The house that good taste built
ARTMAGEDDON - Igan D’Bayan (The Philippine Star) - August 25, 2014 - 12:00am

The man talks about a certain book, a bit esoterically. Almost something straight from Borges. 

“It’s called Historia General de las Islas Filipinas — and it’s very interesting, this particular five-volume set,” enthuses Richie Lerma, Salcedo Auctions adviser. “It’s definitely a first edition — well, a first and only edition. It was printed in the 1870s or 1880s. What makes this special is, inside one of the volumes is an original map by the first known Filipino artist — well, at least in terms of the name — Nicolas Bagay. The interesting thing also is that it’s a map of Japan.” Which must speak, adds Richie, about some relationship the Philippines was having with the Japanese empire at that time.

Those volumes — with that original Nicolas Bagay map which, Lerma stresses, is already of immense value — along with other first-edition Filipiniana titles, rare art books, books on oriental ceramics, books on dances of the Emerald Isles (all of them very collectible), plus masterworks of Filipino artists make Salcedo Auctions’ latest venture its biggest and most ambitious, so far.

Oh, there’s also a yacht involved. Yeah, a sea-worthy 45-foot UK-made catamaran with two bedrooms, a bathroom and cutting-edge solar panels.

“This is the first time Salcedo Auctions is doing a multi-category auction weekend,” Richie explains. “We started in 2009, and in 2010 we revived the idea of art auctions in the country. We’ve always seen ourselves as pioneers.”

Salcedo Auctions has successfully mounted over 30 public auctions to date. It has the distinction of having set several world and Philippine auction records — among them the highest prices achieved at any auction worldwide for, among others, paintings by Vicente Manansala, Ang Kiukok and Jose Joya during its March 2014 “Important Philippine Art” auction.

“Now, we take the lead in pioneering an auction season,” says Lerma.

In its fifth year, Salcedo Auctions — in partnership with Philippine Tatler, Jaguar, and Rockwell Land — presents “The Well-Appointed Life: An Auction Weekend,” which will be held on Sept. 20, Saturday, and Sept. 21, Sunday, at Rockwell Tent, with the preview of the lots on offer at the Proscenium Lounge, Kirov Model Unit, Rockwell from Sept. 6 to 19.

The vision is for Salcedo Auctions to become a full-service auction house. The excitement of auctions, says Lerma, can translate to any collectible. Thus, there will be four different categories for various objects: Philippine Art; Connoisseur Collection (objects of merit — antiques, sterling silver, vintage single malts, leather goods, hand-knotted oriental carpets… around 130 lots); Rare Automobiles (each of the six to eight cars are uncommon, unique, and from different eras); as well as Fine Jewelry & Timepieces (pedigreed pieces by some of the world’s most distinguishes names in jewelry — Cartier, Bulgari, Tiffany and Company — and watches — Patek Philippe, Breguet, Rolex). Everything from high-end wonders to excellent yet very affordable marvels. 

The pieces of jewelry are “investment-grade.”

“We’re able to find them among collectors. You won’t see them in stores. Natural and internally flawless 4.67-carat yellow diamond ring set in platinum and 18k yellow gold, for example. ‘D-F’ color ‘VVS’ clarity diamond earrings and necklaces. These are gorgeous!”

Makes you wonder as to the stories behind these treasures (cue rushes of cinematic splendor), or the mysterious women who owned them previously.  

“The Philippines has never had an auction of this size ever,” says Salcedo Auctions president Karen Lerma. The pieces of jewelry and fine timepieces (plus accessories and a book about watches) alone combine for a total of 150 lots — items from the 1920s to the present, items sourced here and from the estate of a distinguished European collector, items of different themes and loved by varying tastes. Some are modern; some, vintage. Everything has been selected according to its condition and authenticity. She says, “And these pieces are comparable to those in other auction houses around the world.”

Richie agrees. He adds, “We’re bringing the world here.”

As for the artworks on the auction block, 91 pieces were chosen over 400 entries.

They will be auctioned off in the evening of Sept. 20. Internationally, the evening art auction is reserved for only the most significant artworks, emphasizing the scale, magnitude, quality and historical depth of the art pieces on offer.

Highlights include two oil paintings, three gouaches, and one charcoal drawing all of them dating from the 1950s and 1960s by National Artist Vicente Manansala. This is the largest ever collection of works by this pioneering and much-loved Filipino postwar modernist offered at auction anywhere in the world. These include a 1958 “Still Life with Fish,” an oil, enamel, and tin strip on masonite masterpiece, which features a second painting in oil at the back depicting an orchestra; “Enlightenment,” a well-documented 1966 oil on canvas mounted on lawanit is also going under the hammer; as well as a joyous “Rooster” from the same year from a distinguished private collection. 

Also of great significance is the extensive collection of works by National Artists Jose Joya, Ang Kiukok, and BenCab that have been assembled for this sale: among them, a monumental early 1960s Venice Biennale-period abstract expressionist oil on canvas by Joya, the largest work by the artist from this period that has been offered in a public sale in recent memory; “Thinking Man,” an iconic work by Kiukok; and “Larawan” series works from the 1970s and 1980s by BenCab.

A long lost work by an old Philippine master will also be revealed to the public for the first time. Time for bidders to make an appointment with awe.

“When we started Salcedo Auctions, nobody thought it would work,” says Richie. “‘Filipinos are shy,’ they said. ‘No one’s going to bid.’ The complete opposite has happened: it has turned into a regular social event. And it’s a hedge against inflation; when people go through certain difficulties in life, it is the art collection that saves them. That’s the wonderful human dimension to all this.”

Just think, when a particular piece was acquired in the first place, a person just liked it around him or her. Maybe to fill up an empty room or heart.

“You live with the artwork, the object,” concludes Richie. “And who would know that someday it would mean more than that.”  

* * *

The Connoisseur Collection goes on sale on Sept. 20, 11 a.m.; the Important Philippine Art on the same day at 6 p.m.; the Fine Jewelry & Timepieces on Sept. 21, 2 p.m. With Rare Automobiles as the fourth category.

For inquiries, call 659-4094 or email

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