Arts & Culture

Would You Pay P280,000 for This Work of Art?

The work is called “Veneration of the Lie (Sleeping Mughambi).” It looks like a dead cockroach.

It looks like a dead cockroach to me, lying on its back in a circle of white. 

But the transparent box it’s displayed in has the words painted on it: 

:It’s an exceedingly rare Mughambi
Beetle. It grows to a length of 7 feet,
and weights close to 800 pounds.,
:Then we had better get it a bigger,
stronger, box.,” 

The work is called “Veneration of the Lie (Sleeping Mughambi)” and is described “ as a Literary Hybrid: Text/Object Composite in Acrylic Vitrine by Cesare A.X. Syjuco.

Its price? P280,000, which some may consider a bargain compared to many other works at Art Fair Philippines, now ongoing through March 4 at The Link, Makati.

When asked to explain his work, Syjuco says via his daughter, Michelline, “My work is about the power of words to transform anything into the level of art.”

Cesare is an award-winning artist, painter, art critic, and poet. He hasn’t been seen in public “for a few years” now, and is “room-ridden,” says Michelline, also an artist.

Why? I ask.

“He said he’s just shy,” she replies. “My Dad likes his solitude, being alone with his thoughts. He thinks a lot.”

Cesare, his wife Jean Marie, and their stunningly attractive children, Michelline, Maxine, Beatrix, Julian, and A.G., are all participating in this year’s Art Fair. They are represented by their family’s gallery, ART LAB: Atelier Cesare and Jean Marie Syjuco.

Each of the family members has his or her own style. Cesare is exhibiting four vitrines as well as his abstract paintings. Jean Marie’s “Enigma” series is made up of geometric patterns, Michelline paints delicate floralscapes shrouded in fabric, Maxine creates ethereal headless creatures with angel wings. Julian paints textured planet-like orbs, while Vancouver-based Beatrix, a performance artist, also shows some of her abstract works. One of her recent works, a triptych, appears on this season’s X-Files television show.


Julian, Maxine, Jean Marie, and Michelline Syjuco

Meanwhile, Maxine, Julian, and A.G. also have a rock band whose recent album “Jack of None” has been nominated for eight awards at the Independent Music Awards to be held at the end of the month at Lincoln Center in New York. In one corner of the booth you can listen to their hypnotic soundtrack. Warning: The album is labeled with a parental advisory for its explicit content.

Cesare’s varied awards include the Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Philippines distinction, the Gawad CCP in Visual Arts from the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the UNESCO Paris Gold Medals for Photography and Design, among others.

He has also won a Palanca award for Poetry in English, and was awarded the first Purita Kalaw Ledesma Award for art criticism.

As of this writing, the dead cockroach has not been sold.

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Yvette Fernandez
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