We stood before a big white canvas with a messy black splotch in the middle… we were all awed before it because it had been purchased for an unspeakable sum. Actually, everything in that house was purchased for unspeakable sums so it was just another purchase during a leisurely afternoon. The more august among us murmured expressions of comprehension, appreciation, and delight. Needless to say, I wasn’t one of them. I wanted to go down and back to the living room where there was more foie gras and more Dom Perignon served by the waiters and big bags of potato chips secreted inside the magnificent Batangas I altar table.
“I have never pretended to be an art connoisseur and I’m certainly not going to start now… So what’s this all about???” I looked up and down and left and right and just couldn’t “get it.”
The rest of the company, who were good friends of mine anyway, stared incredulously at me and broke out in guffaws and giggles…
In truly “top-out-of-sight” Manila — the Manila of the Roxas-de Ayala-Zobel-Soriano, the Tuason-Legarda-Prieto-Valdes, the Roxas-Zaragoza-Araneta-O, the Ortigas, the Aboitiz, and now of course the monosyllabic Chinoy ultrarich the Sy, Tan, Go, Tiu, Que Pe, et. al. — a painting by their “primo” Fernando Zobel in one’s home, usually in the living room, is a sign of one’s belonging in that special world. You see, you just cannot walk into a Manila art gallery and buy a Fernando Zobel. Not only will you need the $$$ megabucks, you will need the stratospheric social connections to pull it off. If you bought one and didn’t need either, then you bought a fake, darling.