Fundacion Sansó: On collectors, scholarships, and forgeries

AS FUNDACION Sansó mounts its yearend exhibition, it continues to strengthen its efforts to help art scholars as well as fighting art forgeries.

The museum’s yearend exhibit, “Sansó: Prized and Personal – Largesse,” explores the many concepts of generosity through the works in three private collections of Juvenal Sansó’s art. The exhibit runs until Jan. 7, 2023 at Fundacion Sansó.

Juvenal Sansó was born inReus, Catalonia, Spain. In 1934, his family moved to Manila where they established a wrought-iron business. In the 1950s, he pursued art studies in Europe, at the Academia di Belle Arti in Rome, after establishing residence in Paris. He also enrolled at L’ Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts. Among his most recognized works are paintings of flowers and his Brittany coast series. He has, among other accolades, received the Presidential Medal of Merit (2005) and The Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (2008).

The “Prized and Personal” series of exhibits focuses on Mr. Sansó’s artworks owned by collectors.

The final leg of series for 2022 features selections from the collections of Christopher “Pepper” Teehankee, Jeffrey V. Dayrit, Jr., and Collecion Cordelero. The 30 works in the exhibit range from miniatures to rare oil-on-canvas pieces.

The exhibit, which opened on Mr. Sansó’s 93rd birthday on Nov. 23, explores different interpretations of generosity.

THE COLLECTIONSJournalist Pepper Teehankee has a close friendship with the artist, meeting up for lunch, enjoying long chats on the phone, and visits to the artist’s former studio in Paris.

The Teehankee collection of 15 Sansó works is a delightful assortment of “Sansó Petites” — miniature paintings of florals, vegetation, and the smallest of the Brittany seascapes in ornately carved frames. The focal point of the collection is an ostrich egg painted with a Sansó flower. These pieces were given to Mr. Teehankee as gifts.

TheCollecion Cordelero and the Jeffrey V. Dayrit, Jr. collection highlights Filipino-themed pieces painted the 1960s — the decade when the artist was most active. The works include the Barong-barong and Baklad (fish trap) series, and images of bamboo and local herbs.

“A lot of Filipinos do not think of him as a Filipino artist even though he was here [since the 1930s] and basically, came back to stay and retire here,” Fundacion Sansó’s museum director and curator Ricky Francisco said during a media dinner on Nov. 24 at the museum in San Juan City.

GIVING BACKPart of the artist’s intentions in establishing Fundacion Sansó was to provide scholarships for art students and other creatives. When he was a student in Paris in the 1940s, he received a stipend for his art education abroad; still, he struggled to have enough money for his needs and art materials.

“Being a student in Paris right after the war, there was a limitation on how many dollars you could get out of the Philippines. At that time, you were only allowed $100 per month. He had the hard time trying to balance his needs for art and surviving,” Mr. Francisco said.

The foundation interpreted Mr. Sansó’s wish to help young artists through the Fundacion Sansó Fine Arts Student Stipend, launched in 2016.

This program provides a monthly stipend to select students, covering the purchase of their art supplies and other needs for their studies. The stipend currently supports its third batch of scholars from the Bulacan State University(BulSU) under the Fine Arts program. It has benefited 22 scholars in total. Eleven scholars have graduated from the previous batches.

Students eligible for the stipend must be at least on their second year in the Fine Arts program. Four to six scholars are accepted annually.

“We ask the teachers who they think are really into art and need help. They give us a short list. We interview the students one on one,” said Mr. Francisco.

“[The stipend] is not an academic grant,” he added. As long as the student does not shift [programs] or is removed from it, the stipend continues.

In October 2020, the scholars entered an art competition, Premio Sansó, at Fundacion Sansó. After a period of mentorship, the winners were featured in an exhibition at Galerie Stephanie in June 2021. The second edition of the art competition was held in October this year.

EFFORTS TO FIGHT FORGERIESLike much of the art world, Fundacion Sansó has had to deal with the proliferation of fake artworks.

Mr. Francisco said that art buyers have visited them only to be informed that they had been sold a forgery.

“Forgers will want you to buy their art so they will tell you convincing stories of how they got the artwork and often sell you the artwork at a relatively lower price,” he said.

To address the problem, the foundation launched its authentication service in 2015.

“We have a panel of people who worked with Mr. Sansó throughout his career. We do not issue an authentication paper if there is no unanimous decision among the panel,” Mr. Francisco explained.

The works that are proven to be forgeries are surrendered to the foundation.

Most of the forged Sansó artworks, Mr. Francisco said, are landscapes. “They are usually simplified versions of the series in Brittany and copied from the official website,” he said.

While showing an example of a fake, Mr. Francisco clarified that Mr. Sansó does not take photos with his painting — some of the forged paintings they have seen have a photo attached at the back of the canvas of the artist holding the frame of the artwork. Other forgeries merge two original paintings in one canvas.

For authentication services, the owner brings the painting to the museum and fills up a form. They are then advised of the cost of appraisal based on the size of the work, and pay the initial non-refundable processing fee. The work is shown to the panel for deliberation. The owner is then contacted by Fundacion Sansó to retrieve the work and the certificate of authentication and pay the remainder of the authentication fee. The entire process often takes around two weeks, depending on how quickly the panel is convened.

The fees go to operating the museum and administering its art scholarships.

The Fundacion Sansó Certificate of Authenticity includes security features such as randomly numbered holographic stickers which are paired between the artwork and the certificate, microtext, and UV-ink stamps.

Fundacion Sansó also regularly updates collectors on counterfeits circulating in the market through its social media accounts. Late last year, an ad hoc body was created with the families of important artists to exchange information on errant agents and galleries.

It is currently working with a team of lawyers to start a more aggressive campaign to enforce the copyright and various intellectual rights, and collectors’ protection.

“We also started with NFTs with the hope of getting into blockchain technology for our certificates of authenticity so that the provenance is easier to trace over the years,” Mr. Francisco said.

For more information, contact Fundacion Sansó at Like @FUNDACIONSANS0 on Facebook and follow @fundacion_sanso on Instagram. Visit Fundacion Sansó at 32 V. Cruz, San Juan City. Museum hours are from Monday to Friday (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.). It is closed on weekends and holidays. — Michelle Anne P. Soliman

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