Walk This Way: Why Every Auction Needs A Walk Through
One of my favorite TV shows has a high-ranking government official ride up an elevator in the morning. As the doors ding open, the first thing she sees is her secretary. He’s been waiting outside the elevator doors all this time like a National Geographic photographer waiting for a white lion. It’s maybe twenty steps to her office, in which time, he’s already walked her through her day, literally and figuratively. In those twenty steps, she’s equipped to face the day’s little wars and put out all the fires; she’s ready to face the Chinese Ambassador, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, and the Dalai Lama.
I’m writing this to illustrate the beauty of a walk-through because I just went to one. It wasn’t for a play, or to arm myself for a game of political chess. I went to a walk-through for an auction.
This walk -through was for Salcedo Auctions, and came ahead of “History,” their event this Saturday, during which all manners of collectible Philippine furniture will be up for bidding—among them, cabinets, comodas, butaca chairs, and imported marble-topped console tables. This vernissage, if you will, was called “Cabinet Meeting: appreciating collectible Philippine furniture.” It was served with afternoon tea, assorted finger food, and a full-blown walk-through.
Led by furniture specialist Elemeterio Fulgencio—“Jun” to friends and Philippine butaca chair aficionados, the walk-through was a lush and ornate history lesson—just like the carvings on the cabinet doors. He could tell us where in the country a cabinet was made based on its design, door carvings, and finishing details.
The one with lintel-like ropes, and intricate leaf carvings was a Nuguid, one of the leading figures of the Betis Baroque Movement in Pampanga. Why Betis? Because this was one of the towns where the Chinese migrated after the Sangley Rebellion; they were woodcarvers, masons, carpenters and laborers who taught their craft to the local residents. I told you: history.
There’s so much depth and design to our furniture that Jun was prone to sweeping his hands on comodo tops, as though contemplating the history of each piece. At some point, a guest commented: “You know you’re a serious collector when you caress the wood like a wife.” Jun didn’t disagree.
After the walk-through, I asked Jun which pieces he would bid for if he were to participate in the auction, and he led me to a comoda from Laguna. It’s a Narra piece with a Moorish shield carved on each door—curling branches are etched above each shield, and are laden with cashew fruits and nuts (this revealed its Laguna roots, since the province was a big producer of cashews). He also showed me a marble-topped console made by Austrian furniture-maker Michael Thonet, which was imported to the Philippines at the turn of the Twentieth century when furniture from Vienna was all the craze in the country (now it’s Ikea. Tsk.).
The auction this Saturday involves more than just furniture but also paintings, busts, sculptures, mid-century glasswork, lamps and sconces. It’s important to mention that the walk-through wouldn’t have been as appealing as it was without the curation of Devi de Veyra, who matched each piece of furniture with other auction items that went organically with it, transforming the auction house into an interior designer’s dream living room. Baroque candelabras rested on Thonet’s marble-topped console, while the painting of a Filipina beauty by Amorsolo hovered above both pieces in a gilt frame. White plaster busts by Anastacio Cado were strategically placed on Nuguid’s comoda, where the whiteness of the plaster went with the darkness of the wood.
It took a walk-through to appreciate our richness of our past, and the only thing more beautiful than the items on display was all the history behind it.
For me, and for a lot of guests that afternoon, this is their highest selling point.
Marble top Rococo Lansena
Thonet Marble Top
Vicente Rivera y Mir
Catch the History auction at Three Salcedo Place this Saturday, June 2, 2018, at 3 pm.