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Pieces by Fernando Zóbel, José Joya, and Yunizar were among some of the coveted works of art in this year’s Art Fair Philippines.

2023’s Art Fair Philippines officially opened its doors to the public on February 17. Large crowds of both foreign and local art appreciators took part in the event’s first day. Most exhibited pieces were available for purchase, with some being sold for millions of pesos or thousands of U.S. dollars. Among them were the works of acclaimed Filipino artists Fernando Zóbel and José Joya, who are both known for their abstract expressionist styles. Foreign artists like Yunizar—who hails from Indonesia—also had a number of valuable pieces for sale. 

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A wide range of factors can affect the price of a piece of art. Usually, an artist’s fame and prestige takes precedence, but other qualities can also shift market prices. These include a piece’s scarcity, authenticity, subject matter, size, style, condition, provenance, and technique. All these factors work in tandem to determine a piece’s monetary value. 

For those curious, below is a list of just some of the fair’s sought-after works. 

La Piedra Del Caballo II (1975) by Fernando Zóbel

Fernando Zóbel was both a businessman and painter, who’s known for his abstract expressionist work. He hosted his first solo show at the Sala Nebli in Spain, and would continue to participate in a number of prestigious awards and exhibitions throughout his life—including the 31st Venice Biennale. A selection of his works were exhibited by León Gallery at the fair, the most valuable one being La Piedra Del Caballo II. The signed work measures 122 x 152 centimeters and was created with oil on canvas. 

La Piedra Del Caballo II (right-most painting). Photo via Pilar Gonzalez, courtesy of León Gallery.

Blue Harbor (1966) by José Joya

León Gallery also exhibited works by José Joya, who like Zóbel, was a Filipino artist recognized for his abstract expressionist style and strong influence in the local art scene. Joya also participated in the Venice Biennale, having been the first Philippine representative in its 32nd year. His piece entitled Blue Harbor was one of the most coveted among his other works which were also showcased. The oil on wood piece measures 81 x 122 centimeters, and features the artist’s signature on its lower-right side.  

Joya’s Blue Harbor. Photo via Pilar Gonzalez, courtesy of León Gallery.

Rooster (2019) by Yunizar 

Gajah Gallery exhibited works by Indonesian artist Yunizar in the “Projects” section of the fair’s roofdeck. The artist is a co-founder of Kelompok Seni Rupa Jendela, which is one of Indonesia’s best-known contemporary art collectives. He is widely recognized for the childlike naïveté present in his visual style, which has garnered him international recognition and cemented his place within Indonesia’s art scene. The most valuable piece in his collection, entitled “Rooster,” is a cast-bronze sculpture that is 216 x 162 x 60 centimeters in dimension. 

Yunizar’s Rooster. Photo via Pilar Gonzalez, courtesy of Gajah Gallery.

Below is a description on this particular piece, courtesy of Gajah Gallery:

Roosters hold a specific significance in Southeast Asia, especially in the Indonesian social context, as a loved pet and prized possession. Its crowing punctuates time in villages. The act of championing, caring, and breeding has become an integral part of many of our local traditions. Its image is ubiquitous, adorning everyday objects, from bowls, food brands, textiles to coin-banks. 
Yunizar’s Rooster sculpture is rendered in the same naivete and iconic way as the ones in his painting. The size does not follow its realistic proportion; instead, it is blown up monumentally to occupy the space. In line with Yunizar’s unpretentious paintings that evoke the sense of locality and vernacularism, the Rooster transports the audience’s mind into Yunizar’s everyday reality.

Night Walker (2002) by Yoshitomo Nara 

Gallery Scena, which is based in Tokyo, featured a piece by renowned Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara in the fair. Nara is known as a pioneer in contemporary art, with his unique drawings of children displaying a wide range of nuanced emotions. A graduate of Aichi University of the Arts, Nara then pursued further studies at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf before putting down roots in Cologne, Germany. The coveted exhibition piece, entitled Night Walker, is a 29.5 x 22.5 centimeter signed print created with etching, aquatint, and colored drypoint on wove paper. 

Nara’s Night Walker. Photo via Pilar Gonzalez, courtesy of Gallery Scena.

Silhouette No.15 (1974) by Alfredo Liongoren

Liongoren Gallery featured works by the late founder Norma Liongoren’s husband, Alfredo Liongoren (who has also since passed). Their daughter, Hannah Liongoren, was gracious enough to give me some background on her late father and his influence on the local art scene. 

As it happens, Alfredo was a direct mentee of José Joya, making him one of the country’s early abstractionists. So it’s no wonder that among the fair’s valuable pieces is a seminal work of his entitled Silhouette No.15. The mixed media piece measures 81.4 x 60.5 centimeters, and was featured (alongside Joya’s work) in The Struggle for Philippine Art, a prominent art history book written by Purita Kalaw-Ledesma and Amadis Ma. Guerrero. 

Liongoren’s Silhouette No.15. Photo via Pilar Gonzalez, courtesy of Liongoren Gallery.

Of course, the monetary value of a piece doesn’t determine its inherent value. While they do often go hand in hand, the old adage holds true: beauty is in the eye of the beholder. That being said, one can understand why the works featured are prized so highly, as the care and technique put into them do shine through. 

Art Fair PH will be open from February 17 to 19, from 9:00 am to 10:00 pm. The event is being held at Ayala’s The Link in Makati. For tickets and more information, you may visit the fair’s official website.  

Banner via Pilar Gonzalez, courtesy of Gajah Gallery.