Lopez Museum and Library

The Lopez Museum and Library had been on my list of museums and galleries to eventually visit and I finally checked it off the list last October during their celebration of National Month for Museums and galleries. What got me out of the house was the free entrance. At least twice in a year, the Lopez Museum and Library opens its doors to the public completely for free in observation of the international museum month and national museum month. In ordinary days, the entrance fee for regular visitors costs a hundred peso.

It is a privately owned by the Lopezes who, if you’re a Filipino living in the Philippines, should need no introduction. They are the moguls behind broadcast and entertainment giant ABS-CBN and Star Cinema and they have complete monopoly on electricity in Metro Manila through Meralco. The Lopez Museum and Library specializes on Filipiniana which means that their vast art and library collections are mainly composed of works by Filipino artists or pertaining to the Philippines.

However, the size of their collection is not apparent through the actual physical size of their museum and library. The Lopez Museum and Library is tucked inside BenPres Building in Meralco Avenue, Ortigas, Pasig and it only occupies a single floor. BenPres Building was not constructed or designed with the idea of housing a library, let alone a museum. This was not the original venue of the museum and library; the ceilings seem rather low for installing large scale artworks. They had to leave their first home because they were evicted by the Marcoses during martial law (but don’t quote me on this, I have a vague memory of hearing this info from our guide but have not done actual research yet). The curator told us that they are moving to a new home next year, 2018.

Exhibit: The Given Order

The Lopez Museum has an expansive collection of artworks but given the limited space not all artworks are available for viewing at once. Instead, they take out pieces from their collection, which suit the theme of their current exhibition. On my visit, their ongoing exhibition was on religion entitled “The Given Order” and the library was hosting “What do I say to a giant?” an exhibit on the late national artist for literature, Nick Joaquin. The Lopez Museum and Library also invites contemporary artists to exhibit their pieces.

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Anton del Castillo’s inspiration for this piece and the one below is the movie “Pleasantville”. In that film, the characters started out as black and white but gradually turned into “colored” people as they discover “sins” or carnality. This greeted the visitors at the entrance and the one below was placed in one of the exhibit rooms.

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“The Given Order” featured works by two local artists, Anton del Castillo and Jason Dy, S.J., on the same topic – religion, although their works could not have been more worlds apart.

Anton del Castillo has a complex relationship with religion. I could not say whether the artist still has an ongoing struggle of trying to figure out religion and faith or if he has made up his mind and owned up to being a “non-believer”. Is he still looking for an answer? Has he come to terms with his “faithlessness”? I’m not sure and he also probably is unsure too. Anyway, I thank his uncertainty and turmoil for without them, he would not have produced the following pieces:

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supposedly, each skeleton guy is mimicking a religious hand gesture

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the plastic protective covering was not originally part of the piece but one museum staff didn’t notice the nails and accidentally almost knelt on this church pew

The other half of the exhibit is by an artist-priest, Father Jason Dy. It is safe to say that Jason Dy is sure and confident of his spiritual belief which allowed him to produce an artwork that is not just a solitary exploration of religion but one that involved a community.  The creation of his original work (the one in Lopez Museum was a re-staging) involved the help of his local flock. The “plastic balloons”, which made up the ceiling of his makeshift altar, contained pieces of paper bearing the personal prayers of the community. His artwork did not stem from a question of faith but rather from the need to express not just his, but other people’s faith.

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The transition from one to the other was jarring. Despite the stark contrast in their exploration of religion, they complemented each other. Religion is multi-faceted and complicated; IMHO the exhibition would have missed this had they featured works from artists with the same interpretation of religion.

Exhibit: What do I say to a giant?

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The story behind the title of this exhibit was this – one day Nick Joaquin asked another writer to sign his book for him. There was Nick Joaquin, a celebrated writer both in the world of fiction writing and journalism, asking a newcomer for an autograph.  The writer ended up inscribing “what do I say to a giant?” because, what could you?

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Artist: Marc Gaba / He used San Miguel bottles in this piece because Nick Joaquin was notorious for drinking this brand of beer all the time even when he was attending events where he was the speaker. The blackboards behind at first were written with excerpts from Nick Joaquin’s book “A Portrait of a Young Filipino as an Artist” but Gaba erased the words he painstakingly wrote during the opening night of the exhibit. It was to symbolize the erasure of Nick Joaquin among young Filipino people’s consciousness; not many people know who Nick Joaquin was.

 

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