entwine themselves around their goods, with their block-like faces rendered in broad planes. His celebration of folk and peasant lifestyle gives an indication of his Filipino sensibility and intimate connection with its traditional culture and heritage,” writes Leon.

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“Ligawan” (1948) by Jose Joya

Oil on board 18” x 15” (46 cm x 38 cm)
Starting Bid: P3,000,000
Photo by Leon Gallery.

"The splendor of Jose Joya’s gestural works shows how he considered drawing as the foundation for honing one’s artistic skills," Leon Gallery writes. 

This particular Joya piece features an "alluringly distinguished scene that evokes the charms and quirks of the Philippine’s colonial past." According to Leon Gallery, the piece features what appears to be a group of individuals enjoying their evening. A couple is seen sitting adjacent to one another, while the mirror next to them reveals the presence of another group, lounging about in the house’s sala or living room area.

"This unique perspective lends a sense of dynamism to the piece, effectively showcasing Joya’s command of space. Another noteworthy aspect of the work is its use of lighting. Unlike his relatively flatter abstract pieces, this work features a dynamic lighting scheme akin to the likes of Rembrandt and even Amorsolo. The scene is partially lit by an obscured light source that effectively balances the look and feel of the work with contrasting elements." 

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“Women with Baskets, Fish, and Crabs” (ca. 1980) by Anita Magsaysay-Ho

Oil on canvas 30” x 36” (76 cm x 91 cm)
Starting bid: P20,000,000
Photo by Leon Gallery.

According to Leon Gallery, “Women with Baskets, Fish, and Crab” was among the favorite paintings of the artist, Anita Magsaysay-Ho, displayed prominently in her living room before finding a home with one of her oldest friends.

A description on the lot reads: The piece melds together a celebration of Filipino craft, the strength of Filipina women, and the talent and technique of one of the country’s most celebrated painters. The baskets depicted invoke the industriousness and dedication involved in basket weaving—a practice Anita considered among the most beautiful of Filipino handicrafts. A similar level of mastery and precision was needed to portray these objects. Anita later related that she found the process challenging, with careful work needed to convey the curvature and to capture the interplay of shadows and of light. 

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“Through her many paintings of women winnowing and working in the fields, by the seashore casting their nets, picking fruit and flowers, she has created a lasting testament to the strength and beauty of the Filipina,” writes Leon.

“Tinikling” (1956) by Fernando Amorsolo

Oil on canvas 24” x 34” (61 cm x 86 cm)
Starting bid: P6,000,000
Photo by Leon Gallery.

It is quite normal for works of Fernando Amorsolo to fetch for as high as P40 million even though these have relatively low starting bid prices. Amorsolo’s genre pieces are still among his most sought-after works by art collectors and connoisseurs alike. 

“With his luminist and realist penchant, the country’s first national artist is widely acclaimed for authentically encapsulating the distinctness of Filipino identity and heritage through his depictions of Philippine topography, folk living, and portraits,” writes Leon. 

“Fighting Figures” (1984) by Ang Kiukok

Oil on canvas 48” x 26” (122 cm x 66 cm)
Starting bid: P7,000,000
Photo by Leon Gallery.
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“Ang Kiukok’s body of work is described as having the elements of the Philippine Modernist School of the 1950s wherein the canvas is composed of the interaction of hues and forms within a dense composition,” writes Leon. 

The National Artist for Visual Arts captures the “intrinsic nature of the subject through a meticulous and conscientious preliminary study to encapsulate its full expression as the unconstrained brush strokes are laid out on the canvas.” 

In “Fighting Figures,” Ang Kiukok’s sharply depicts human despair “in a claustrophobic atmosphere.”

“His human figures suffer from varied phases of agony. The three figures, in a desperate attempt to escape from their anguish, find an outlet for their angst in the confinement of one another. Their arms are bound as they vent out a seemingly endless cry for alleviation. There is a distinct style in Kiukok’s depiction of despair,” writes Leon Gallery.

“Sabel” (2008) by BenCab

Acrylic on canvas 60” x 36” (152 cm x 91 cm)
Starting bid: P10,000,000
Photo by Leon Gallery.
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According to Leon Gallery, Sabel is undoubtedly the most iconic subject matter of National Artist Bendeicto “Bencab” Cabrera. The emblematic muse is based on an actual real-life scavenger the artist would regularly see and photograph in 1965. 

“Throughout the years, BenCab has utilized the image of Sabel as a visual conduit to express a variety of themes such as beauty, grace, longing, and hope. As BenCab’s most recognizable subject, Sabel has become one of the most iconic faces of Philippine art,” writes Leon. 

“But, beyond Sabel’s alluring and engaging characteristics, it is unarguably Bencab’s distinct mastery over his technique that breathes life into his awe-inspiring works. From his unique use of color and tone to his emphasis on movement through drapery, BenCab’s artistic vision goes beyond his evocative choice of subject matter. In this particular Sabel piece, we can see how BenCab succinctly combines his techniques into an unrivaled assemblage of color and movement. BenCab uses the permissive nature of cloth in rendering the intensity of his central figure’s emotion and movements.”

“Woman with Blue Umbrella” (2009) by Solenn Heussaff

Oil on canvas 48” x 36” (122 cm x 91 cm)
Starting bid: P100,000
Photo by Leon Gallery.
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Aside from being a figure in the Philippine entertainment industry, Solenn Heussaff is also a skilled painter, having taken formal art classes when she was young. Some of her works are inspired by her travels locally and abroad: from Bukidnon to General Santos and Myanmar to Thailand. 

“What strikes the most in this piece is the juxtaposition of vivid hues with a discernible emptiness in the emotional expression of the female subject,” writes Leon Gallery.

“Her subjects have a deeper understanding of the human psyche and are more soulful than us who continuously adapt as we thrive amid the realms of rapid urbanization. Their faces seem to tell an evocative undertaking–one that has been constantly penetrated and weakened by everyday struggles yet still possessing strength and resilience.”

“Yes” (2012) by Maria Taniguchi

Acrylic on canvas 90” x 45” (229 cm x 114 cm)
Starting bid: P900,000
Photo by Leon Gallery.

Maria Taniguchi’s “Yes” is part of an ongoing series of paintings she started in 2008. According to Leon Gallery, the piece consists of numerous rectangular cells outlined by thin and gossamer-like lines, giving it the appearance and visual presence of actual bricks. 

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“Each seemingly miniscule element was painstakingly and succinctly hand-drawn by Taniguchi herself, reflecting her exemplary craftsmanship and technique. As a cohesive whole, the piece exudes a monumental sense of bravura—allowing the viewer to experience it in the same way one experiences a magnificent work or architecture,” writes Leon Gallery. 

“When viewed in its entirety, Taniguchi’s black squares seemingly melt together into an alluring black mass—an effect akin to Kazimir Malevich’s Black Squares. Its seemingly infinitesimal sparseness effectively communicates a sense of introspection and spatial awareness; allowing one to reflect existence against a backdrop of pure presence. Taniguchi’s piece’s ability to appear both finely detailed and infinitely sparse showcases the artist’s technical and conceptual skill.”

“Gestos The Boinas II” (1978) by Fernando Zobel

Oil on canvas 25” x 30” (64 cm x 76 cm)
Starting Bid: P5,000,000
Photo by Leon Gallery.

“I think that painters paint the world they live in. My world has to do with the history of art. It would be absurd for me to attempt social realism. I’m the sort of person who lives in museums or at home surrounded by books and paintings,” Fernando Zobel once pointed out. 

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In “Gestos,” Zobel’s “gestural lines dissipate into atmospheric tonalities that are ambiguous yet intricate and sublime. This piece by Zobel demonstrates his minimalist orientation with an ascetic elegance,” Leon Gallery writes. 

The preview for The Spectacular Mid-Year Auction will take place at León Gallery from May
29 to June 4, Saturday to Friday, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. To view the lots, visit www.leon-gallery.com.

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Mario Alvaro Limos
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