IN times of great uncertainty such as these, flowers provide a welcome respite, and one of the Philippine art world’s most respected names, Betsy Westendorp, provides just that in an exhibition by Salcedo Private View, the gallery and private sale arm of Salcedo Auctions.
Called Intimacies, the exhibit features 16 floral paintings in oil, mostly in small-scale. According to a release, the paintings span the 1970s to the present day. The same release provides a reason for the exhibit’s title: “The works featured in Intimacies present a different side to the decorated artist. Smaller than Westendorp’s usual mural-sized works, the oil paintings are quieter and possess an almost meditative quality — hence the title of the show.”
The exhibit, which opened on the fourth of July, is part of the 10th anniversary celebration of Salcedo Auctions. It will run until Aug. 4, and can be viewed both online and in real life at Salcedo’s galleries. Richie Lerma, director of Salcedo Auctions said during the opening (held via Zoom), “Given the social climate nowadays, we seek to continue to commemorate our 10th anniversary with the appropriate programs. Instead of doing one event that seeks to commemorate the 10th anniversary, we would like to do it more — and I suppose this alludes to the exhibition — intimately, in keeping with the spirit of the times.”
“Many of course will ask why,” he said. “Besides of course her obvious renown, I would always like to think that especially this year, and it’s particularly significant — we seek to exhibit… works that we believe exhibit authenticity and sincerity.”
Alluding to the importance of art in such uncertain times, he continued: “One theme that I would like to bring to the fore is the idea of art being able to bring us together. What I like about the works that we are seeing here, all together… are the different narratives that the paintings show.”
He quoted Kahlil Gibran: ‘Be like the flower. Turn your face towards the sun.”
“These works, much like the flowers, will inspire us to look towards the sun, and hope for brighter days ahead,” he said.
It is appropriate then that aside from Ms. Westendorp’s flowers, two other paintings by her (not for sale) are on loan from the Rocha family to accompany the flowers: two scenes of the sun breaking through clouds at different times of the day.
Ms. Westendorp has had an international career spanning decades. Primarily known for large-scale works and her portraits, Ms. Westendorp has had the distinction of painting the Spanish Royal Family. She is recognized accordingly: Westendorp was bestowed the honor of the Presidential Medal of Merit for Art and Culture by former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, as well as the Lazo de Dama de la Orden de Isabel la Catolica by the former King of Spain Juan Carlos de Borbon. Pictures flashed during the exhibit’s vernissage showed the artist with the likes of the Spanish royal family while she painted the Infantas, while another showed her meeting Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. The convergence of her two worlds are seen in the paintings on exhibit: while a number of them are of tropical flowers and orchids, poppies from her native Spain also make an appearance.
The intimacy of the setting — an online exhibit viewed through a computer screen at one’s home, while classical music plays in the background — opens up new avenues for appreciation. A normal physical opening would have had an evening of wine, while everybody waited their turn to speak to either one of the gallerists or the artist. In the online setting, Mr. Lerma was able to explain the significance of the works in depth, as well as give people not normally given access to Ms. Westendorp the chance to hear her speak. For example, Mr. Lerma pointed to the flowers not just for their aesthetic value, but also for their connection to the historical tradition of Flemish floral paintings in the 17th century. “The root of these still-lifes were commentary regarding the transitory nature of life, and how things that will decay or that will eventually disappear are made everlasting.”
Ms. Westendorp was asked about when she started painting, and answered that she was about 14 when she began to paint portraits of her family, beginning with her brother. She also noted that, “People don’t like to sit. Whenever I was going to paint them, they would always find something important that they have to do.”
Asked about continuing the format of the virtual opening, Mr. Lerma said, “It’s a possibility. I think we’re making the online format and these gatherings more and more regular. If this is a way for us to be able to speak with more people and to talk about the works, I’m certainly happy to do more of it.”
Ms. Westendorp, for her part, said, “From here, I say hello, to all those people who had the time to spend sitting for me.”
Intimacies by Betsy Westendorp is co-presented by Prestige Real Estate Purveyor List | Sotheby’s International Realty and Salcedo’s 10th Anniversary Partner HSBC Premier. One can access the exhibit through salcedoauctions.com/private-view. — Joseph L. Garcia