Kiukok painting sold for P65M at Leon Gallery’s record-breaking auction
A waiting Independence Day last June 10 at Leon Gallery’s “Spectacular Midyear Auction,” Ang Kiukok’s “Fishermen” became the most expensive Philippine artwork ever sold in the country. “The price achieved for the Ang Kiukok broke all records,” says Leon Gallery director Jaime Ponce de Leon. Kiukok’s 1981 easel painting sold for a staggering P65,408,000.
The auction, attended by roughly 300 guests, was one of the most awaited in the local art market. Curated by Ramon N. Villegas and Lisa Guerrero Nakpil, the auction saw some of the greatest names in Philippine art — Ang Kiukok, Vicente Manansala, Jose Joya, Fabian dela Rosa, and Fernando Zobel — go under the hammer.
In 2015, the highest price for Philippine art was set by the same gallery, for Anita Magsaysay-Ho’s oil-on-canvas work titled “Fish Harvest at Dawn.” The 1979 painting fetched a hammer price of P52,560,000.
Kiukok’s 40 x 80-inch piece was the largest painting by the artist to enter the market. Its subject, fishermen reaping their bounty, showed the National Artist’s penchant for portraying the common man in a style that fused cubism with expressionism. Yet more curiously, under a red sun, the three angled forms similarly seem to spell out the artist’s name.
“Critics believe that the best output of Ang Kiukok was (done in) the early1980s,” says Ponce de Leon. An art patron, the previous owner of the painting has chosen to donate all the proceeds to charity.
The auction had similarly set a record for National Artist Vicente Manansala. “Pila sa Bigas,” a major 36 x 48 work of the cubist painter, fetched P30,368,000, the highest paid for a Manansala in the Philippines and the second highest internationally. “The highest amount paid was for the Manansala work, ‘Tiangge,’ which sold for just slightly more at P30,660,350 at the recent sale in Hong Kong in April,” says Ponce de Leon.
Fabian dela Rosa’s “Women Weaving Hats,” which fetched P30,368,000 at the auction, broke the record set by Singapore in 2000 for Dela Rosa’s “Planting Rice.” The work was owned by George O’Brien, an actor who had made his name in Hollywood with silent films and cowboy movies. The actor had apparently visited Asian countries with John Ford before the war. Evocative of pastoral life in a bygone era, “Women Weaving Hats” draws attention to the textures of the materials depicted in the work: the bamboo floor, the capiz windows, the fibers of the hats, and the colorful sayas blooming like flowers in the quiet space.
Other notable works sold at the auction included Joya’s “Carcass” for P19,856,000, Zobel’s “Zurbaran SL - II” for P7,592,000, Francisco’s “The Alejandro ‘Anding’ Roces Doors” for P3,504,000, and Tampinco’s “The Maximo Viola Bed” for P4,672,000.
“Leon Gallery strives to obtain the highest level of scholarship in the establishment of authenticity in the artworks it sells,” says Ponce de Leon. “We refer to respective experts on particular artists as well as do our own research on tracing impeccable provenances.”
The gallery is set to hold its “Magnificent September Auction” on Sept. 9 and its online auction on July 29. If their midyear sale is any indication, local art is enjoying a stronger market, with more patrons raring to bid for the country’s covetable classics.