"It’s a copy." -- National Artist Benedicto “BenCab” Cabrera on Lot 7, a drawing offered by Art Gallery Asia
National Artist Benedicto “BenCab” Cabrera has denied the authenticity of Lot 7, a Mother-and-Child drawing offered at Mga Obra sa Santuario: An Art Exhibit of Filipino Masters and Contemporary Artists. Organized by Makati-based Art Gallery Asia in partnership with the Santuario de San Antonio Parish in Forbes Park, the ongoing art sale at the Pasilyo de San Antonio is supposed to benefit the Friars’ Health Fund and victims of Typhoon Yolanda.
The work, which was never exhibited, was reproduced on a postcard some 10 years ago. Mr. Cabrera believes that forgers have used the postcard, which was sold at The BenCab Museum in Baguio, as a reference image for fakes. “Mukhang tunay (It looks real),” he said.
“They don’t even change it, they just copy it.”
Art Gallery Asia owner Bong Versoza stands by the drawing, saying that it is from a friend -- a “reputable collector” -- who has given him other artworks in the past. “I did not verify [the BenCab piece] because I trust [this person],” Mr. Versoza said in a phone interview with BusinessWorld on Dec. 3. He added that the drawing came with a certificate of authenticity from Mr. Cabrera.
Rumors have been swirling around the sale since it opened on Nov. 15. “We believe that there is a group trying to discredit the exhibit out of jealousy,” the Art Gallery Asia owner continued. “At first they said everything was fake.”
These claims are unsubstantiated, according to Mr. Versoza. “It’s been a week, and no one has spoken to us,” he said, referring to recognized experts and authorities. Mr. Versoza did say he received a phone call from a competing gallery owner, who, he added, has also been badgering the priests of Santuario de San Antonio Parish into taking down the exhibit.
The owner of the alleged BenCab forgery, who spoke to BusinessWorld on Dec. 3 on the condition of anonymity, said that he purchased the drawing from Dino Miranda, a broker, who acquired it from sculptor Mike Immatong, who, in turn, got it from BenCab’s nephew Bobby Cabrera. The collector added that he had no intentions of selling the piece until a friend persuaded him to join the charitable sale for the sake of Yolanda victims.
Mr. Versoza said that this “controversy” is ruining a good cause. “The ones really affected by these rumors are the beneficiaries,” he added.
Despite allegations of forgery, the gallery still makes at least one sale every day. “Watch out for Mga Obra sa Santuario 2,” Mr. Versoza said, adding that he is already planning another sale at the church next year.
Mga Obra sa Santuario: An Art Exhibit of Filipino Masters and Contemporary Artists is ongoing until Dec. 8 at Pasilyo de San Antonio, Santuario de San Antonio Parish, Forbes Park, Makati City.