About a week ago, a social media post of one of the country’s leading and most respected gallerists, Evita Sarenas, caught the attention of many. Sarenas of Finale gallery wrote that there are many fake Ang Kiukok paintings coming to their attention and cropping up on the market regularly.
National Artist Ang Kiukok was a much sought after artist, in life, and especially after his death in 2005. In the ‘70s and ‘80s, when local art forgery was peaking in the Philippine art scene, Kiukok was the artist forged the most, apart from Amorsolo and the masters. In 2021, there remains a high proliferation of fake Ang Kiukoks.
Sarenas told TheDiarist.ph, “Ang Kiukok’s works are very popular, but there is not much on the market. I see more fake Kiukoks than authentic ones on the market now.”
TheDiarist.ph does a Q/A with Sarenas about the subject.
This isn’t a recent development. Ang Kiukok has been faked since the ’70s. So what makes this proliferation notable?
The fake Kiukoks now come with fake Finale certificates. That’s scary.
Is Ang KiuKok being faked more than the others? Why?
I think he is the most faked Filipino artist. I see them as they passed through us for authentication. What baffles me, is I have never heard from anybody, from whom or where they bought the painting. it seems they are protecting the seller or probably protecting themselves.
What do you think is behind this proliferation, down to the fake authenticity certificate?
Money. They don’t sell them cheap. The fake certificate “validates” the fake painting, making it attractive.
What is Finale’s experience with these fake Ang Kiukoks?
There was one time, a woman was hysterically screaming and cursing at our gallery staff because we couldn’t authenticate her painting.
I had a death threat for not authenticating a painting. I had it police-blottered, and reported it to the NBI, as advised by Dr. Rod. Paras-Perez, who had the same experience.
How can you tell readily that they are fake?
I have seen a lot of Ang Kiukok paintings. I have handled his works since 1983.
There was a time when I hung out with them (Mr. Ang, Mang Cesar Legaspi, Mang “Ola” Romulo Olazo, Mr. Malang, and Mr. Agustin Goy), watched them sketch and paint at the Parks and Wildlife in Quezon City, at Finale, or in a private house. I am familiar with their works.
I started authenticating Mr. Ang’s works some months before he passed on. He was sick then and he told me to authenticate his works myself.
After Mr. Ang passed on, his son Andrew and I teamed up to authenticate Kiukoks. Two heads are better than one. Being surrounded with Ang Kiukok’s art, Andrew breathes and lives art. He very well knows his father’s art. He is the caretaker of his father’s legacy.
What does that do to today’s local art scene?
Taking care of Mr. Ang’s works is taking care of his reputation as a great artist. We are protecting his legacy to us Filipinos . We are also protecting the art collector, who deserves to have the real Ang Kiukoks. Fake artworks will never end, all we can do is to expose them and educate people.
Is there a foreign demand for an Ang Kiukok (like for an Anita Magsaysay Ho)?
Not much these days, but some Indonesians, Taiwanese and Chinese collectors have Kiukoks in their collection.
How is today’s art scene? What’s the impact of the pandemic on the art galleries? Are art auctions only the ones raking it in?
Galleries were closed during the early months of the pandemic. We got through by selling some artworks via phone and internet. It was business as usual when we opened again in July, but we had to do a lot of adjustments, like shorter work hours, adjusting exhibition dates, working in shifts, etc. In spite of our situation, we were selling our shows and some backroom paintings, but only up to a certain price. Good enough to support the gallery and the artists.
Would you say that people turned more to art in this pandemic—as buyer, seller, or just appreciative audience?
A few artworks from the secondary market were sold because the owners needed money. Some people were probably buying to feel good in those depressing times, probably using their travel money. People were scared to travel and stayed home. But most of them were really waiting for the works of the artists on exhibit.
Can you tell us more about Ang Kiukok? He had such a quiet persona and was known to be painfully shy.
Mr. Ang Kiukok was a respectable man. He was honest and sincere. He was true to himself. He minded his own business and he had a mind of his own. He was straightforward.
Mr. Ang was very supportive of us. He was very kind and generous. Our economy went through ups and downs in the 1980s . Coups, natural disasters, etc, had all affected us.
Mr. Ang actually did not need us or anybody to sell his works at that time; art collectors went to his house to buy. He supported us by sending us works to sell so we got a commission. More than enough to pay the rent!
Among friends he was at home with, he was conversant about current events and art. He read about artists he admired. But in public, he was quiet and very shy. I remember him being so uncomfortably shy talking to people whom he actually knew. Being from Davao himself, during the opening of his one-man show in Davao, he told me then that that was the last time he’d attend his opening.
In his thank you speech, he clammed up after saying ‘Salamat’
He had to be persuaded to receive his National Artist award at Malacanang. In his thank you speech, he clammed up after saying “Salamat”. All were waiting for the next words which never came. He was terribly shy and embarrassed, and only moved out of the podium when the audience applauded.
As a friend and as an art mover, what do you think is Ang Kiukok’s legacy in Philippine art?
Ang Kiukok’s legacy in Philippine art are his life and his art.
His desire and determination to become a good artist is inspiring.
His art though is his biggest legacy in Philippine art.
He expressed his thoughts and experiences in his life through his paintings. His favorite subject, the Crucifixion, expressed God’s love for us humans, in spite of our continuous sinning. He painted empty cabinets to express his dissatisfaction with the government at that time. During the Martial Law era, his paintings depicted deep feelings and socio-political commentaries, which were not only a record of anguish during that time but also a record of human expression.
Mr. Ang was a unique figure in the history of Philippine art. Looking through his works , one can see him as different from other Philippine artists. It is easy to recognize his works, from his concept to his use of lines and color. His expressionistic paintings of cubist figures, of crucifixes, dogs, human muscle and screaming people are felt not only in the mind but also the soul.