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Top Ten of Philippine artists

[20 Jun 2014]


Friday is Top day! Every other Friday, Artprice publishes a theme-based auction ranking. This week: the top ten sales of works by contemporary Philippine artists.

Surrounded by the major hubs of today’s art market – China, Taiwan and Singapore – this archipelago of 7,700 islands is in a position to take advantage of the prevailing competitive climate. The new Philippine art scene is building quite a following in the salerooms of Asia (Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore), while at home the market is taking off thanks to two auction houses in Makati: Leon Gallery and Salcedo Auctions. Artists who are proving popular at auction include Geraldine Javier (born 1970), Mariano Ching (born 1973), Louie Cordero (born 1978), Lena Cobangbang (born 1976) and, younger still, Buen Calubayan (born 1980), Marina Cruz (born 1982) and Winner Jumalon (born 1983). Despite their youth, some of these artists have already had a taste of the speculative momentum that has been dominating the salerooms. They have seen how prices can soar four to six times above their estimates, even when these estimates have been set at realistic levels for emerging artists. The major international museums are beginning to take an interest in acquiring works by these promising young artists. In 2013, the Guggenheim in New York devoted an exhibition to Philippine artists (entitled No Country: Contemporary Art for South and Southeast Asia) and features a number of Philippine artists in its collections.

Top 10 : the top ten sales of works by contemporary Philippine artists

Rank Artist Hammer Price Artwork Sale
1 Ronald VENTURA $900200 Grayground (2011) 04/04/2011 (Sotheby’s HONG KONG)
2 Ronald VENTURA $837849 Wonderful Bait (2013) 05/24/2014 (Christie’s HONG KONG)
3 Ronald VENTURA $670800 Magicaland (2011/12) 10/05/2013 (Sotheby’s HONG KONG)
4 Ronald VENTURA $592939 Gateway (2013) 04/05/2014 (Sotheby’s HONG KONG)
5 Ronald VENTURA $516000 The Dive (2010) 10/07/2012 (Sotheby’s HONG KONG)
6 Ronald VENTURA $425040 Humanime (2012) 04/02/2012 (Sotheby’s HONG KONG)
7 Ronald VENTURA $412800 Crossed Trip (Humanime Series) (2011) 11/24/2012 (Christie’s HONG KONG)
8 Ronald VENTURA $399900 An Open Invitation (2012/13) 11/23/2013 (Christie’s HONG KONG)
9 Ronald VENTURA $347760 Eye Land (2011) 04/06/2013 (Sotheby’s HONG KONG)
10 Ronald VENTURA $270690 Natural – Lies (2010) 10/04/2010 (Sotheby’s HONG KONG)


Ronald Ventura: spearheading a generation
Artprice’s Friday Top Ten reveals the ten best sales within a particular theme. This week, Ronald Ventura makes a clean sweep, taking every place in our ranking. Indeed, it is difficult to compete with this 41-year-old artist, who has already broken the $100,000 dollar barrier 27 times since 2008 and who posted a record $900,200 for a work that was sold just a few months after its creation (Grayground, 2011, sold at Sotheby’s Hong Kong on 4 April 2011 for $1.08 million including buyer’s premium). For the last three years, Grayground has held the record for the highest price ever achieved at auction by an artist from Southeast Asia.

Born in Manila in 1973, Roland Ventura still lives and works in the city. He held his first solo exhibition in the USA at Tyler Rollins Fine Art in New York’s Chelsea district in 2009. Manuel Ocampo has also exhibited some of his works in this gallery. Since then, his works have been on show at personal or collective exhibitions held across Asia, the USA and Europe. In 2012, his success also attracted the attention of the Emmanuel Perrotin gallery, which exhibited his work on its stand at the Korea International Art Fair (KIAF).

The artist’s language constitutes a kind of memento mori, but the traditional vanitas symbol of the skull is replaced by a shower of different images. Man’s relationship with things is one of excess, and it is this feverish materialism that Ronald Ventura explores. His visual universe opens Pandora’s Box by dwelling on random images where a multitude of colours jostle with a multitude of meanings. Superimpositions of cultural and popular icons are unleashed on the surface of the work, depicting the power of the media and the market in what is often a carnivalesque frenzy. It was this disparate visual pollution – born of a cultural melting-pot resulting from successive colonisations by Spain, the USA and Japan and fed by television, the internet and travel – that helped the artist burst onto the public art scene and opened up his market.

He made his debut in the auction rooms in 2007. At that time, the young man had only exhibited in the Philippines and Singapore, where he suffered at setback at Larasati Auctioneers. His first work to go under the hammer was a large charcoal drawing that sold for some $3,500 (Best Before). Nowadays, a large-format painting such as this would fetch at least $15,000… $15,000 is now the entry price for anyone interested in buying a small ‘old’ canvas from 2002-2004, while prices for recent works are rocketing. This was illustrated on 24 May 2014, when Christie’s came close to setting a new record with the 2013 painting Wonderful Bait, a large-format work (180 cm x 244 cm) that is particularly explosive in its visual impact. In the end, Wonderful Bait sold for ten times its low estimate and broke the million-dollar barrier including buyer’s premium (HK$ 6.5 million, or $837,849, in Hong Kong).

The growing interest in contemporary Philippine art is clear at many different levels of the global cultural scene, but the most striking symptom is visible in the soaring sales prices achieved in Hong Kong and Singapore. At the same time, Manila and Makati are in the process of consolidating their presence as a new marketplace at the heart of the Asian boom. The Philippines even has an art fair: Art Fair Philippines (AFP). This was held for the second time in Makati in February 2014.

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