Humble Beginnings: A Piece from BenCab's First Solo Show in London Hits The Auction Block - Arts & Culture

This blast from the past provides a glimpse into the artist’s early days.

National Artist for Visual Arts Benedicto “Bencab” Cabrera will have one of his earliest works put up for sale by Salcedo Auctions.

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The untitled artwork from the artist’s “Scavenger” series signed and dated 1969 will serve as a highlight of the “Finer Pursuits: Important Philippine Art & Rare Collectibles” auction set on June 25. It currently values for an estimated P3.8 million to P4.5 million.

Based on the work’s provenance, the current owner acquired it from the Greenwich art gallery that mounted the artist’s first solo exhibition in London.

Piece of history

Salcedo Auctions historicized how BenCab’s work as a full-time artist in London in 1968 was a period that “Filipino art critics are unanimous in their agreement…were his most varied, most challenging, and most artistically successful.”

“Moving to the district of Bambang, Tondo, in his adolescence served as early exposure to the social realities of poverty and destitution, a theme commonly found across his oeuvre,” Salcedo Auctions wrote.

Compared to BenCab’s previous works from his early career, which lack any recognizable facial features, the subject of his artwork put up for auction is a man with a rough face, empty expression, hunched shoulders, and slumped posture while sitting.

“The scavenger does not only serve as a prelude to BenCab’s most iconic subjects, but it is also, more importantly, a distillation of the artist’s sentiments, giving a visual voice to the struggle against oppression and injustice that would become central to the artist’s body of work in the wake of the growing social consciousness in the years leading up to the declaration of Martial Law in 1972,” Salcedo Auctions concluded.

Banner Photo via Salcedo Auctions

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