Spoliarium boceto goes for P73M

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AFTER ALMOST 14 minutes of back-and-forth bidding, an unnamed phone bidder won ownership of Juan Luna’s boceto for the Spoliarium at a gavel price of P63 million from its starting bid at P25 million at the Important Philippine Art category of the Well-Appointed Life auction on Sept. 22 at the Peninsula Manila. This comes to a whopping P73,584,000 after taxes and the buyer’s premium.

Salcedo Auctions considers it as “the highest price ever achieved at auction for a work by Juan Luna in his homeland.”

Among the artworks that fetched the highest prices during the auction were Mauro Malang Santos’ Carroza (1988) which sold for P9,344,000 from its estimate of P3,800,000; Ronald Ventura’s Stripes Series 3 (1973) went for P10,512,000 from an estimate of P3,300,000; and BenCab’s La Familia which sold for P8,176,000 from an estimate P3,800,000.

While one of the top sellers, Jose Joya’s Two Faces of Villafernandina (1970) went for just P11,680,000 from its estimate of P10 million.

On the other hand, an untitled Jorge Pineda landscape painting of nipa huts behind trees dated 1901 went for a whopping P8,760,000 from an estimate of just P600,000.

All final prices in this story include taxes and buyer’s premium.

More than just artworks were on sale last weekend.

The auction weekend also featured the Connoisseur Collection of everything from furniture to dresses, a section focusing on Fine Jewelry and Timepieces, and a Rare Automobiles auction.

The top piece in the Connoisseur Collection was an 18th century Gargoyle “Demonyo” table which sold for P4,438,400, followed by a 19th century Bulacan kamagong and narra tambol aparador at P3,854,400, and a pair of historically important Qing dynasty “Famille Verte” jars (1870) which sold at P1,752,000.

Among the Fine Jewelry and Timepieces pieces, a 1979 Rolex Cosmograph (ref. no. 6263) was the top item sold at P3,854,400; while a 1965 BMW R69S was the only automobile sold from the four lots at the Rare Automobiles auction at P1,985,600 from an opening price at P1,100,000.

According to Salcedo Auctions director Richie Lerma, National Museum of the Philippines director Jeremy R. Barns gave “favorable opinion” on the boceto or study during a visit to the vernissage prior the auctions.

If the new owner wants to bring the boceto out of the country, there are a number of things they have to do first.

Mr. Barns said that the boceto needs to “be registered” and the owner needs to apply for a “clearance to leave the country” since “it purports to be a work of Juan Luna” and it was imported from Europe.

“On the part of the National Museum, we acknowledge that it is apparently a study of the Spoliarium by Juan Luna. Therefore, it is our job to take note of it, register it, and make sure that it be cleared officially with a permit before it leaves the country,” Mr. Barns told BusinessWorld in a phone interview, adding that a clearance is issued to establish that the painting is based in the Philippines and that it may only be brought out of the country temporarily by the private owner (if desired).

According to Mr. Barns, registry and clearance of the artwork is done as a regulatory measure to keep track of what is considered as important cultural heritage of the country.

Mr. Barns expressed appreciation for the emergence of important art and heritage objects thanks to the auctions which contribute to the public’s awareness and appreciation for it.

“People are talking about historical, heritage, and artistic items. We also appreciate the work that has been done to bring things to the Philippines from abroad, and also promote awareness, discussion, and interest among the wider public, specially among the younger Filipinos,” he told BusinessWorld.

Mr. Barns noted that further procedures of authentication are only performed when an object is of public interest. — Michelle Anne P. Soliman