Tuesday, May 10, 2011

From airplane to Alcuaz & Acuna

It's incredibly hot, but it's nice to be home. Typical me, I hit the ground running upon landing back in Manila yesterday, anxious to make up for lost time after a mini-holiday in Japan. If you've been reading this blog, you'll know that my mind was on art last weekend, and this has put me in the mood to visit galleries and see paintings.

Purely by coincidence, I'd re-activated my email on my Blackberry just before boarding my flight back to the Philippines, in the JAL lounge at Narita Airport this morning. I always cut my email on my phone when overseas, leaving only the BBM line open, as email roaming costs a fortune if you're getting tons of emails a day. But I always open it just before I'm about to board my plane back to Manila so that I'll be able to get any emails sent while I'm up in the skies immediately upon landing in Manila. Not for anything else, but at least I can spend the time in traffic from the airport answering my emails.

ALCUAZ PAINTINGS ON MY PHONE

Well, just before I boarded my plane, my phone pinged and I suddenly had a string of emails from a new art collector friend in Manila. Was I interested in buying some old Alcuaz paintings off him at a pretty good price? He meant, of course, the master Federico Aguilar Alcuaz who recently passed away. I quickly downloaded the paintings on my Blackberry just before the plane took off and from the tiny images I saw, they looked very interesting. He'd caught me at just the right time, when I'd been in the mood for art.

How's the provenance? I asked. There's a massive amount of good copies of works by Philippine masters on the market, and some even have very clever evidence to prove them as "authentic."

Impeccable, he replied.

Bring them over late tonight? I'd like to see them. I messaged back.

Then my plane took off and I was stuck in mid-air waiting impatiently to land in Manila. I'm usually good with relatively short flights within Asia, but this morning Humor was not my companion. Perhaps I'd just been on too many flights lately. I'd seen everything on the movie channel including The King's Speech and The Tourist. Lunch failed to tempt me and I couldn't even sleep.

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FROM AIRPLANE TO GALLERY

Almost straight from NAIA, I headed to the office and as soon as I had put my bag down on my desk, I was off again, this time to visit my friend Jonathan Sy, owner of Gallery Big and organizer of the very successful Manilart for the past two years. I wanted to discuss the Alcuaz paintings and also see what new paintings he had on display since I'd been in the mood for art since the weekend. He had a couple of gallery owner and collector friends over, so we had a discussion of sorts about Alcuaz before I looked around his gallery.

"Be careful when buying artworks of Philippine masters," he reminded me. "Too many fakes around." Jon is one of the few people who can tell with certainty whether a work for sale is a fake. It's really amazing. And, in the case of an Alcuaz, if even he's not sure, he'll recommend the next step, which is to ask Alcuaz's son.

"If he says it's authentic, then that's pretty much your guarantee," he said, referring to Alcuaz's son.

IVAN ACUNA ON THE HOT LIST

Right now, Jon has a beautiful and large Manansala charcoal on display that I really loved but I just didn't know where to put it in my house. "Try the bedroom or the study," Jon suggested, but somehow it just didn't seem right. A really powerful Ivan Acuna with all sorts of colors also caught my eye, although I wasn't seriously considering buying it at this point since I'd just acquired two Ivans a few weeks ago. I tried to suggest trading in one of my new ones for his, but Jon just smiled at me and shook his head. The Ivan he had was really beautiful and he was extremely confident he would unload this very quickly, so he wasn't going to do any trading with me.

"Ivan's really popular now," he said. "I just sold a large one the other day. Everyone likes him. And even hotels are buying him up. "

I'd just visited Ivan at his penthouse studio at the Fort a few weeks ago, where he'd showed me his priceless Ming Dynasty porcelain and his collection of tribal figurines. I'd gone to pick up my two paintings from him myself, and we'd ended up having a long chat in his studio, which he'd fixed up himself to look like the elegant salon of an Italian palazzo -- the kind that's a mix and match of interiors but that looks effortlessly put together. (To read about my visit to Ivan's studio, click here)

Well, I could've gone on talking about art with Jon and his friends for the rest of the day. Unfortunately I had to leave after about 45 minutes of art chitchat, promising to return. Work was calling so art had to be put on hold for another day.


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Angel Aquino in Bora
for Travelife Magazine's April-May 2011 issue


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