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As the global lockdown cuts an essential piece of the art buying experience, curators and galleries are faced with a test on effective presentations for the business continuity of a high-value industry—are they prepared for it?

With the digital landscape offering a haven of opportunities for many business sectors to survive, the art industry willingly joins in the new age solution in combating the monetary consequences of human isolation. An in-depth study by Harper’s Bazaar report that the art industry was valued at $67 billion back in November 2019 (based largely in North America spending). But it may be too early to draw conclusions on the results of any country’s financial fallout. So far, digital exhibits and online auctions have proven that many patrons continue to support the art scene. In fact, it has only given more avenues for its many newly interested viewers to learn and participate in the seemingly exclusive conversations on the arts. For many, the process though was quick and efficient.

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Jaime Ponce de Leon.

Overcoming the Impacts of the Pandemic

“Like the rest of the world, the initial reaction was disbelief. The word ‘pandemic’ was definitely not in anyone’s vocabulary,” explains Jaime Ponce de Leon, León Gallery director. “Slowly, we also realized—that entirely by God’s grace—León Gallery had begun to build an online infrastructure three years ago. So we had been able to painstakingly test-run and tweak a proprietary system over several auctions and this has proved to be a very important tool in coping with the situation.” This paved the way for more events to continue as planned albeit several changes had to be made.

“As a result, we were able to press on with ‘The Summer Auction’, featuring guest-curators Pepito Albert, Jonathan Matti, and Mark Wilson. It had been originally set for March 25 which would have been 10 days after the lockdown. We postponed it to April 25th. It had always been planned as a special online auction. We have a regular online auction, called León Exchange, every quarter. This would have been a special one and judging from the results, it did very very well. The curators were happy, the collectors and buyers were happy. Then at the end of May, we have the León Exchange Edition 15, which was also warmly received.”

MARK JUSTINIANI (b. 1966)
Spectator
signed and dated 2013
oil on canvas
57” x 90” (145 cm x 228.5cm)
BETSY WESTENDORP (b. 1927)
Kakawate Tree in Tagaytay
signed and dated 1997 (lower right)
oil on canvas
38” x 51” (97 cm x 130 cm)

Painting a Picture of an Optimistic Future

As a testament to the enduring spirit of the industry, Jaime confirms that there is a sustained influx of in-demand pieces. “We’ve been privileged to offer very covetable works of the highest quality,” he assures. “We’d like to assume so, however it seems, that the Viber group auctions are still as strong and sales of independent dealers have remained the same. And yes, since there is nothing else to do at home, they tend to entertain themselves by buying art.” Perhaps the world has not come to a standstill as most would assume. Even without the essential human interactions that make art appreciation a rewarding experience, connoisseurs, and enthusiasts found themselves constantly evolving with the industry they adore.

Expressing an encouraging optimism towards a new age post-COVID, Jaime seems unfazed and all the more hopeful. As artists find more ways of evolving the craft, so do the curators that promote their masterpieces. The signs of the times demand a change in methodologies. For León Gallery, it is a welcome challenge to serve an extremely discerning and loyal set of clientele that keep the world of art continuously revolving. How significant the change needed will be is only limited by a question of how determined a gallery is to adapt and survive. But for Jaime and his team, continued excellence amidst seeming adversity is ingrained. He agrees, “I think the same things that contribute to success apply in these times—if not more so. That would be the ability to keep the highest standards of service to our collectors and clientele.”

MARINA CRUZ (b. 1982)
Red Blue and White Stripes Swimming Amongst the White Circles
signed and dated 2018 (lower right)
oil on canvas
65” x 60” (165 cm x 152 cm)

The León Gallery is located at G/F Eurovilla 1, Rufino corner Legazpi Street, Legazpi Village, Makati City. For inquiries, you can visit their website at www.leon-gallery.com, email at [email protected], or call +632 856 27 81

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