“The patriarchal era of Filipinas is passing. The illustrious achievements of her children are no longer consummated within the home. The Oriental chrysalis is leaving the cocoon. The tomorrow of a long day is announced for those regions in brilliant tints and rosy dawns, and that race - lethargic during the historical night while the sun lit up other continents - awakens again, powerfully moved by the electric shock produced in it by contact with the Western peoples, and it clamors for light, life, the civilization that time once gave as its legacy, confirming in this way the eternal laws of continual evolution, of transformation, of periodicity, of progress.”
 Jose Rizal’s toast at Restaurante Inglés honoring Juan Luna and Felix Resurrection Hidalgo’s victory at the Exposición Nacional de Bellas Artes, June 25, 1884, Madrid.

Art Educators, administrators, and curators since post-EDSA (1986) collectively feel the sense of urgency in exploring social consciousness in our communities.  A void was filled with a democratic space after the dictatorship, and a sense of re-ordering of the self at the tail end of the 20th century.  Similarly, institutions in Australia, Singapore, and Japan were also building their collections amongst its newly established museums during this period. Internationally, the Philippines had formidable sensibility and ripeness having a good representation of artists at the first Asia-Pacific Triennial in Brisbane (now one of the most important fairs of the Asia Pacific region). Locally, the Lopez Museum and Library has shifted its focus from being a permanent collection museum, to a space with rotating exhibitions, opening up to a more discursive space backed up with a curatorial program of criticality and engagement within the permanent collection (of Luna’s, Hidalgo’s, and the Rizaliana), with contemporary art and artists, at the same time, amassing a new-found collecting sphere with an addition of post-war artists, neo-realists, and recipients of the National Art Awards.

Presumably, art can be so far as indispensible to education, dependent to an institution, tolerant in making spaces, and can still certainly provoke who it teaches and writes for.  The urgency of advocacy and effective engagement characterized by a state with weak cultural infrastructure provides to be an interesting and challenging model for art education. How can education and cultural enrichment thrive when confronted with limitations?

Although the Philippines has historically founded the oldest art school in Asia (from the 1820’s), many of our citizen’s are not aware of this tradition, with an academic consciousness partially realized, because these facts were not taught in the schools, and if so, taught in a rather cursory way.  Wherein, if art history was part of our vocabulary, and not just a context or just a background, if it were part of the skill of thinking, and if we had internalized this history – we may have realized how Filipino artists over the years have responded to their present situations, conditions, and criticisms.  Perhaps, it’s a failure of the system in the effect of eclipsing the other histories, with such an unequal distribution of resources.  Developments over the past years, nationally has failed to explore that museums can offer a reaffirmation of continuity and connection, of things shared and achievement worthy of contemplation.  In this sense, Art education can be an essential part of the creative infrastructure that underpins and enables the growth of a creative economy. 

In a presentation by curator Corazon Alvina, in an ASEAN Director’s symposium of the International Council of Museums in 2007 she explains the situation quite aptly:

“Museums, including the National Museum, in the past had the dubious reputation as precincts for the elite, the leisure classes, and for the schooled or learned.  One sharp reproach that has been intoned against the cultural sector in the Philippines was that it existed apart from the real world.  Museums as destinations were often in the manner of obligatory and for students only; or for the art connoisseurs, or for the academic.  Infrequent has been the museum visitor whose visit was stimulated by personal preoccupation or pursuit, curiosity or appreciation.  It has not been easy for Philippine museums to position themselves to function as they should, to be enjoyed, and to fulfill their various visions that included making art accessible to all, using museum material to stimulate pride, and possibility to assist in the fretful issue of finding or crafting a national identity.”

What good do museums provide, and to whom?

Museums have multiple roles in our present times. Long gone are the times wherein the chief mandate of museums was simply to preserve, present, promote the history and culture of a country or region and its people.  The focus of museums then were largely inward-looking, concentrating their energies on collecting artifacts and artworks, displaying them in their galleries and serving as gatekeepers of history, heritage and culture.  Today, museums are undergoing a transformation.  What has it been doing to democratize artistic practice and create access for the public?  It has been an ongoing task to reinvent and reposition, to influence its audience of the vibrancies of our national treasures.The idea of being dynamic is a constant goal.  Ideally, there should be a bridge between the heritage specialists, and the man-in-the-street by conveying meaning and sharing of experience through exhibits to promote understanding and encourage a discourse.  Is the impact of the museum limited to its visitors or does its role extend into the community? If so, in what ways, how far, and toward what ends?  From time to time, one should be self-reflexive of its relevance, accessibility, and value.

The exhibition, Trajectories, occurs in a space of self-reflexivity. It features the highlights of the Lopez Museum and Library collection, and presents the different paths that the institution has taken in growing its collection and as a spectator in the shifts of a regional contemporary art discourse.  Is the museum taking full account of post-colonial nations reasserting voice and poses not to rewrite the past, but to create the authentic histories of the future? It has been quite a while, since a big percentage of the permanent collection at the Lopez Museum has been taken out, once again for public viewing (Over 600 years of Philippine arts and letters).  Additionally, the exhibit is made to cross tangents with an education program in partnership with the Ateneo Art Gallery, "Understanding Philippine Visual Arts”, which aims to play on the strengths of the collections of both institutions to present art history through walk-throughs and lectures by identified speakers, historians and curators like Dr. Ambeth Ocampo, Dr. Patrick Flores, Ma. Victoria Herrera and Eileen Legaspi-Ramirez.

Eugenio Lopez, Sr.’s extensive personal collection

Founded in 1960 by Eugenio Lopez, Sr. The Lopez Museum and Library was built in order to provide scholars and students access to his extensive personal collection of rare books, manuscripts, ancient maps, Filipiniana titles, a Rizaliana collection and 19th to 20th century paintings, housed in a triangular four-storey building (now demolished) designed by renowned architect Angel E. Nakpil in Pasay City.  The Lopez Museum and Library moved to the Benpres Building (formerly the Chronicle Building), Pasig in  the 1985.  It finds itself a new home on the ground floor of this six-storey building.  Of note as one enters the museum is the broad wooden door sculpted by Philippine National Artist for sculpture, Napoleon Abueva.

Shifts in Philippine national politics – from colonial to commonwealth to republic – market forces, theoretical redirection, structural re-organizations, trends in curatorial practices, and the cultural and technological shifts of our times have marked the trail of transformations in the life of the Lopez Museum and Library.  Unintentionally too, the museum – becomes a sort of arbiter of pursuits and trends, if not taste.  Historically, most private museums are founded and exist on the generosity of individuals who have contributed paintings, rare books, prints, and myriad other materials that illustrate, document, and represent our individual and shared artistic and cultural heritages and to some extent the museum is similar. The museum’s longevity not only lies on its value as an entity to itself but also to the extent that it’s programming has offered a positive difference to the intellectual and cultural value of the community it serves.  During its 50th year anniversary (2010), it’s elements of preservation, scholarship, and public programmings have been discussed.  Oscar M. Lopez notes, “My father took pride in his race and wanted young Filipinos to be as proud.” When the museum and library first opened in 1960, then-Senator Claro M. Recto spoke of empowering the Filipino people’s sprit with an awareness of historical continuity, patriotism, national ideals and commitment to shape a common glorious destiny.

The Lopez Museum and Library is also proud of its staff, administrators and librarians.  Political writer, Manuel L. Quezon III calls them, “the silent heroes”, in an article published in Today Newspaper in 2000, (Perhaps talking about the long-time librarian and administrators of the Museum library) he states, “They are-and pardon my enthusiasm… silent heroes because they not only protect knowledge, they also help to make sure the knowledge is shared.  They have this in common with all the other unsung and unheralded librarians and archivists in other libraries, public and private, who are there to make sure that students, scholars, and the general public can get information they need as efficiently and as usefully as humanly possible.”

“One cannot imagine how many books, dissertations and articles have been written because of one man’s passion for books”, explains Ambeth Ocampo in his column at the Philippine Daily Inquirer.  He further adds,  “One might accurately describe the Filipiniana book collection, housed in the Lopez Memorial Museum, since 1960, as the happy result of three driving forces in his life (Eugenio Lopez, Sr.): a deep abiding love of country, a lifelong affair with books and an incorrigible passion for travel.”  

Of the 215 Philippine imprints published from 1620 to 1697 in Manila and other key towns, the Eugenio Lopez Library has 21 rare titles; 132 rare items for the 18th century, and 776 titles for the 19th century.  A rare gem is the first edition of Belarmino’s opus Doctrina Cristiana (Manila, 1620) translated into Ilocano (Libro a Naisuratan Amin ti Bagas…) by Father F. Lopez and printed by Antonio Damba, a Pampangueño, and Miguel Saixo, a Japanese.  Another jewel is the third edition (Rome, 1524) of De Moluccis Insulis – the earliest book in the Lopez collection by Maximilianus Transylvanus, which has the first printed account of Magellan’s voyage to the Philippines. It also has the famous Relacion de las Islas Filipinas  (Rome, 1604) by the Jesuit Pedro Chirino.  Books, rare prints and manuscripts feature renowned printers Tomas Pinpin, Raymundo Magysa, Nicolas Bagay, Laureano Atlas and Juan Correa. These artifacts and maps retell voyages made by colonizers centuries back, packed with intensity and curiosity in venturing to unknown lands, an ancient narration of a different retelling of a social, economic, or political order of the journeys of humanity from that period. 

The Library also holds old periodicals, albums of pictures, microfilms and different woodcut prints and maps. Among the precious periodicals are  19th century publications such as Illustracion Artistica, Illustracion Filipina, Illustracion El Oriente, Blanco y Negro, Diario de Manila, La Independencia, and more, presently totaling to 20,700 titles.  The museum also has some 90 priceless letters of Rizal to his mother and sisters, Rizal’s diaries and papers in Hong Kong, Dapitan, and Europe – the first big acquisition of Don Eugenio for his collection.

Added to the collection of artifacts are some 14th and 15th century archeological findings recovered from a privately funded dig through the Calatagan (Batangas) burial sites – consisting of porcelain of Chinese origin, Filipino earthenware, beads and some Annamese (Vietnamese) and Siamese (Thai) pieces.

Acquisition of Luna and Hidalgo

Eugenio Lopez Sr.’s ties to another well-known collector, Alfonso Ongpin, historian Renato Constantino, and writer I.P. Soliongco led him to build a collection of Juan Luna and Felix Resurrection Hidalgo paintings totaling to 41 Luna and 182 Hidalgo paintings and sketches. Luna and Hidalgo represented the highest development of Philippine art in the Western tradition.  Their winning in the 1884 Madrid Exposition of Fine Arts, prompted a celebration which was a major highlight in the memoirs of members of the Philippine reform movement, with Rizal toasting to the two painters' triumph and citing their win as evidence that Filipinos and Spaniards were equals proving that Filipinos could hold their own in the world of art, thus winning one more point in the Reformists’ campaign for political equality – a speech which art critic Alice Guillermo considers the primal wave of the beginnings of scholarship for Philippine art criticism.  Rizal explains the work of Luna and Hidalgo:

“…Through that canvas which is not mute, one hears the noise of the crowd, the shouts of the slaves, the metallic clanking of the dead bodies' armor, the sobbing of orphans, the murmured prayers, with as much vigor and realism as one hears the deafening noise of thunder amid the crashing sound of a waterfall or the awesome, terrifying shaking of an earthquake. The same nature that births such phenomena also intervenes in those brushstrokes. In contrast, in Hidalgo's painting beats the purest sentiment, the ideal expression of mournfulness, beauty and vulnerability, the victims of brute force, and it is because Hidalgo was born beneath the brilliant azure of that sky, the lullaby of its sea breezes, amid the serenity of its lakes, the poetry of its valleys and the majestic harmony of its hills and mountains.”

The Lopez museum’s collection of Juan Luna paintings includes important works such as the virtuous portrait of his son Andres Luna de San Pedro, Mi Hijo Andres (1893) and the atmospheric Ensueno de Amor (1886), a portrait of the artists’ wife as she lays sleeping, and, in particular the historically important, allegorical España y Filipinas (1886).  A third painting by Luna, Street Flower Vendors is also of interest as it commemorates the Paris funeral of the French 19th century novelist Victor Hugo, the writer’s funeral cortege faintly visible in the canvas’ background. 

Most of Hidalgo’s works were tranquil, intimate pieces or nature and landscape paintings filled with romantic reverie like the lyrical En El Jardin, painted in 1885.  One of the formidable works is Per Pacem et Libertatem (Through Peace and Liberty), a work done at the turn of the century, for which he received a gold medal for his participation at the Universal Exposition in St. Louis, Missouri in 1904, advocated the ilustrado position of capitulation to American colonial rule in its image of a woman representing Madre Filipinas (Mother Philippines), offering an olive branch to a Joan of Arc-like figure with the Stars and Stripes.

The next wave of acquisition: 20th Century Paintings

Post-EDSA, a new state of government, led to the revival of the Lopez businesses by the family.  An avid collector of art, Eugenio Lopez’s son, Robbie M. Lopez which takes us into the second phase of acquisition in the history of the museum.  With advice from art historian Rod Paras-Perez, post-war transnational and National Art awardees artists were slowly added to the collection.  Since the 1980’s up to the present, the directive of the museum was not only limited to acquisition, as art book publications where also important projects to forward the discussion if Philippine art history (featuring artists Juan Luna by Santiago Albano Pilar, Sanso, Zobel, Manansala, Lee Aguinaldo and Amorsolo by Rod Paras-Perez).

It can be assumed that the logic of collecting for the museum was contingent on a level of connoisseurship represented by the taste of the directors, colleagues, consultants, writers, and curators directly associated with the Lopez Museum and Library. Primarily started by the passions, attributions, and philanthropy of Eugenio Lopez, Sr. The succeeding years after his death were influenced by the market forces driving 20th century art pieces at the time of the second phase of collection.

Robbie Lopez has also been a keen collector but unlike his father, focused instead on 20th century paintings, and bequeathed his own collection of 45 paintings to the museum upon his death in 1992.  Since then, the museum has embarked upon an acquisition program designed to strengthen the collection responding to vanguard traditions of Philippine contemporary art

In this tradition, the academic structure of the Amorsolo school (capturing public attention with archetypal heroes and idealized characters of the rural life) was jolted by the challenge of modernism announced by Victorio Edades, he was soon able to ally with Carlos Francisco and Galo B. Ocampo and together they formed the pioneering triumvirate of modern art of a country in ruins. From the 1960’s and onwards, Neorealism, one of the earliest modernist trends with Manansala, Legaspi, Tabuena transformed innovative or radical simplification, “distortion,” fragmentation and deconstruction to give greater importance to line, color, volume, pattern, composition and paint quality – resulting to representational abstraction.  Reflective artists of the time like H.R. Ocampo, Arturo Luz, and Fernando Zobel stimulated critical thinking on Philippine art as a means of constructing a theory of Philippine aesthetics.  The “First Neo-Realist Exhibition” featuring H.R. Ocampo and Cesar Legaspi opened up new ways of seeing and looking changing the vernacular of Philippine Art.  Transnational’s like Alfonso Ossorio, who is part of the New York Abstract Expressionist movement, Nena Saguil – who had a practice in Paris, and U.S. educated Fernando Zobel, Cesar Legaspi, Jose Joya, and Arturo Luz would be highly anticipated modernist practitioners in Filipino contemporary art society because of their colonial/western education.  Modernists looked outward for direction and ideas, which is why so many travelled to the West for further study.  The trend was toward some kind of international art.  Participation in international shows, such as the Venice and Sao Paolo Biennials became the challenge.  The modernists sent off their best and brightest.  In a conversation with Alfredo Roces for the exhibition catalog of the Purita Kalaw-Ledesma at the Ayala Museum (2010) he notes:

“The works that stood out in these grand events were exotic works that carried the character and flavor of the culture they represented.  Our works should be Filipino- soon came the cry.  Our art should have a national identity- was the conclusion.”

The Conservatives (Fabian Dela Rosa, Fernando Amorsolo, Juan Arellano, Dominador Castañeda) or the academics, defined by the priorities as education and value formation of the American colonial rule, the Modernists (Victorio Edades, Botong Francisco, Galo Ocampo) counterpoised the idealized values of the conservatives through expressiveness of contemporary concerns during the early postwar years debating between “art for art’s sake” and “proletariat art”, Neo-Realists (Cesar Legaspi, H.R. Ocampo, Jose Joya, Arturo Luz, Anita Magsaysay Ho, Vicente Manansala, Lee Aguinaldo) influenced by the cubism of the School of Paris, unconsciously working from within Philippine aesthetics, whose earlier figurative works translates towards a more abstract rendering (creation of new reality), and Transnational’s (Romeo Tabuena, Nena Saguil, Alfonso Ossorio, Macario Vitalis, Juvenal Sanso, Fernando Zobel) who profited from overseas education, and also to circulate socially abroad, transcending their origins symptomatic of the Southeast Asian Modern.

From 1993-1999 and under Eugenio Lopez Jr., the acquisition continued to grow, with the direction of museum director Mariles Ebro Matias and the addition of curator Joselina Cruz from 2000-2005. The museum became more aggressive in acquisition of contemporary works and in the presentation of programs that evoked the “contemporary”, in terms of exhibition platforms, publications and criticism.  In 2002, Mercedes Lopez Vargas, granddaughter of Eugenio Lopez, Sr., became director and formed a partnership with the curatorial team of Eileen Legaspi-Ramirez and Claro Ramirez.  A strategic plan to encourage access to archives through digitization, conservation and an environment of openness in terms of alliances and thematic exhibition planning have been created, responding to the technological facet of media as a genre, while being reflexive and regionally sensitive within the levels of critical discourse in experimental formats, discussions, and archival endeavors.  Developing the discourses surrounding art, whether essential or collateral, and determining the ways they are conveyed through exhibitions, symposia, books the press, websites and more have become some of the primary pursuits of the programming.  A curatorial focus where detecting a certain shift, phenomenon or innovation on the horizon of creation, inventing other ways of creating junctures between artifacts laden with artistic intent and the different audiences have been the primary tasks.

Discourse: The periphery as central

In as much as the discourses at the Lopez Museum were in cue with the functioning of a region, wherein the “international”, has become the “global and transnational”.  The nation’s consciousness of its specific art history, was still dispersed, and decentralized. Outside of the private institution, remains, a pervasive deficiency of a cohesive and sustained government program for culture and the arts.  Private institutions and commercial galleries have filled the cultural vacuum created by successive governments overwhelmed by natural and man-made disasters.  While lack of resources and a surfeit of red tape continue to hound the government, cultural institutions1 (practically rendering no support to contemporary art initiatives), private groups quietly sustain their efforts to preserve and promote Filipino culture and the arts – from commercial ventures such as galleries to non-profit enterprises such as foundations.2 

In the first Asia Pacific Triennial in Brisbane of 1993, Filipino artists Santaigo Bose,  Imelda Cajipe-Endaya, Brenda Fajardo, Junyee, Julie Lluch, Roberto Villanueva endeavored to survey Philippine contemporary art, and thus acknowledged, as an “increasingly important geo-political region”.  Similarly in 1972 at documenta 5 in Kassel, avant-garde artist David Medalla was a participant as well as in Harold Szeeman’s curated exhibition, “Live in Your Head: When Attitude become Form”. In 1964, International representation by Jose Joya and Napoleon Abueva were deemed representatives of the 32nd Venice Biennial.  Historically, the first world fairs in the the U.S., the 1939 New York World Fair had Fernando Amorsolo representing the Philippines and the St. Louis's Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904 was participated by Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo.  In 1884, Juan Luna’s Spoliarium received gold medal and Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo’s Las Virgenes Cristinas Expuestas al Populacho, a silver medal in the Madrid Exposition.  All of these information seemed to have vanished from the national consciousness of our art education.  It was as if we are enveloped by amnesia.  Because of the lack of education, access to information, our potential to continue existing discussions is hinged or slowed-down.

Art history has been tangent to the complex production of social history.  ‘Form is not just about shape, texture, scale, color, among others, but also about the process of transformation within uneven histories of exchange (colonization, globalization) and constantly shifting axes of power relations between margin and center, nation, region and globe.’[1] How do we address this multiplicity?  In a book titled Conversations on Philippine Art by Cid Reyes published in 1989, he interviews Art critic Emanuel Torres with regards to the multiplicity of knowledge. Emmanuel Torres replies:

“…Every genuinely new art modifies our ways of perception and value systems.  Our relation to it takes time to “settle” and for us to adjust properly to it.  It challenges our old habits of seeing and thinking about art.  In fact, the whole history of art is a series of challenges to such habits, disturbing settled patterns of appreciation, causing discomfort at first impact.  With so much new art happening within the past thirty years or so in the West, gallery goers have had to be game and resilient and open-minded enough to take all of them, or even some of them in stride.  In this country, H.R. Ocampo’s early Neo-Realist works and David Medalla’s “Bubble Machine” provided occasions which have jolted an art public with “settled” values…”

With regards to tangents of practice of adopting a foreign idiom amongst our contemporary art practices, Cid Reyes interview’s critic Alfredo Roces, in terms of emulating a western concept and giving it a narrative or local language.  Roces replies:

“Sure it’s valid, but only partially.  Because we would be lifting something from a given context, and then adapting it- transplanting it – to the Philippine scene.  In our country, the idea of Pop Art doesn’t carry the same impact as it does for a country like America.”

John Clark talks about the origins of ‘Asian Modernity conceived as the extension of, or reaction to, a transferred Euramerican modernity’[2] He mentions that this predicament always places Asian modern art in some passive receptor position and denies its agency.  Asian modernity is looked upon as historically constrained, and selective in terms of responding to modern art discourses.

These enumerated layers of complexity in making us completely understand our place in history, is a difficult pill to swallow, especially if you follow the lineage of previous art historians, in referent to a discussion of your geographic location as a periphery to the central – the center being the west.  Indonesian artist/curator and theorist Jim Supangkat is more blunt in pointing out that ‘the development of modern art in third world countries was obscure because of the domination of Western art theories… There is a common perception that the world out of the West adopted both modernist/modernism from the Western culture after World War II.  This is perhaps the reason why modernism outside the West has been described as an adaption or even imitation of an “ideal”.  However this is not true.’[3]  There was a time when aesthetics was laid plain in simple for instruction and edification for all time, when it was passively received as a neutral and innocent discipline. Above and beyond history, society, and power relations, such a concept is fast being exposed as pure myth in the continuing decolonization process in the region, along with the increasingly sharpened perception of hegemonic strategies in the world arena linked with economic and political power relations.


Evaluations have been conducted and the paths of practice in Southeast Asia are different to the contradictory “linear” connection between modernist development and contemporary art in the West (perhaps tangent or trajectory).  New approaches in valuating paths of practices in contemporary art have been directed to Asia – as shown in the recent World Biennale Form in Gwangju (2012). The challenge for the biennial exhibition model is breaking away from the sense of political infrastructure created by bureaucratic systems of western patriarchal curatorial tradition. It is no secret that exhibitions are spaces with specific protocols, and singular agenda. The steel figure signifying a state of “hegemony” becomes a stale recourse in exhibiting the same artists and curatorial model in various cities in the western biennale model. A certain kind of openness, flexibility, dynamism, and engaged practice, is needed, as more and more audience/participants becomes a mere spectator, when the “exclusivity” of contemporary art practice dislocates itself from its citizens.  Where pluralism also celebrates commonality, even in universal similarities, which are components of reality that exist in parallel and not binary positions. 

The museum experience can also be a tool to connect lives, enrich networks and open access, nurture more livable conditions. More and more, these kinds of practices are centrally located nearer Southeast Asia.  For once, let us consider ourselves to be at center point. Where institutions also become definitions of private citizens or a collective body, there is certainly an interrogative enquiry motivated by a genuine belief in the democratization of artistic practices and accessibility to a shared information (even to the extent of piracy or hacking, text messaging and social networks). Self-organization, self-sustainable solutions have given its citizens more and more opportunity for self-initiation and independence.

Our nation is unique, in a sense that, the lineage of our own art history can be traced through the trajectories in the collection acquisition of private collections.   Manila is a city fueled by private sponsors, private collectors, private galleries, and private museums. It goes to show the level of self-organization of private citizens deeply dedicated in their pursuits for cultural preservation and transformation, rooted from a sense of urgency in exploring the social consciousness of our communities. Perhaps this came out of a necessity for some kind of self-preservation, a new sensibility, and authentic filter for culture in creating intimacies out of a sense of a period of disturbance and insubordination from the postcolonial.   

Democracy and Access

During the 50th anniversary of the Lopez Museum and Library, Oscar M. Lopez, son of Eugenio Lopez Sr. expressed that the museum “continues to bridge the discontinuities imposed by our way of life and the transitions in our cultures, from the Spanish, to the American, and to the realities of a globally dispersed but interconnected diaspora of Filipinos.  In the end, a nation’s inability to appreciate its past will hinder all efforts to reach its destination.”

Private collections, contemporary art and its direct engagement with an audience have presented varying levels of dynamics within the decade.  Such attitudes are based also on the reevaluation of the idea of the democratization of the museum, how it shifts, and in what direction is it taking itself to be more inclusive of the public sphere.  As opposed to a singular and global objective, the intent nowadays is for plurality, and more opportunities for engagement and self-interpretation. Curatorial practices are also involving in ways wherein they also become producers of context and infrastructure, especially in spaces without a developed institutional system.  Today, a museum must draw up programs that provide a framework for knowledge from below.  How can museums democratize art appreciation, formulation of local self-consciousness, and maximize public access?  What needs arise from education, marketing, or economical demands?  Organizational assessment requires a shift in focus.  It puts greater emphasis on the anticipated results than on the quality of its effort to achieve those results.   The fundamental question is not about process or outputs so much as about outcomes.  How will the community be better because of an artistic undertaking? The criterion is not whether the organization has the determination or the resources to accomplish a desired result but whether that result is, in fact, being accomplished.  What good do museums provide, and to whom? Administrators most often turn a specific difficulty into an opportunity.  But that opportunity hinges on finding new ways of thinking and acting toward audiences they are formed.

Within the observation of the trajectories in the history of the museum acquisition, presented in the multiple corners of the exhibition space, perhaps a new sense of usership will arise within the realm of this new-found access and emancipation, fundamentally influenced by the trajectories in its historical narrative, and a relevant form of consciousness that is proactive and critical.


[1] Rod Paras-Perez, “A book lover’s legacy”, Manila Chronicle, July 25, 2013, p. 33

[2] Ibid

[3] Flaudette Dautin, “Key Notes: Shifts and Turns in Art Studies, 1959-2010,” Paths of Practice. Manila: NCCA,  2011, p. 110

[4] John Clark, “The Southeast Asian Modern: Three Artists”, Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asian Art. United States: Cornell, 2012.

[5] Jim Supangkat, “Contemporary Art: What/When/Where”,  2nd Asia-Pacific Triennial Contemporary Art. Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, 1996.  p. 27