Some followers of Vicente Manansala continue to hold fond memories of interesting sessions in the artist’s studio-home in Binangonan, Rizal, over 30 km from Metro Manila. Admirers of “Mang Enteng,” as he was known to friends and the arts circle, would come trickling in after lunch hour, and the afternoon would bring exhilarating banter about the arts and anything else under the sun. Manansala shared his time generously, and would even affectionately gift his close friends with paintings that had a personal connection with them.
The present lot, one of the highlights of this year’s The Well-Appointed Life, Untitled (Vendors), 1978, oil on canvas, comes to Salcedo Auctions through a distinguished member of the Friends of Manansala Foundation.
The Friends of Manansala was founded a year after the artist’s death in 1981 to “develop, promote, and disseminate the ideals and artistic creations of Vicente S. Manansala and encourage public interest in and support of his works. It further aims to preserve and safeguard the artistic legacy he left behind, particularly his artworks, against fraudulence, forgery, and fakery, and all forms of misrepresentation which will, in any way, tend to devalue such legacy.”
Before the Friends of Manansala was established, its founders would compete against each other for the one painting that Manansala would make available to the first visitor on his birthday.
The ladies would show up in his Binangonan home at exactly midnight in hopes of winning this exclusive and, indeed, truly well-appointed race for art. At first, their individual competitive yearly visits to the Manansala home were about acquiring the latest piece by Mang Enteng. But these would later turn into Sunday hangouts, developing into a warm and strong friendship with Mang Enteng and his wife Hilda that lasted for several years, eventually evolving into the worthy goal of documenting and cataloguing the National Artist’s works to help preserve the legacy of a dear friend.
National Artist Vicente Manansala’s singular contribution to the Philippine art landscape lies in the development and the popularization of Cubism. A seminal member of the Thirteen Moderns, Manansala, with his post-war Neo-Realist practice, influenced the shift from romantic idealism to semi-figurative formalism.
Through Manansala’s formal education at the University of the Philippines School of Fine Arts as well as the Ecole de Beaux Arts in Canada and France, he created an ingenious mix of bold visual elements reminiscent of the Western aesthetic, yet retaining a strong Filipino authenticity. Charged with palpable liveliness, Manansala’s oeuvres express a deep respect and understanding of the vibrant local folk culture, particularly in the years after the Second World War. Harnessing the innovative approach of representing reality and his application of this in foregrounding local imagery was a critical bridge that connected the disjunctive Filipino identity that he and his modernist contemporaries faced in the postwar 1950s. Manansala was committed to reinventing the very nature and indeed amplitude of Filipino art, while staying true to the country’s profoundly rich cultural heritage.
Manansala’s signature use of transparent cubism, wherein tones, shapes, and patterns of figures and the environment are delicately superimposed, creating a flowing movement of finely crafted planes, is so exquisitely executed in this composition of three vendors. Vendors are a common, integral sight around the country—men and women peddling their wares along the streets, calling out to potential customers—and thus have become one of the most beloved subjects of Filipino masters. The lot features three women, two of them facing the viewer and one looking back. In their arms are various goods—one carries a sliced watermelon portion in her arms, while the bilao the other two women are carrying atop their heads are filled with fish, fruits, and vegetables.
With a bold yet tender visual vocabulary, Manansala here showcases not only the allure of Neo-realist Cubism, but also the sumptuously laden mood and festive palette of a quintessential Philippine scene, presenting collectors a rare opportunity to acquire arguably the most beautiful Manansala to go to auction in recent memory. The complexity of the painting lies in the tranquility of the captured essence of the vendors in varying hues distilled by light juxtaposed against the multiplicity of overlapping shapes and colors that form the composition. Manansala’s hand interpreted it as he saw it—through a palimpsest of forms and colors, overlapping and building upon each other to create something brilliantly whole.
The Well-Appointed Life live and online auction is on Saturday, 17 September, 2022, 2 p.m. Register to bid and browse the catalog at salcedoauctions.com. The auction preview is ongoing and runs daily from 9 am to 5 pm at NEX Tower, 6786 Ayala Avenue, Makati City. For inquiries, email email@example.com or call tel. no. +632 8823-0956 or (0917) 591-2191. Follow @salcedoauctions on Instagram and Facebook for updates.