Cover Architectural renderings of the new Metropolitan Museum of Manila’s pedestrian spaces outside its main exhibition areas, designed by CAZA Architects, led by Carlos Arnaiz

After 45 years of showcasing modern and contemporary art at its location by the bay, the Metropolitan Museum of Manila (M) moves nearer the centre of the metropolis to begin a new chapter at the Bonifacio Global City

“The M is home for everyone. That is why it is ‘art for all’,” Tina Colayco, president of the Metropolitan Museum of Manila (M), quickly answered as the words have been etched on her heart.

The past year has been strange for everyone with the ongoing pandemic. And yet, Colayco with her staff, backed by the massive support from the museum foundation’s board of trustees, led the M’s quick transition to digital media. After its successful virtual exhibition openings and live conferences, the famed institution gears for another transition.

 

In time for its 45th anniversary, the M steps onto another milestone: a brand-new and state-of-the-art space at 30th Street, Bonifacio Global City (BGC), Taguig. Designed by the Manila-born and New York-based architect Carlos Arnaiz, the new premises will occupy more than 3,000 sqm (spread across three floors) of exhibition and administrative spaces, plus an outdoor area for installations, as well as a connecting lane from 30th to High Street. It is scheduled to open by the end of the year—if everything falls into place amid the ensuing lockdowns.

“We are excited to be part of the vibrant and emerging cultural hub that BGC has become, and our new location will certainly widen our audience reach,” Colayco said. With the venue near the sports park Track 30th and the High Street commercial centre, high foot traffic seemed to be promising. “With our new environment, we are reinforcing our continuing commitment to modern and contemporary art, with plenty of opportunities to explore new digital and spatial exhibition formats, connecting indoor and outdoor spaces for art and hybrid programmes,” she continued.

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Colayco and her team are now counting the months before they finally bid goodbye to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) complex, which has been the M’s home for 45 years. “The ever-mutating pandemic, and the subsequent lockdowns affecting the closure of museums and other establishments defined a crisis with ‘opportune’ moments for change,” Colayco shared on what prompted the move. “The old premises of the museum had been due for renovation even before COVID-19 as part of the redevelopment plans of the BSP. The M board decided it was also time to fast forward its own plans for the museum and reopen new art spaces at BGC in late 2021,” she said.

The M’s hallowed halls on Roxas Boulevard have been witnesses to the evolution of our country’s narrative on arts and culture, as well as significant chapters in our political history. It first opened as part of the cultural development programme of the government during the 1970s and was originally a division of the Cultural Centre of the Philippines. It became an independent private foundation in 1979. During its establishment by then First Lady Imelda Marcos, it was designated as the venue for international art exhibitions, intended to showcase art collections from leading museums from around the world. When the Marcos regime was toppled down in 1986, the M not only developed a new board of trustees but evolved its mission to heighten instead an awareness and appreciation of Philippine arts and culture.

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Besides its staunch promotion of local artistry, the M eventually became known for its sought-after collaborations with internationally renowned artists like Antonio Paucar and Maria Jose Arjona, to name a few. Through its artist residency and exchange programmes as well as travelling exhibitions, the M started emphasising the need for multicultural and multidisciplinary approaches. Colayco credited this turning point when the survey exhibition, The Philippine Contemporary: To Scale the Past and the Possible, was curated by leading art scholar and historian Patrick Flores. Through its innovative collaborations and linkages, the M was able to organise an international museum summit at the height of the pandemic last year and mount hybrid exhibitions as well, one of which was a travelling exhibition of the Japan Foundation of the Philippines and the other, the retrospective of Betsy Westendorp.

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“We want to achieve robust conversations, ongoing exchange of ideas . . . discussions about what is happening around us, and in relation to that, the concerns of artists within their communities . . . the commonalities and differences between artists from the Southeast Asian region and those from other parts of the world,” Colayco said. “You would then have a multicultural approach on appreciating modern and contemporary art in different contexts, and that is very important for us.”

Over the years, the M’s permanent collection has been built and acquired by past presidents and trustees. Completing the narrative of the development of Philippine art, the collection which would also be transferred to the new museum space starts with the early decades of the 20th century represented by the art of Fernando Amorsolo and Guillermo Tolentino. One would also see pieces from different periods of modern and contemporary art with the works of Nena Saguil, Jerry Elizalde Navarro, BenCab, among others.

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“As we gear up for the reopening of the M in BGC, it is the vision of the museum’s board of trustees to strengthen the philosophy of ‘art for all’ in new and dynamic ways,” the museum’s president said. “We are grateful for the support of the trustees led by our chairman, Joselito Campos, Jr, and of our partner institutions, corporate patrons and sponsors.”

Finally, Colayco added: “We can only remain hopeful for the near and far future. We believe that art and culture will be essential drivers in any kind of human and societal recovery after the pandemic. The Museum hopes to continue fulfilling its purpose to fully use its assets and resources in a sustainable manner to help people be their best selves, enjoy better lives, or make the community stronger through the creative potential of contemporary art and culture.”

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This story was originally published in Tatler Philippines' October 2021 issue. Download it on Magzter for free.

  • Images(Archival) Metropolitan Museum of Manila
  • Images(Architectural renderings of the new museum) CAZA
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