Arts & Culture

Buy Art With Your Eyes, Not With Your Ears, the Country's Top Collectors Say

Seasoned purveyors gathered for the Collectors Cocktails hosted by Town&Country and Globe Platinum. Here's what we learned from them.

After ending the first of many days at Art Fair Philippines, the country’s top art collectors converged on the Mireio rooftop terrace at the Raffles Makati, just down the street from The Link. 

There, conversations flowed over nibbles and drinks at the Collectors Cocktails hosted by Town&Country and Globe Platinum, and we listened in.

One of the main takeaways of the night? Buy with your eyes, not with your ears. This is something many of the seasoned collectors adhere to. Newer art buyers tend to look at who’s hot in art and think of investing in big names on the scene. This a serious mistake, according to a number of collectors.

“Now, they don’t even look at what they’re buying, they just buy for the name,”  says Paulino Que, who’s been in the game since the ‘70s. 

“Don’t look at it as an investment; it’s food for your soul,” adds Mike Tomacruz. “Once you start looking at it as an investment, it destroys the art.”

Even if you’re buying a work of art as a form of investment, however, you should at least like it, according to John Russell.

For Jun Jun Lopez, art is accompanied by emotion. He says of the ideal artwork: “When you see it, you will feel something. You will really like it or it will mean something to you.” On art as investment, he says,“Tsamba nalang 'yan.”

Rico Quimbo adds to this point, saying, "For me, it has to be love at first sight. If you don't fall for it, you're buying the artwork for the wrong reason. You're buying it for value, which for me, is not fun." The collector sees art as a reflection of real life. "It's not just about creativity, it's about society and humanity's general situation. It tells us a lot about where we human beings are headed toward." 


Before buying, these collectors suggest that you educate yourself a little first. Olivia Yao advises the new collectors to take time to learn. “It’s easy to buy once you know what you want,” she says. “It’s also a process of self-discovery. What you like now might change in five years. Spent the time to read, visit exhibits and museums, and learn to appreciate art.”

Russell abides by this rule, too. “If I happen to like it, I buy it. It doesn't have to be expensive, it just has to be something I like. Maybe my taste will change as I get older but the fundamental thing is I have to like it.”

Louie Bate weighs in on building a collection and training the eye for art. "When we all started, we didn’t desire to be collectors. We only desired to buy art and soon enough we had a collection. It never hit us until we started hanging our works," he says. He also warns of the dangers of impulse buying, "Often, people say, ‘Buy what you like,’ but I think that’s only half the statement. Educate yourself and then buy. You will realize that what you buy on impulse is not something you will collect in the end."

The practice of collecting art can be competitive. A renowned collector, Que shares a little secret to getting the best pieces by an artist. “When you buy for the artist’s name, you can’t get the best piece, because the best piece will always be bought by someone else. When you buy from new artists, you’ll be the first to discover them so you get the best of his work.”

Rico Quimbo recommends the works of Nicole Tee, Brisa Amir, and Pinky Umaza.

The bigger and better Art Fair this year pleased many of these loyal visitors. Tomacruz makes it a point to visit the foreign galleries like ARNDT and Yavuz since it’s always a treat to see what the foreign galleries are offering. He bought a few pieces from a young Indonesian artist this year.


Lopez, on the other hand, chooses to buy from local artists because of the ease of access. 

Yao, who’s been collecting for 20 years, says the bigger space is more conducive for browsing through the galleries. She also says the Daniel de la Cruz exhibit was “quite impressive” and “very engaging.” “I thought Plet Bolipata’s special exhibition was also very interesting. It’s whimsical and [reflects] her personality,” she muses. A painting by Nena Saguil at the Leon Gallery also caught this collector’s eye.

Many of these collectors never intended to build a collection. Lopez only started after his brother introduced him to art. Russell thinks it was plain “serendipity” that led him to it. However these art enthusiasts began their collections, they push for the idea to buy art that personally speaks to you.

Hetty and Paulino Que

Ethel Go, Christine Ong, Stella Que, Olivia Yao, and Rosie Uy

Mike and Michelle Tomacruz with Margs and Jun Jun Lopez

Franklin Go, John Russell, Daniel de la Cruz, and Princess Russell

Erica Reyes, Kai Lim, and Rachel Rillo

Trickie Lopa, Lisa Ongpin Periquet, and Dindin Araneta

Rachel Rillo with Timmy and Barbee Chiudian

Matthieu Lerat, Mishi Cu Unijeng, Yvette Fernandez; and Wawi Navarroza

Miguel Rodriguez, Erica Reyes, Francis Reyes, and Jun Lopez

Gerry and Katty Qua, Steffi Chiongbian, Marilu Batchelor, Gina Aboitiz, and Johnny Montinola

Princess Banal Russell, Rico Quimbo, and Stella Quimbo

Stephane Tremblay and David Batchelor

Stella Que and Margs Lopez

Mike Tomacruz, Julio Villafuerte, and Amado Fores

Marsha Leia Guzman and Margs Lopez; , Olivia Yao, and James Yao

Jerrie So and Angela Gotuaco

Hetty Que with Liza and Louie Bate

Gina Aboitiz, Johnny Montinola, Katty Qua, and Steffi Chiongbian

Erica and Francis Reyes

Sheila Ramos

Toddy and Marimel Francisco with Randy Lopa and Anton Periquet

Jonathan Que; Xandra Ramos, Monique Toda, Yvette Fernandez, and Lara Fernandez Barrios

Jia Estrella and Marimel Francisco

Jose Moreno

Jun Jun Lopez, Margs Lopez, Michelle Tomacruz, Mike Tomacruz and Alex Uy

Bryan and Dinggay Villanueva

Rachel Rillo and Xandra Ramos

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About The Author
Hannah Lazatin
Senior Staff Writer
Hannah is a communications graduate from Ateneo de Manila University. She’s originally from Pampanga and from a big, close-knit family who likes to find a reason to get together at the dinner table. Experiences inspire her. “Once, at a restaurant, I received an interpretation of my second name ‘Celina,’ and it meant 'someone who tries everything once' and that is me through and through,” she says. As for the job, she wants her “readers to be inspired by the stories of the people we feature and to move them to reach for greater things.”
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