Rodel Tapaya: “Tree of Make Believe,” P2.6 million
The Top 12 Most Bankable Contemporary Filipino Artists
TREASURE HUNTING - Lisa Guerrero Nakpil (The Philippine Star) - September 22, 2019 - 12:00am

Some people may find it absolutely toe-curling to hear the words “artist” and “bankable” in the same sentence. However, the truth of the matter is that painters are now judged by their auction prices in the same way that actors are measured by their box-office earnings.

Ronald Ventura: “Crack in the Hull," P25.7 million

“There’s always a difference between the price of an artwork in the primary market and the secondary market. The primary market is when you purchase direct from the galleries. That’s always less expensive, but not just anyone gets to buy a sought-after artist, even if they have the money. You have to be considered an important collector, a friend of both the artist and his manager,” says Jaime Ponce de Leon of León Gallery.

Andres Barrioquinto: "The Back of Love," P12.9 million

Says one collector, “You need to hobnob, go to recitals and children’s parties, show up at the barbecues and blessings.” Another art lover sighed, “Oh, the lengths we must take to get our hands on a coveted artwork!”

Elmer Borlongan: “Quiapo” P9.9 million

At auction, on the other hand, things are more democratic. “As long as you bid the highest, the artwork is yours, no acrobatics involved,” says Ponce de Leon with a grin. “On the side of the seller, it is very transparent. You know exactly how much was paid — in direct contrast to the opacity of the art trade everywhere else.”

Jose John Santos III: “Untitled,” P9.3 million

Highest prices are paid for artworks that are original and rare: “Someone who is not prolific, you don’t find too many of his works,” says one seasoned collector. 

Annie Cabigting: “Kunst Museum,” P7 million

For others, the criteria is “not having a stage mother” but someone who lets the artist grow organically.

Mark Justiniani: “Ang Hari,” P6.42 million

The list of the biggest contemporary artists is led by the superstars of their generation, Ronald Ventura and Andres Barrioquinto. While Ronald Ventura holds the record for the highest-priced contemporary Filipino artwork sold in the Philippines, Andres Barrioquinto has moved up consistently since 2015. His most recent sales at the León Gallery auction this year and the last eclipsed Ventura’s best showings in the same year.

Marina Cruz: “White on Red Threads,” P3.3 million

Barrioquinto now “reigns supreme over the moneyed set,” says one observer. “It is his command not only of a superb artistry but also a consistently appealing subject matter that makes him so attractive.”

Buen Calubayan: “Bundok Banahaw,” P3 million

On the other hand, “Some artists are extremely talented but they do not have a grasp of the right themes,” says another.

Jigger Cruz: “Blares of the Opposite,” P6.7 million

“Tastemakers (and their flock of disciples),” says one aficionado, “are also important — but you need to be quick on your feet since most tastemakers avoid exhibit openings, fearful of the influence they may have.”

Geraldine Javier: “What Remains,” P2.6 million

(A note to new collectors: Tastemakers always follow the protocol of going through the artist’s manager or gallery. In this way, they can make sure that they get high-quality works that form part of the evolution of the artist.)

Alfredo Esquillo: “Daang Ligid Cruz,” P4.1 million

Art box office stars

1. Ronald Ventura: “Crack in the Hull,” at the León Gallery Magnificent September Auction 2014 at P25.7 million.

2. Andres Barrioquinto: “The Back of Love” at the León Gallery Magnificent September Auction 2019, at P12.9 million

3. Elmer Borlongan: “Quiapo,” León Gallery Spectacular Mid-Year Auction 2017, P9.9 million

4. Jose John Santos III: “Surface Tension,” at the León Gallery Magnificent September Auction 2017, P9.3 million, and for “Untitled” at the León Gallery Magnificent September Auction 2016, P9.3 million

5. Annie Cabigting: “Kunst Museum,” León Gallery Asian Cultural Council 2019, P7 million

6. Jigger Cruz: “Blares of the Opposite,” León Gallery Kingly Treasures 2015, P6.7 million

7. Mark Justiniani: “Ang Hari,” León Gallery Spectacular Mid-Year Auction of 2018, P6.42 million

8. Alfredo Esquillo: “Daang Ligid Cruz,” León Gallery Auction 2013, P4.1 million

9. Marina Cruz: “White on Red Threads,” León Gallery Magnificent September 2015, P3.3 million

10. Buen Calubayan: “Bundok Banahaw,” León Gallery Kingly Treasures 2016, P3 million

Tied for 11th place: Rodel Tapaya, “Tree of Make Believe,” León Gallery Spectacular Mid-Year Auction 2017, P2.6 million; and Geraldine Javier, “What Remains,” León Gallery Magnificent September Auction 2016, P2.6 million.

CONTEMPORARY FILIPINO ARTISTS LEóN GALLERY
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