Books & Art

Works from BenCab, Arturo Luz, and More to Be Auctioned for COVID-19 Relief

The benefit auction, which features more than 200 lots of fine and decorative art, furniture, jewelry, timepieces, rare books, and collectibles, will be held online on May 23.
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On April 18, roughly a month into the enhanced community quarantine, Salcedo Auctions successfully auctioned off a new Romulo Galicano painting for COVID-19 relief. “It all happened quite fast actually,” says director Richie Lerma, on a phone call. “Romulo began work on it at the start of quarantine, around Tuesday (April 14th), he got in touch with us about selling it, and on Saturday were able to sell it for P4.1 million, at an opening bid of P1.8 million. The check arrived Sunday and by Monday the piece had been fully turned over.” 

Lerma believes that art’s worth remains steady over time, as its monetary worth remains firmly pegged to its cultural value. “In a way, art is both impervious and at the mercy of the outside world...art does not exist in a vacuum, it is impossible to separate from the times. Human society has gone through other crises, art will endure. In fact, it is the duty of the artist to provide a document of the times,” he says. The proceeds from the auction, from which Salcedo is waiving its fees, will go toward buying PPEs and other necessary materials for Cebu, where Galicano is from. 

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'The Wrath of God,' Romulo Galicano

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Photo by Courtesy of Salcedo Auctions.

Untitled (woman with fan), digital art print, 2013, BenCab

Photo by Courtesy of Salcedo Auctions.
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'Tianzi Mountain 1341,' 2013, Betsy Westendorp

Photo by Courtesy of Salcedo Auctions.

'Fresh as Morning Dew,' Juvenal Sanso

Photo by Courtesy of Salcedo Auctions.
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In addition to the Galicano auction, Salcedo is set to hold an auction on May 23rd through its subsidiary Gavel&Block to benefit the food distribution programs of Rise Against Hunger PhilippinesFeaturing more than 200 lots of fine and decorative art, furniture, jewelry, timepieces, rare books, and collectibles, including works from BenCab and Arturo Luz, as well as a new Betsy Westendorp painting of the Tianzi mountains, the auction, which was initially supposed to be held in person, has moved to an online format. 

Lerma and his team, however, were serendipitously prepared to handle the transition. “While we were not expecting a crisis of this magnitude, we already had been working on an online component for our auctions. COVID-19 has simply forced us to speed things up,” he says. In fact, the auction house has been lucky throughout the pandemic, having successfully held its Important Philippine Art, including Furniture and Tribal and Ethnographic Art auction last March 14. “The lockdown had just been announced and people knew what was going on, but we were very fortunate to have the turnout we did,” he adds. 

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Hahnemuhle Rag, archival print, Paco Guerrero

Photo by Courtesy of Salcedo Auctions.

Untitled, from Masbate Rodeo series, Sonny Thakur

Photo by Courtesy of Salcedo Auctions.
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Despite this, like all other industries, the art world is not impervious to changes caused by the virus. On its website, Salcedo Auctions describes auctions as “one of the most effective methods of sale, combining the straightforwardness of a commercial transaction with the theatricality and high drama of public bidding.” The house was set to celebrate its 10th anniversary with a live auction this July, but are now in the process of reassessing its options. 

To Lerma, purchasing and collecting art is highly experiential. “While we are proud of the auction, it is impossible to capture the feeling of Romulo’s painting (48 x 60) when it’s been reduced to a thumbnail.” Like all businesses, Salcedo Auctions is planning for the future and considering various formats, “whether it will be virtual galleries, locked-down private viewings, socially distanced auctions—again it’s too early to tell.” However, Lerma assures that they have things in the works, and chooses to remain optimistic about art and its place in a society that may have more pressing concerns on its mind. “If this is the new normal, we simply want to give people something to look forward to,” he says. 

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Diamond pendant set in 14k white gold

Photo by Courtesy of Salcedo Auctions.

Pleated pink dress with silver paillettes panel, Lesley Mobo

Photo by Courtesy of Salcedo Auctions.
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Silk scarf, Joann Bitagcol

Photo by Courtesy of Salcedo Auctions.

While Salcedo Auctions and the art market itself are inherently a business, Lerma chooses to think of them as more than that. “Is now not the time, hunkered down at home, to want to be surrounded by beautiful things?” he says. “To be able to bring beauty in the world, that is what we want to do ...and for someone to be able to pick up a brush, express oneself and help thousands of people, what an absolute privilege it is to be a part of that.”

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Open to the public, the benefit auction can be accessed by opening a free account on salcedoauctions.com. For more information, follow @gavelandblock on Facebook and Instagram.

READ MORE: Priceless Artworks Go Under the Gavel at Leon Gallery’s Auction for a Cause

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Enrico Po
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