Art/Style/Travel Diaries

At 187 lots, Leon’s Magnificent September Auction a journey through PH history

From Manansala, HR Ocampo to Cordilleras art, it is a display of both rebellion and abundance

HR Ocampo's 'Dilemma'

September is a month of grand gestures: it’s the time when Vogue publishes its biggest issue, the country begins its countdown to the longest Christmas celebration in the world, and, in the art calendar, León Gallery pulls all the stops to showcase some of the most desirable offerings on the marker. At 187 lots, Magnificent September Auction has masterpieces that span Philippine history itself: from indigenous artifacts to astounding works by contemporary creators.

Examples: Dilemma by HR Ocampo, Fish Vendors by Vicente Manansala, and the bu’lul icons from the collection of Angel Lontok Cruz. These works, each representing a distinct period and style in Filipino art history, will be the highlights.

 Captivating journey of Dilemma

The journey of Dilemma by HR Ocampo began in the 1960s, a transformative period in the Philippines, in both the cultural and political landscapes. The collectors responsible for its initial acquisition, Kit and Fenny Tatad, were part of the emerging generation that challenged the status quo. The art scene was abuzz with innovation and opposition to the Establishment—the unmistakable signs of a maturing modernist sensibility. Ocampo, a prominent figure in this movement, created Dilemma as an allegory of temptation, depicted through sinuous forms and scintillating colors.

The artwork’s central motif of masks and shields carries deeper symbolism, portraying the struggle between vulnerability and protection. The dynamic composition, characterized by fluid forms and vivid colors, showcases Ocampo’s mastery in intensifying emotions through his unique style. Art critic Rod. Paras-Perez noted “how Ocampo’s strokes evoke the Impressionists’ techniques, creating a sense of vibrancy and movement. Dilemma stands as a testament to the spirit of a new Filipino generation challenging conventions and embracing change.”

Fish Vendors: A slice of Filipino life

Vicente Manansala’s Fish Vendors is a poignant portrayal of Filipino life, capturing the essence of daily existence in the Philippines. Created in 1969, this artwork reveals Manansala’s distinctive style, known as “Transparent Cubism,” which overlays and juxtaposes luminous and gem-like shapes. With an admiration for stained glass techniques and butterfly collections, Manansala brought these influences into his art, infusing it with dynamism and originality.

In Fish Vendors, two women stand amid a bounty of fish, symbolizing both abundance and prosperity. The fish itself carries diverse meanings, from its association with Christianity’s beginnings to its representation of abundance in Asian cultures. Manansala’s attention to detail and composition breathes life into the scene, allowing viewers to connect with the everyday struggles and triumphs of Filipino vendors. The artwork also reflects Manansala’s expertise in redefining traditional aesthetics through his unique, vibrant lens.

Resilient legacy of indigenous art

Beyond contemporary art, the Magnificent September Auction  highlights the beauty and significance of indigenous art from the Cordilleras. This selection of art objects reflects the three essential attributes that define indigenous art across the world: authenticity, quality, and provenance.

The collection of Angel Lontok Cruz, part of the triumvirate of early collectors of Cordillera art, is a testament to his passion and dedication to preserving the indigenous artistic heritage. Unlike other collections, that of Cruz has remained intact through time, safeguarded in Amsterdam during the tumultuous periods in the Philippines. His commitment to this collection was driven not only by his appreciation of their beauty but also by the desire to share and protect it.

Cruz’s collection is a wide range of indigenous artworks, from the iconic bu’lul figures to architectural elements and functional objects. His keen eye for quality and authenticity is evident in the pieces he gathered over time. Cruz’s collection is not only a reflection of artistic appreciation but also a testament to his love of country and its heritage.

The Magnificent September Auction is an opportunity to engage with the rich tapestry of Filipino culture and history. The artworks tell stories of rebellion, everyday life, spirituality, and the resilience of indigenous traditions. Each piece is a glimpse into the minds of Filipino artists and communities, showcasing their creativity, struggles, and aspirations.

León Gallery’s Magnificent September Auction is on Sept. 9, 2023 at G/F Eurovilla 1, Rufino corner Legazpi Streets, Makati  City.  Preview from September 2 to 8. For more information, contact +632 8856-27-81 or visit

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