When the renowned Philippine abstract painter Fernando Zóbel de Ayala y Montojo returned to Manila in the late Fifties, he shared his enthusiasm for modern art, actively collected masterpieces and held exhibitions in pursuit of promoting a wider appreciation for Philippine art. It was at this time that he envisioned a museum that would serve as a venue of traditional and advanced platforms to present the country’s rich heritage. Zóbel thought it to become the centre of the Ayala Foundation (then known as Filipinas Foundation) for cultural education with the mandate to empower and instil pride in Filipinos through a deeper understanding of their traditions, history and culture.
In 1967, the Ayala Museum was established by the foundation led by Mercedes Zóbel de Ayala y Roxas and Joseph R McMicking, former CEO of Ayala Corporation, who strongly believed that arts and culture advocacy is a powerful civic action. It was located at the Insular Life building on Ayala Avenue, Makati City. After highlighting contemporary Philippine art and inviting masterpieces by renowned international artists, the Ayala Museum moved in 1974 to its current location on Makati Avenue in a brutalist styled building designed by National Artist for architecture Leandro V Locsin. Eventually it was demolished to give way to a new six-storey building made of steel, granite and glass. Unveiled in 2004, the current building was designed by the same architectural firm under the leadership of Leandro Y Locsin Jnr, coinciding Ayala Corporation’s 170th anniversary.
For decades the Ayala Foundation has led these institutions in making significant contributions to promoting Philippine art, culture and heritage. It has mounted exhibitions that not only highlighted the masterful artistry and craftsmanship of Filipinos but also discovered long-lost treasures from paper to gold that solidify the cultural identity of our peoples.