The Confident Collector
- 15 May 2021
History, aided by the wonders unearthed (literally) by archaeology, tells us that collecting has become second nature to most. As soon as humans went from nomadic wanderers to early hunter-gatherers, they began to collect objects, curiosities, and trinkets— many of which were of no instrinsic value, but rather had rich sentimental value to their owners.
Fast forward to modern times and the word ‘collecting’ is now often closely associated with the art world. While its essence still holds true— it remains to be the gathering of objects as a hobby— the key difference is that the value of these pieces is now more or less determined by art professionals and the market. For the confident collector, the true joy of collecting comes from being able to surround yourself with pieces that speak to you and express who you are.
As many seasoned collectors know, the art one collects says a lot about that person. As the confident collector knows, part of collecting is developing your own personal taste, style, and aesthetic. It’s all about sharpening your eye and being in tune with what types of pieces speak to you.
Two renowned Filipino collectors, Architect Anthony Nazareno and Landscape Designer Bobby Gopiao, share their stories and advice on starting an art collection.
Let’s go back to the beginning, how did your interest in collecting start?
Nazareno: “When did I start collecting and what prompted me? It’s kinda unusual. My mom and my dad, Vicky and Tony, collect antiques. And sure they had some art by masters. However, in the 80s, my dad and I would go to Bohol and Cebu – wala pang eroplano noon papuntang Tagbilaran. So we’d fly to Cebu, and take the roro to Bohol.” he begins. “My dad wanted a companion for his sojourns…At that time, I was still in high school…I was shy, but I really enjoyed art.” It was these father and son explorations in search of art that first sparked Nazareno’s interest in collecting.
Gopiao: “I used to go hunting for antiques, way back when I was still in high school. Then I started to visit art galleries. Back then, I didn’t have money because my mom and dad didn’t want to give me money for those things. Pero hilig ko naman talaga noon pa ang arts and antiques.” Later on, once Gopiao got into college, he started saving up so that he could start his collection. His first purchase, made early in his college career, was an Anita Magsaysay-Ho, which he later on sold to purchase his first car. C’est la vie, as they say.
How did you begin your collection?
Nazareno: “My own collection started to take shape as soon as I had my own place. By that time, my parents were already separated. But they wanted me to have a piece of what we had in our home, they would really be nice enough to ask kung ano yung gusto ko.” He goes on to elaborate, “What I collect, though, spans a wide spectrum, just like my parents’ collections. They were looking at younger artists, while collecting masters or more established artists also. In the same way, I look at antiques, as well as contemporary art— which spans a variety of styles… I mean, if I chance upon something I like, I just go for it.”
In your pursuit of art, what are some of the memorable encounters that you’ve had?
Nazareno: “One time, we were in Bohol, already getting ready to leave for Manila having bought a lot of stuff. Somebody called my dad, ang dami naman kasing mga ahente noon. ‘Sir, may Luna. Sa Siquijor.’ So we were wondering, ‘pano nagkaroon ng Luna sa Siquijor?’ Pero pumunta pa din kami. Yon ang adventure of adventures. My dad said, ‘if we don’t do this now, we’ll never do this.’
So we set out from Bohol in a pumpboat, dalawa just in case masiraan ang isa. The trip was supposed to take two hours or so. Eh umulan. Yung dalawang oras, naging apat na oras.
Sabi ng bangkero, ‘Sir, may mga dolphins tayong kasabay. Safe tayo.’ I think he just said that to assuage my fears.
We were supposed to get there by 2 pm and get back to Bohol by 5. But we arrived in Siquijor around 5 in the afternoon na. Parang scene out of a mystery or horror movie: We landed on a beach head right in front of a church. It was getting late, so we had to sleep in a convent. Kinatok namin yung kumbento, and the door— which creaked, of course, slowly opened. Yung bantay may hawak na lamp, de-gas pa!
The following day at 7 in the morning, the guy with the “Luna” finally shows up. He was carrying a rolled canvas, which he unfurled. Turns out, the ahente meant “lona”, which means canvas in Tagalog. Eh Bisaya siya … yung “lona” naging “Luna.”
But that piece is still with us. It’s The Passion of Christ on one long canvas, or lona. An interesting piece. With experiences like that, how can you not feel some sort of urge to really look for rare pieces, and have them in your home? It’s been like that through the years for me.”
What pieces did you buy in your early years as a collector?
Gopiao: “I tend to buy strong paintings. I actually concentrated on Kiukok from 1979-1983, which I think were his strongest years. I didn’t buy from galleries at that time, but from the secondary market.” At the time, he explains, “a 3’ x 3’ KiuKok cost around P20,000-P25,000.” He adds, “Madami din akong nabili na ivory santos before. There was a very strong market for santos at that time— nag-aagawan ang mga collectors for good pieces.”
In a moment of reflection, Gopiao shares, “I have learned to detach since then. But before that, you can’t buy anything from me. You cannot even buy a PIN from me! I will not release. Up to now, I am still attached naman— but I am more open…”
Right now, or in recent years, what has been your guide in collecting?
Gopiao: “I try not to follow trends. I just buy what I want. Your taste will evolve, until makuha mo anong gusto mo.”
What would you advise a new collector?
Gopiao: “My advice is for them to familiarize themselves first with whatever is in the market, and to look around. Try to avoid trends. Most often, if it’s just a trend, it can fade.
Also keep in mind that the test of being a collector is how your collection fares, not now, but several decades from the time you bought your pieces. When I bought Emong Borlongan’s works— walang bumibili ng works niya early in his career— may quality ako na nakita. Ngayon pinagkakaguluhan na si Emong.
My collection is varied, but I don’t buy installations because I can’t use or display them. I feel that as a collector, you live with your pieces, and you grow with them.”
Salcedo Auctions’ upcoming ‘Finer Pursuits’ online auction is an exploration into the mind of the confident collector. To indulge in your Finer Pursuits, check out the online catalogue by clicking here. The ‘Finer Pursuits’ live and online auction will be held on Saturday, 26 June 2021 at 2PM.