The Arts

Ronald Ventura

Photo Courtesy of Ronald Ventura

An auction superstar and contemporary visual artist, Ronald Ventura who commands the art world’s attention through Filipino pop culture references

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The artist Ronald Ventura has won many awards, but his most notable recognition might be in breaking through the competitive, traditionally snobbish international art scene. In 2011, his painting Grayground sold for US$1million at the Sotheby’s Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asian Paintings auction in Hong Kong. This is the most that any Southeast Asian work has gone for from a modern, living artist—one who continues to live and work in the Philippines. Ventura dishes out a whiff of his Manila culture, pleasant or not, in his art, with his signature strokes: a mix of realism with graffiti, cartoons and religious iconography. From the Third World, he projects the human condition as though it were high-definition animation, and the First World pays to view it on demand. He has participated in the 2009 Prague Biennale.

The Malabon-raised artist cites Human Study, which won the Ateneo Art Awards in 2005, as his breakthrough piece. He earned a prestigious studio residency grant in Australia through the award. The work eventually sold for US$700,000 in Sotheby’s Hong Kong in 2018 but his 2017 piece, Party Animal, has trumped that, selling for US$2 million at Christie’s this year.

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Ronald Ventura, who calls all his pieces a work in progress, has caught up with stagnant paintings from five years ago because of this long pandemic lockdown. In 2020, he showed alongside National Artist BenCab at contemporary art gallery, Secret Fresh. It was a playful juxtaposition of the works of two respected artists from different generations, portraying Filipino day-to-day in their art. Ventura has also completed a new series called Paradise, which is partly a carnival of horrors and a commentary on modern reality.

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