Passions and Obsessions

Record-setting Rodel Tapaya art at Salcedo Auctions

Award-winning mural is the most expensive contemporary artwork sold in a Philippine auction

Rodel Tapaya's 'Baston ni Kabunian, Bilang Pero di Mabilang'

Salcedo Auctions moved to its new home along Ayala Avenue, Makati, a few months before the onset of the pandemic, just as it was beginning preparations to celebrate its 10th anniversary. Today, nearly two years later, the inaugural sale held to mark that move titled Paradise Found has, in many ways, proven to be prescient.

At a time when COVID-19 drove the entire population indoors, marking a paradigm shift from conducting business live and in person to online, the pioneering auction house’s 700-sqm gallery at NEX Tower—a modern architecture landmark in itself with its crystalline, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) structure encasing the country’s largest indoor vertical garden—remained a tranquil oasis, a bright and airy space that those hankering for a return to normalcy could see virtually or, when the situation allowed, visit, to take a breather from a never-ending confinement.

Paying homage to nostalgia and the desire to return to an idyllic past, taking its cue from objects of beauty that were once “lost” and are returned to the spotlight through Salcedo, Paradise Found today serves as the perfect metaphor for the world that we are recovering—the light at the end of a long and dark tunnel, that hope provided by the best and finest examples of Philippine art.

Eden back then came in the form of an auction collection that drew from the rich natural and cultural resources of the country, from fauna and flora to the customs and beliefs of the Filipino people.

Foremost among these was Rodel Tapaya’s 2011 Asia Pacific Breweries Foundation Signature Art Prize-winning work Baston ni Kabunian, Bilang Pero di Mabilang, which sold for ₱19,856,000, going for twice its published estimate. The sale of this 120 x 240-inch acrylic-on-canvas work set the world record for a Tapaya piece, and remains to this day the highest price achieved in a local auction for a contemporary Philippine artwork.

As much a celebration of the purity of the land as it is a strong reminder of the dangers that await if we do not protect what we have been blessed with, Baston ni Kabunian, Bilang Pero di Mabilang is a work of our time—rooted in the local, but with a distinctly global outlook.

With the Rodel Tapaya installation at the 2019 opening of Salcedo Auctions gallery at NEX Tower, Salcedo Auctions chairman Richie Lerma and wife Karen and guest Joey Mead King (far right)

Here, Tapaya embarked on an ambitious project that, in the view of Salcedo Auctions chairman and chief specialist Richie Lerma—who, interestingly enough, nominated the work for the Signature Art Prize when he was director of the Ateneo Art Gallery—”successfully threads together Philippine folklore with the position and, indeed, the constantly evolving role of painting in the history of art—displaying a depth of vision and degree of maturity and assuredness rare for someone of his age. Tapaya mellifluously conjures a grandiose meta-narrative—a stinging commentary about the devastation wreaked by greed—from diverse mythologies drawn from these islands, orchestrating a cacophony of oral traditions into a richly textured and visually stunning acrylic chorale on canvas of epic proportions. In summating an allegorical world replete with a distinctive cast of characters on a defined space, Tapaya hearkens to centuries of tradition—from Hieronymus Bosch’s nightmarish Garden of Earthly Delights to Pablo Picasso’s searing Guernica—and shows that the fictive power of the painter remains a very palpable and viable force in society today.”

Auction records could be set again as Salcedo Auctions holds its next sale of Important Philippine Art on March 12, 2022, to be held live at NEX Tower and online via salcedoauctions.com starting at 2 pm. Consignments are being accepted.

For inquiries, email [email protected], call mobile (0917) 591-2191, or send a PM to @salcedoauctions via Instagram or Facebook.


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