Collector José Mari Treñas’ top 5 from Leon auction



A taste for the extraordinary is in this lawyer’s DNA—you can tell from his picks from this June’s Spectacular Mid-Year Auction

ANCX Staff | May 30 2022

With the forthcoming León Gallery Spectacular Mid-Year Auction brimming with earthly delights, we turned to the connoisseur par excellence, Jose Maria Treñas for his wishlist.

The wide spectrum of Jo Mari’s interests makes him one of Manila’s great ‘omnivorous’ collectors, and excellent spirit guide to the best and brightest to collect in all kinds of art. A lawyer by profession and a boardroom warrior by practice — he says “It keeps my left brain busy”—Treñas admits that his ‘real love’ is art. It’s an obsession that has led him to develop one of the most complex, certainly one of the finest collections of the Philippines’ greatest artists and antiquities.

Treasures from Treñas’ collection—early modernist works, pre-Spanish gold, colonial ivory, furniture and jewelry— too many to mention in one breath—have been on loan to the Ayala Museum as well as to the BOZAR (the National Museum of Belgium ) in Brussels, and the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris. He has also contributed scholarly monographs to various catalogs here and abroad. A taste for the extraordinary is in his DNA, from his mother who collected Ang Kiukok, in a direct line from his forebears from Antique who were important landowners in the 1800s.

Here is his short list:

Lot 59. Poinsettia Girl by Victorio Edades
Lot 59. Poinsettia Girl by Victorio Edades

Lot 59 Victorio Edades, Poinsettia Girl

Signed and dated 1976 (lower right), oil on wood board, 28″ x 24″ (71 cm x 61 cm)

“One of the perks of collecting at an early age was being able to meet many of the 13 Moderns—including the man who started it all: Victorio Edades, who liked to be called ‘Uncle Vic.’ By the time he painted ‘Poinsettia Girl’, he was comfortable in his own skin, no longer the angry young man of Modern Art. He painted in this period strictly for his pleasure. I would go visit him in his house every time the office would send me to Davao.”

Lot 75. Carnival Forms by Arturo Luz
Lot 75. Carnival Forms by Arturo Luz

Lot 75 Arturo Luz, Carnival Forms

Dated 1958, enamel on canvas, 22″ x 24″ (56 cm x 61 cm)

“This is exciting. It’s from the Philippine Art Gallery (PAG), the primordial source of abstract Filipino art—and it’s from Arturo Luz’ ‘Golden Period.’ This Luz is important because it is a significant shift from his early period of figurative painting into straight abstraction. The color and simple lines evoke the Philippine carnaval, a happy interlude in everyone’s childhood. There’s also something about this work that makes me think of Paul Klee.”

Lot 37. An Archaic Hagabi from Kiangan, Ifugao
Lot 37. An Archaic Hagabi from Kiangan, Ifugao

Lot 37 The Hagabi

19th century, narra wood with native repair; length: 4 meters/13 feet 2 inches; height from floor to highest peak of the center; bench: 19″ (48 cm); width of bench at widest point: 48 cm

I’ve been a collector of Filipino tribal art for a very long time. At one point, I had the privilege of paying the highest price ever for a single ‘bulul’. Everyone else at the time thought I was crazy, but you can see how Filipino pre-colonial art is coming into its own today. Tribal art also goes wonderfully with modern art in contemporary homes. It has strong, simple geometric lines—and the gravitas. This Hagabi has an impeccable provenance: Beyer is a seminal figure in Philippine tribal art. It also has a strong archaic and hieratic or very spiritual presence.”

Lot 80. Peace & Plenty by Nina Saguil
Lot 80. Peace & Plenty by Nina Saguil

Lot 80 Nena Saguil, Peace & Plenty

Signed and dated 1950 (lower left), oil on board, 25 1/2″ x 19 1/2″ (65 cm x 50 cm)

“I reckon Nina Saguil is probably the most under-appreciated of the important modernists.” ‘Peace & Plenty’ belongs to the period when she was making her way into the world of Filipino modern art. You might say this is a kind of calling card, as she made her entry into the PAG. It’s also a period beloved by collectors. This work interprets the Filipino countryside that features the influence of her mentors: Edades’ solid figures and Botong’s color palette but all done with her perspective.”

Lot 48. 'Analogy' (B) by Hernando R. Ocampo
Lot 48. Analogy (B) by Hernando R. Ocampo

Lot 48 HR Ocampo, Analogy B

Signed and dated 1969 (lower left and verso), oil on canvas, 32″ x 24″ (81 cm x 61 cm)

“Let’s face it: HR Ocampo’s crowning achievement was ‘Genesis’, the tapestry of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. This work is from that same period. It’s just gorgeous. The HR’s horizontal emphasis reminds me of Rothko’s color blocks.”

Lot 66. Madonna No.  2 by Vicente Manansala
Lot 66. Madonna No. 2 by Vicente Manansala

Lot 66 Vicente Manansala, Madonna No.2

Signed and dated 1970 (upper right), oil on canvas, 21 1/2″ x 28 1/2″ (55 cm x 72 cm)

“I’m going to add one more work because the Manansala is irresistible. Once again, I had the great honor of getting to know Mang Enteng, because Eric Torres of the Ateneo Art Gallery had taken me under his wing and taken me everywhere. These trips to Manansala taught me one of my first lessons as a collector: Know what you like but also be open to possibilities—and be ready to grab them when they present themselves.”

Images courtesy of Leon Gallery



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