Buying art for inspiration in the middle of a pandemic

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SINCE THE pandemic has made sure that one will be staying at home a lot, one might as well fill it up with treasures. And treasures are what one will find in Leon Gallery’s 16th edition of its online auction LeonExchange, which will be held on July 18 and 19 at 11 a.m. Up for grabs are Picasso lithographs and etchings, a Zobel serigraph, and watercolors by Botong Francisco and Jose Joya. And that’s just the first day, running under the theme “The Collector’s Vault.”

In the catalog, accessible through, we spotted Zalameda’s Portrait of a Lady (with a starting bid of P120,000), and a watercolor by National Artist H.R Ocampo (with a starting bid of P200,000). A few Amorsolos are also up for bidding: Portrait of a Woman in a Terno, Study of a Mother and Child, and Barrio Scene (with starting bids ranging from P150,000 to P600,000). Works of Filipino women artists such as Lydia Velasco and Norma Belleza are highlighted in the catalog, as well as works by Cesar Buenaventura. Among the lots are depictions of places abroad by Cebuano artist Romulo Galicano, rendered in an impressionistic style. One of them, Field of Poppies, Giverny, France, has a starting bid of P500,000, while another work, set a world away in Brgy. Bignay, Valenzuela, Bulacan, has a starting bid of P400,000. Meanwhile, a nude drawing by National Artist Cesar Legaspi, a special gift to the present owner from collectors Doreen and Wili Fernandez, has a starting bid of P40,000.

Petrus Kaerius’s “Insulae Philippinae,” the first separately printed map of the country, is also up for auction. Leovino Ma. Garcia writes in the catalogue, “A map is not only a physical object of knowledge, beauty and power. It is also an experience which makes us aware of a reality beyond the visible, prompting us to wonder about our unique being.”

Aside from artwork, sets of jewelry are also up on the block, including a diamond necklace from the 1920s, eyewear from Cartier, and pieces from Tiffany’s and Bulgari.

The second day of the auction, themed “Heiresses’ Homes and Tables,” features furniture, objets d’art, silver, glass, porcelain, and china. A silver coffee and tea set and antique silver candelabras easily dominate the tableware, but then, sets of porcelain from the Ming, Qing, and Song Dynasty are pretty hard to ignore. Pieces from Lalique are also up on the block, as well as, interestingly, a telephone booth and a grandfather clock. A lot that might attract a great deal of interest is an original silver gelatin photograph of national hero Jose Rizal, with Juan Luna, Valentin Ventura, and Paz Pardo de Tavera-Luna.

Furniture is the central attraction for the second day, with a tres lunas tocador (a three-mirrored dressing table) having a starting bid of P200,000. A suite of chairs and a sofa from the Paterno family’s Quiapo mansion, meanwhile, has the same starting bid. The Siklat collection by modern master furniture maker Benji Reyes, mostly executed in palo china (softwoods like pine), are also featured.

One might think that the pursuit of art and beauty might be incongruous when in the middle of a disaster of pandemic, but Philip Abadicio, Director of Communications at Leon Gallery told BusinessWorld, “Beauty has always been a source of inspiration. A pandemic is a health crisis where most people need to be inspired by words, actions and items.”

To participate in the auction, register at Leon Gallery will send the winning bidders a Statement of Account for winning bids after the auction and bills should be settled by credit card or online transfer within three days. — Joseph L. Garcia