The Well-Appointed Life: Art & Auctions in the New Normal
- 30 September 2020
It was a well-appointed auction in keeping with the times. Salcedo Auctions’ weekend series of auctions held last 26 & 27 September pioneered an innovative hybrid format that’s set to be the ‘new normal’ for the local auction industry, combining live streaming, live online, and limited live in-person bidding in keeping with Covid-19 health restrictions. The four sale categories: Connoisseur Collection, Fine Jewelry & Timepieces, Rare Automobiles, and the most highly anticipated one, Important Philippine Art, returned with the kind of high calibre offerings one has come to expect from these marquee sales, with rare antique Philippine hardwood furniture and 17th century religious artefacts being offered alongside the works of modern masters such as National Artists Vicente Mannsala, Cesar Legaspi, and Ang Kiukok as well as the biggest names in contemporary art: Ronald Ventura, Rodel Tapaya, and Andres Barrioquinto, among others.
Leading the Important Philippine Art sale on September 26 was Ronald Ventura’s 2019 3 x 4ft oil on canvas work, aptly titled ‘New Normal,’ which inspired an intense bidding battle that set a local record based on size for the award-winning artist, selling at a staggering Php 17,520,000 (including buyer’s premium) against a high estimate of Php 12,000,000 to an online bidder.
Innovating the Auction Experience
The Salcedo Auctions sale room at its Ayala Avenue flagship at NEX Tower, which is used to hosting nearly 200 in-person bidders, was transformed into a multi-media sale room with two large screens displaying the online platform where in-person and online bidders could bid real time, as well as live streaming Salcedo Auctions Chairman & Chief Specialist Richie Lerma who, like an orchestra conductor, wielded his gavel as he fielded the succession of bids streaming across cyberspace.
“It was definitely a major transformation, bringing the energy of an in-person auction to the screen,” shares Lerma. “We wanted to make the sale accessible to all those who registered while at the same time re-capturing the excitement of being in a sale room by sharing a Zoom link with them so they could see me auctioning the pieces in real time.”
It’s a scenario that reflects the pandemic-induced shift of global art industry leaders to the digital sphere. And, based on what transpired over the weekend, it appears that change is slowly but certainly paying off.
In fact, more than half of the sale’s highlight pieces were sold to people bidding live online, such as the art historically important ‘Quiapo’ by Manansala, which sold for PHP 5,840,000, Jose Joya’s charming 1976 oil on board ‘Kundiman,’ which fetched Php 3,854,400, and H.R. Ocampo’s ‘Abstraction 126,’ and Juvenal Sanso’s ‘Presencias Tan Inmemoriales’ which each sold for PHP 2,569,600. There was also a live online bid for ‘Descent,’ Legaspi’s powerful 1980 masterpiece, at Php 9,000,000.
Although, this was by no means an indication that clients forewent more ‘traditional’ means of bidding. Those participating in the sale in-person were still treated to the sight of paddles being raised in-room and phone bidders battling it out – only this time, against their online counterparts. Ang Kiukok’s rare 1989 oil on canvas ‘Rosary Queen’ sold at PHP 7,008,000 to a bidder on the phone as well as Mauro Malang Santos’ 14 x 10 inch 2003 oil on canvas ‘Mag-ina,’ which set another world record based on size for the artist at PHP 2,160,800.
Philippine Art on The Road to Discovery and Recovery
This new hybrid of live and online auctions was a step in a totally new direction for both Salcedo Auctions and its clients. While The Well-Appointed Life was the first major auction under the Salcedo Auctions brand to have an online component – previously the platform had only been used for its subsidiary Gavel&Block’s entry-level auctions – all of its major sales had previously been held in-person given the prevailing belief in the industry that the atmosphere of a physical auction encourages competition, particularly for more historically significant and valuable collectibles.
The main takeaway?
“We see this as a good indication of the market’s confidence in the new platforms we’ve made available,” says Lerma. “Now, more than ever, we need to stick to our commitment to share the stories behind these important pieces while still maintaining transparency for both our buyers and sellers. Part of that is trusting in the expertise of our specialists, who know what the market is prepared to pay for works by the masters, and whose estimates for the pieces in The Well-Appointed Life proved to be spot on.” This comment comes on the heels of questions raised over whether or not people would be willing to spend on higher ticket items online. The fact that most, if not all the pieces sold within or at their high estimates is proof that real and serious collectors, notwithstanding the bidding platform they choose to utilize, remain very much attuned to the market.
“If you look at the prices achieved during the weekend’s Important Philippine Art sale, most of the major artworks stayed true to their estimated price ranges – a good sign that Salcedo continues to read the market correctly,” Lerma point out. “This is something our buyers and sellers truly value. It’s not just the quality of the pieces offered, but the comfort that they gain knowing that our advice can be trusted and that our results parallel international standards.”
And global auction results have indeed been demonstrating a rise in popularity of contemporary art. At Christie’s recently concluded global auction ‘ONE’ last July, where trending American minimalist painter Brice Marden’s work ‘Contemporaries’ more than tripled the artist’s previous auction record, Scott Reyburn of the New York Times wrote: “Such are the dynamics of the market for contemporary art that auction prices for Mr. Marden are now almost as high as those for an old master like…Rembrandt, whose current auction record is $33.2 million.” This is consistent with how Ronald Ventura’s 2019 ‘New Normal’ was able to far exceed its high estimate, while modern masters stayed comfortably within theirs.
“The response to these new innovations has been quite positive. It’s interesting to see how buyer’s behavior also adapts to the new normal,” explains Salcedo Auctions Managing Director, Victor Silvino. “Ever since we’ve migrated our sales online, we’ve noticed that a new group of collectors have come on board to avail of this new convenience.” This observation reflects the current global trend as reported by online bidding platform, Invaluable, which saw a 39% increase in online bidders, and a 52% increase in digital buyers—numbers that corroborate what international auction houses Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Phillips have been reporting (Villa, Art Market Monitor).
“The fact that most of the pieces from The Well-Appointed Life – our biggest auction – were sold to online bidders is a good indication that the market is slowly but surely embracing this necessary change.” says Silvino.
And change it has. As more and more local art institutions follow in migrating their services online, Salcedo Auctions looks ahead to new ways to engage buyers and sellers, now through its custom-developed online bidding platform. “This weekend of sales has provided a clear picture of the state of the market,” says Silvino. “Despite the difficult circumstances, art retains its value, and when presented with truly important pieces, collectors do respond, and do so emphatically.”
Consignments to the upcoming ‘Under the Tree’ auction under Salcedo’s subsidiary brand Gavel&Block in November are now accepted. Submit your pieces via the online consignment form on the Salcedo Auctions website.
Villa, A. (2020, August 5). Top Three Houses See 79 Percent Year-Over-Year Drop in Second Quarter of 2020: Report [Editorial]. Art Market Monitor. Retrieved from https://www.artmarketmonitor.com/2020/08/05/top-three-houses-see-79-percent-year-over-year-drop-in-second-quarter-of-2020-report/
Reyburn, S. (2020, July 10). Christie’s New Auction Technique: The Global Gavel [Editorial]. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/10/arts/design/christies-auction.html