A Tribute Exhibit at León Gallery

Arts & Culture

September 5, 2017 | BY Dorynna Untivero

León Gallery pays tribute to the Philippine Art Gallery through an exhibit and charity auction featuring Mid-Century Moderns from the likes of Zobel, Ang Kuikok, Lyd Arguilla, Nena Saguil, and much more.

Arturo Luz - untitled.jpgArturo Luz - Untitled

León Gallery celebrates the legendary Philippine Art Gallery, ground-zero for Manila’s avant-garde in the 1950s, with a special show entitled “Mid-Century Moderns: Important Modernist Painting from the Philippine Art Gallery”.

In addition, two important persons in Philippine art are commemorated: Lyd Arguilla, founder of the Philippine Art Gallery (PAG); and, Ramon N. Villegas, a well-known antiquarian, scholar, and jeweler, who curated several of León Gallery’s projects. Villegas unfortunately passed away before the opening of this swan song of his at León Gallery.

Mid-Century Moderns

Manila_Walled_City_Destruction_May_1945.jpgManila Walled City Destruction (May 1945) | Photo: Courtesy of Wikicommons

After the smoke had cleared after the Battle for Manila in February 1945, the city was replaced with a sorry, tattered, beggarly place.

Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 5.00.17 PM.pngPhoto: Courtesy of Leon Gallery Facebook

It was in this terrible time that two things transpired: A band of six brothers — Hernando R. Ocampo, Cesar F. Legaspi, Victor Oteyza, Vicente S. Manansala, Romeo V. Tabuena and Ramon A. Estella — decided to revoke the old world of Fernando Amorsolo and strike out on their own with a searing vocabulary to capture the new reality. Thus, they decided to call themselves “The Neo-Realists” and committed themselves to proclaim that new truth around them.

H.R. Ocampo - Cityscape 2.jpgH.R. Ocampo - Cityscape 2

Next, a warrior-like woman emerged on the scene: Lydia “Lyd” Arguilla was a writer, first; a painter, second; and most of all, an agent provocateur of the highest order. Freshly returned from creative studies at Columbia University in New York, she put together the first all-woman marketing firm, Promotions Inc.

Ang Kiukok - Landscape.jpgAng Kiukok - Landscape

In less than a year, Promotions Inc. took up the cause of modern art and re-invented itself into the revolutionary Philippine Art Gallery – the first gallery in the country to throw its lot in with modern or abstract art.

A video looking back on H.R. Ocampo and Vicente Manansala's works | Video: Courtesy of Leon Gallery Facebook

It was at the PAG that Zóbel’s first “Saeta” was born and shown. The defining exhibit organized by Magtanggul Asa, “The First Exhibition of Non-Objective Art in Tagala”, happened at the PAG; so did several Neo-Realist landmarks that produced their now-canonical works.

Arguilla also organized the Philippine Cultural Exhibition which brought an astounding 102 works by 21 moderns to three locations in New York City and Washington D.C. The PAG would cast a very long shadow. Although it remained open for only 18 years, its art and artists would dominate Filipino art for more than half a century.


Interestingly, the anchor pieces of the show are several rare works from the Anthony Stoner Collection from the USA. Mr. Stoner worked for an architectural firm, Adrian Wilson Associates, a famous design company that was responsible for the LA Court House and the Las Vegas and Honolulu Convention Centers.

He was assigned to its Manila outpost in the 1950s and lived and worked in the Philippines for several decades. Mr. Stoner and his wife Fifi thus accumulated several astounding works, all from the PAG.


The Magnificent September Auction 2017 

Jose Joya - Blue Horizon.jpgJose Joya - Blue Horizon

The much anticipated preview of the “The Magnificent September Auction 2017” will take place as the Mid-Century Moderns special show is exhibited.

Fernando Zobel - Saeta 44.jpgFernando Zobel - Saeta 44

Select pieces from the special show like Jose Joya’s “Blue Horizon”, Ang Kiukok’s “Sunday Morning”, Fernando Zobel’s “Saeta 44”, Nena Saguil’s “Lantern No. 2”, Cenon Rivera’s “Mother and Child”, to Cenon Rivera’s painting of a chair will be some of the prestigious lots to be auctioned off.

Anita Magsaysay-Ho - Women Amidst Bananas.jpgAnita Magsaysay-Ho - Women Amidst Bananas

 Adding to these are León Gallery’s rare pieces of grand magnitude. Anita Magsaysay-Ho’s “Women Amidst Bananas” from 1979 is arguably the most coveted work of the period.  It is among the artist’s larger works, painted with meticulous detail covering the entire picture plane.  Another Anita, from the Maximo and Pilar Goquingco Collection, painted in New York in 1947, is an absolute masterpiece of the early post-war period.

Vicente Manansala is best represented by “Pounding Rice” from 1979.  At a time when Manansala enjoyed the lavish attention of the social set, his works were happy and most definitely out to impress, especially in exemplifying his brand of transparent Cubism which became his indelible identity. 

John Santos III - Surface Tension.jpgJohn Santos III - Surface Tension

Jose John Santos III is surprisingly represented by a thunderous work — both in scale and virtuosity — by “Surface Tension”.  Exhibited by Pearl Lam, it is certainly the largest and most important work of the artist to be offered at auction to date.


Charity Auctions

León Gallery partnered with the Meralco Foundation, Inc., Philippine General Hospital Foundation, Inc., and St. Luke’s Medical Center Foundation, Inc for the upcoming auction. Auction proceeds of pieces donated to these institutions will be for their respective charitable projects.

For St. Luke’s Medical Center Foundation, Inc.’s, works by Bencab, Zean Cabangis, Manny Garibay, Martin Honasan, Louie Cordero, and Mauro Malang Santos among others are included in the selection. 

This partnership for the upcoming auction will continue to help the foundation make the four pillars of their missions a reality. These include Medical Social Services, Medical and Surgical Outreach, Medical Scholarship, and Medical Research & Development Programs.




The León Gallery special show will feature 24 works by 15 modernist masters, many never before seen in public for several decades. Viewing of the Mid-Century Moderns special show and the auction preview ends on September 8, 2017.

The Magnificent September Auction 2017 will be at G/F Eurovilla 1, Rufino corner Legazpi Street, Legazpi Village, Makati City on September 9, 2017 at 2 in the afternoon. The lots may be viewed online at www.leon-gallery.com. Like and follow @LeonGalleryMakati on Facebook and Instagram for more updates.

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