When the Ayala Museum reopens to the public on October 1, expect a larger, state-of-the-art venue that will be home to some of the country’s finest art and artifact collections here and abroad.
No less than four major exhibitions of international caliber will be showcased in time for the new museum’s inauguration on September 28. These include nearly 400 ivory sculptures from the 16th to the 19th centuries and three major overseas collections of Philippine watercolors and costumes from Europe and the United States, many of which have never before been exhibited in the country. In addition, multimedia and virtual exhibitions now enhance the museum’s existing collections.
The museum opens the doors of its new home to coincide with the celebration of Ayala’s 170th anniversary.
Recollecting the past
Located at the corner of Makati Avenue and de la Rosa Street as part of the redeveloped Greenbelt commercial center, the new Ayala Museum continues the tradition of the old museum which was designed by National Artist Leandro V. Locsin. The new museum was designed by Locsin’s architectural firm Leandro V. Locsin Partners, led by his son, Leandro Jr.
The new Ayala Museum is the culmination of the vision of Fernando Zobel de Ayala y Montojo who in the 1950s recognized the need to preserve and deepen Filipinos’ awareness and appreciation of arts and culture to inspire the country to move forward.
With well designed functional spaces and cutting edge technology, the new museum promises to put the Philippines and Filipino artists on the map of the international art community and to showcase Filipino works owned by museums and collectors abroad to the local public.
Explains Ayala Foundation chairman Jaime Zobel de Ayala, “The museum’s mandate has always been to serve the community and the nation. Through the museum, we help re-collect our past by bringing back to the country Philippine collections from overseas institutions to share with a local audience. We intend to bring home what has long been inaccessible to other peoples. At the same time, we want to re-present the future by situating contemporary Philippine art in the global arena, enhancing pride of heritage that could ultimately deepen our understanding of what it means to be Filipino.”
Most definitive collection
One of the museum’s inaugural exhibitions, Power + Faith + Image: Philippine Art in Ivory from the 16th to the 19th Century, is a result of the museum’s synergy with individual and institutional collectors from all over the country. Close to 400 major ivory images form the exhibit, making it the most definitive collection on this subject ever assembled to date.
Power + Faith + Image recalls the time when Philippines was considered the world’s major producer of Christian images in ivory. This Philippine ivory tradition, which is considered to have shaped the most beautiful and moving images, surpasses that of any other country for range, scope and sheer volume of production. Churches as well as private patrons in Spain, Mexico, Latin America and other Asian countries were supplied with these ivory images by master carvers from the Philippines.
Another major opening exhibition is Multiple Originals, Original Multiples: 19th Century Images of Philippine Costumes. This exhibition gathers for the first time the Damian Domingo watercolor album of Philippine costumes owned by the Newberry Library in Chicago, the Justiniano Asuncion watercolor album of Philippine costumes in the New York Public Library, and the Ayala Museum’s watercolor album of Philippine costumes attributed to the Damian Domingo atelier. Complementing the watercolor images are actual costumes from 18th and 19th centuries, including loans from the collections of the Newberry Library in Chicago, the National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden, The Netherlands, the New York Public Library, the Intramuros Administration, the Bank of the Philippine Islands and private collectors.
An international museum lecture series accompanies these inaugural exhibits.
Representing the future
Complementing these archaeological and ethnographic collections are the museum’s permanent collections and exhibitions spanning the country’s pre-history to modern times. In fine arts, the museum’s strengths are in the works of two 20th century artists, Fernando Amorsolo and Fernando Zobel. Enhancing these are works by 19th century artist Juan Luna. The new exhibition now includes works by Zobel and Amorsolo that the museum has been selectively acquiring to refine and fill gaps in the collection. For example, there are significant additions to the Zobel collection with major works from the 1970s, one of the strongest periods in Zobel’s career.
Those who have visited the old museum will also be pleasantly surprised by the careful renovation of the diorama exhibition. Representing critical turning points in Philippine history as identified by a panel of scholars led by the museum’s first director, Carlos Quirino, a total of 60 handcrafted dioramas were created in the late 1960s by artists and carvers from Paete, Laguna to form the core of the museum’s historical collections. They are now enhanced by a new multimedia People Power room which allows visitors to be part of “living diorama of moving images” from the creation of the republic to the tumultuous events that restored Philippine democracy in 1986.
The public can expect more exhibitions of international significance and an active program of intellectual exchange among our local and international colleagues. In November, the second round of inaugural programs brings back to the country, also for the first time, the Philippine collection of the Singapore Art Museum. A memorandum of understanding with the Singapore Heritage Board will be signed to facilitate continuing collaborations and exchanges of collections, knowledge, and expertise.
Over the years, the Ayala Museum has shifted from being strictly a museum on Philippine history to becoming an institution in which history and the arts interact and are given equal prominence. Now with a world-class facility and a renewed mission to recollect the country’s past and represent its future, Ayala Museum will soon serve as the locus of cultural interchange between similar institutions abroad and Filipinos.
Mr. Zobel adds, “The new Ayala Museum is a gift to the Filipino people. It’s the high point of this year’s anniversary celebration. It is a place for everyone with each visit assured of a wonderful learning experience. The museum chronicles the journey of our nation and it holds treasures that mirror a rich past and continuously evolving present artworks that are lasting legacies to our country. As Filipinos, we owe it to ourselves to recognize the value of our heritage.”