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Why BenCab is more expensive than Manansala

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THE “Well Appointed Life” includes: Fernando Amorsolo’s Woman Cooking, 1955

DOES ART appreciate over time? Certainly. But the price of one piece of art and another, however, also vary for various economic reasons: the law of supply and demand, competition in the market, and an artist’s marketing strategy.

It is the market that will drive the prices of the most coveted pieces at the “The Well Appointed Life” sale by Salcedo Auctions and co-presented by the Peninsula Manila and Santos Knight Frank.

“We don’t just throw figures out there, the prices are real. We’ve been running auctions for eight years and there is a consistency in terms of result,” Richie Lerma, director at Salcedo Auctions, told BusinessWorld at the launch of the event on Aug. 15 at The Peninsula Manila.

The auction is set on Sept. 23 and 24 at the hotel’s Rigodon Ballroom.

“We are conservative in our pricing so that we know that whatever the price lands in auction is where the market is at the moment and all the data at play, we can verify that these are real sales,” Ms. Lerma added, saying that most of its Philippine art auctions are 90% sold.

Because pricing is market driven, the bidding price of a work by National Artist Benedicto “BenCab” Cabrera is a lot pricier than one by fellow National Artist Vicente Manansala.

“There is a great demand for BenCab right now,” said Mr. Lerma. “It also has a lot to do with how the artist presented himself… in how he has ingrained himself in the Filipino psyche, particularly the contemporary artists. It is quite very, very desirable to have a BenCab [nowadays].”

Yet another National Artist, Fernando Amorsolo, is also in demand because of what he has come to represent.

“Fernando Amorsolo will always be Amorsolo and will always have that value. Why is Amorsolo so valuable? I tell them, every time you think about rural landscape and the idyllic beauty of the Philippines, you think of Amorsolo, that’s how ingrained he is in our psyche,” said Mr. Lerma.

The “Well Appointed Life” will have more than 500 pieces on auction, divided into four categories: Important Philippine Art, Connoisseur Collection, Fine Jewelry and Timepieces, and Rare Automobiles.

The Connoisseur Collection includes furniture, rare books, and maps, while Rolex, IWC, and A. Lange and Sohne watches are available in the Fine Jewelry and Timepieces collection. There are also dresses in the auction including an Alexander McQueen Eiffel Tower-inspired dress (estimated at P16,000 to P18,000). One of the highlights in the auction a 1934 Ford model A Coupe, which comes with original photographs from the time of its production.

Among the Filipino art on sale are paintings by Jose John Santos III (Untitled, 2005, estimate: P3 million to P3.8 million), Jose Joya (Cascade, 1976, estimate: P8 million to P8.5 million), Fernando Amorsolo (Woman Cooking, 1955, estimate: P3.8 million to P4 million); BenCab (Long Haired Woman, 1998, estimate: P8.5 million to P9.5 million), and a Ramon Orlina glass sculpture (A Mother’s Love, 2005, estimate: P800,000 to P850,000).

When asked how the items were curated, Mr. Lerma said many factors come at play: “Curation has always been second nature to me. It is something that I’ve been doing for over 20 years in terms of curating important Philippine art. Of course people ask why it is important. An artwork is important historically, in terms of the career of the artist, and also, the auction, being a venue for sale and acquisition of the art, is also important to the market.”

As for the jewelry and timepieces, he said his wife, who is a certified diamond grader and has studied gemology, curated the items.

“History and tradition are at the heart of what we do at the Salcedo Auctions… It’s not all about the acquisition of objects, but rather about our country’s values and its history, how we protect our culture, and how we see ourselves as a people. Of course, being surrounded by objects of beauty gives us great satisfaction and delight, but so does the knowledge and satisfaction that comes with recognizing the historical importance of the pieces,” said Mr. Lerma.

When items go unsold, there will be a post-auction sale for few weeks, or they will be turned over to other auction houses (now with lower prices), or they will be returned to their owners.

“For the art pieces, [the auction] is almost always 90% sold out. That is what is exciting about it. It is very rare that artworks go unsold at Salcedo – it only means our pricing is correct,” said Mr. Lerma. – Nickky Faustine P. de Guzman

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