Treasures and trinkets made for kings

Published December 3, 2020, 6:23 PM

by MB Lifestyle

An historic HR Ocampo sale, plus an Ifugao ceremonial bench tops León Gallery’s year-end auction

By Dexter R. Matilla

Of all the pieces from León Gallery’s recent auction, it was perhaps the Ifugao ceremonial bench that sold for P21.6-M that delivered the most surprising result. The 13-feet long Hagabi made of molave wood that symbolizes wealth and power was certainly befitting León Gallery’s “Kingly Treasures” year-ender auction.

Tempo Rubato, oil on canvas, by Hernando R. Ocampo

Sure, the 1949 HR Ocampo piece Tempo Rubato—Italian for robbed time—set a world record at P37.3M. But the piece of furniture reserved for the Ifugao Kadangyan or wealthy isn’t something that could easily be owned. There were rituals that needed to be done and the prestige of having one commissioned had to be earned by a show of generosity of the Kadangyan family through a series of feasts. Thus, this particular Hagabi that came from the Private European Collection of Osmundo Esguerra can, indeed, be considered a treasured piece.

One of the highlight pieces, Homage to Turing by BenCab, sold for P29.2-M. The large 2006 acrylic on canvas work is BenCab’s way of paying tribute to fellow Philippine National Artist for the Visual Arts Arturo Luz, whose signature geometric forms are made to seamlessly meld here. 

Lee Aguinaldo’s works continue to attract considerable prices, with Linear No. 36 netting P11.6-M. In The Life and Art of Lee Aguinaldo, it’s said that for the material used in this piece, the artist insisted on the highest grade of marine plywood from his father’s lumberyard and that “the surface of each plywood was covered with up to 20 layers of gesso, each layer sanded manually before another layer was added… in an age-old technique used in preparing wood panels for icons”.

Cesar Legazpi’s choice of subject and themes often shines a light on the working class and Miners is one such example. This 1979 oil on wood features two miners caught in what would otherwise be another mundane day but Legazpi, despite his deuteranopia or red-green color blindness, portrays them in his signature geometric fragmentation seemingly in a dance with the viewers as their captive audience.

Speaking of captivating an audience, Annie Cabigting took inspiration from Roberto Chabet’s scene-stealing performance of destroying critic Manuel Duldulao’s book. Cabigting uses that particular moment to create an imagery of the torn book, its pages sprawled over the floor and presents it side by side with that of multiple images of a woman seemingly taking note. It’s a wonderful conceptual piece certainly worth its auction price of P9.9-M.

Another piece of furniture that commanded a high price is the Buencamino Aparador from the second quarter of the 19th century. Selling for P9.8-M, the cabinet made out of red narra wood, inscribed with the family’s “B,” features carabao bone and kamagong wood inlay and is said to be “one of the highest points of the Baliuag style of furniture.”