Art/Style/Travel DiariesStyle

Exhibit on National Artist Abdulmari Imao’s life and works opens at Benilde

The late multi-disciplinary artist was the first Moro to receive the national accolade

National Artist Abdulmari Imao
Philippine National Artist for Visual Arts Abdulmari Asia Imao. (Photo from Abdulmari Imao Facebook Page)
National Artist Abdulmari Imao

Painting by Philippine National Artist for Visual Arts Abdulmari Asia Imao

A Life Without Borders, an exhibition on the life and works of the late Philippine National Artist for Visual Arts Abdulmari Asia Imao, opens to the public at the 12F Main Gallery of the Design and Arts Campus, De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde (DLS-CSB) on Friday, June 9, 2023.

The exhibition provides a comprehensive introduction to the artistry of the renowned painter, sculptor, photographer, ceramist, documentary filmmaker, cultural researcher, and writer. He is known to have popularized Philippine Muslim art and culture as original Filipino art.

The vast collection, on loan from his son, visual artist Toym Imao, has about 28 paintings that champion the indigenous ukkil, sarimanok, and naga designs—decorative motifs commonly used in Mindanao by the Tausūg and Maranao.

There will be 38 sculptures that demonstrate Imao’s intricate wood carving and signature brass casting techniques. The pieces are in the center of the gallery to honor the Sulu archipelago, a nod to the home of the Moro artist.

Also displayed are his sketches that walk the spectators through his creative genius.

National Artist Abdulmari Imao

Scultpure by Philippine National Artist for Visual Arts Abdulmari Asia Imao

Motivated by the art and craftsmanship of the late icon, scale models of high-rise buildings for Bonifacio Global City (BGC) will also be on view. The works were designed by the budding student-artists under the college’s Architecture Program, conceptualized and created under the mentorship of award-winning architect Jim Caumeron.

Born in 1936 to a family of boat makers, Imao began to show interest in the arts at a young age. He studied at the University of the Philippines, where he was mentored by two National Artists for Sculpture, Guillermo Tolentino and Napoleon Abueva. With a Bachelor’s Degree in Sculpture, he further earned postgraduate degrees at the University of Kansas, the Rhode Island School of Design, and Columbia University in the US.

In 1963, he became the first Asian to receive the New York Museum of Modern Art Grant throughout Europe.

Upon his return, he taught Fine Arts at the University of the East and accomplished several photojournalistic and scholarly research works about Mindanao. He promoted brass casting techniques, as seen in several public art installations around the country, eventually becoming a brass-making consultant of the United Nations.

For his contributions to Philippine culture and the arts, Imao was recognized with the Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Philippines (TOYM) Award in 1968. He also received the Gawad Patnubay ng Sining by the City of Manila in 1985, the Gawad CCP para sa Sining in 1990, and the Presidential Medal of Merit in 2005.

In 2006, he became the first Moro to be honored as a National Artist of the Philippines.

He passed away on December 16, 2014 at  78.

A Life Without Borders: Abdulmari Imao, National Artist for Visual Arts is produced by the Center for Campus Art (CCA). It is curated by CCA director architect Gerry Torres.

It is open for public viewing from Friday, June 9 to Friday, September 8, 2023 from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the 12F, Main Gallery of the Design and Arts Campus, De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, 950 Pablo Ocampo Street, Malate, Manila.

For more information, visit

Sign up for our Newsletter

Sign up for’s Weekly Digest and get the best of, tailored for you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *