During the early days of the Lopez Museum and Library, the visual arts component of the collection through the works of Juan Luna and Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo have been permanent fixtures, perpetually gracing the galleries of the Lancaster Building. However, times were changing, and the presentation of tangible histories were being challenged to expand what was being presented to the public.
It was in 1985-86 within the tail end of the Martial Law era in the Philippines that institution found its new home in the Benpres building. For thirty-two years the museum and library called the former Manila Chronicle building its home. From four floors in the Lancaster Building, LML was reduced to a much smaller space, fixed with fluorescent lights and office interiors. With new acquisitions in its visual arts collection, the modern works expanded in number through the guidance of Rod.Paras-Perez, and the museum re-invented its programming.
It was in 2001 that the Lopez Museum and Library began presenting changing exhibitions ― a flagship endeavor of the newly placed curator Joselina Cruz. Amidst wall bound-paintings the visitor would suddenly find unlit candles, toy soldiers piled inside glass cases, and a flatbed with projections of folded fabric. Living artists could interact with those long gone; creating dialogue with the multitude of materials in the visual arts and library collections, the narratives they contain, and diverse interpretations mined by those who get to engage with their works.
Walls were torn down to make way for the contemporary bent of the institution. The panels that once hung the age-old collection of the museum were taken down as then-curators Chitz Ramirez and Eileen Legazpi-Ramirez wanted to give way to a larger space that could house the changing exhibitions. Thus, existing structures were taken apart to make way for a more dynamic space where different worlds can converge and converse.
Within a little over three decades at the ground floor of the Benpres Building, conversations between contemporary artists and different segments of Philippine history ensued; the past echoing through experiments in various media. The galleries bore witness to numerous exhibitions, taking down of works, and to dialogues between diverse demographics that was welcomed in. During exhibition openings, the literati, visual artists and other art aficionados were present in anticipation. Students and the general public filled gallery spaces with questions and excited discussions floating in the air. In its time, the Lopez Museum and Library has become testament to how art breathes life into the everyday, reviving old stories, forgotten events, and fleshing out narratives that may have been silenced.
This February in celebration of National Arts Month, and in celebration of Lopez Museum and Library turning 58 years, we leaf through the archives of our past exhibitions and rediscover the beginnings of LML’s exhibition programming. With renewed commitment to continue the vision of its founders in whatever space it finds itself, the institution aims to continue being an effective storyteller of histories big and small; igniting ideas, and encouraging dialogue with the present and the past. LML would like to thank all those who have journeyed with it, whether in the confines of the Lancaster, or the galleries of that in the Benpres Building, the public's commitment to the endeavors of the institution are also part of its sound foundation. To more years of discovering lost histories, and to cherishing those known by heart.