The Arts

Joven Cuanang

Photo Wig Tysmans

This “accidental art patron” is a top neurologist by profession turned contemporary gallery owner that advocates for the healing of the mind through, well, art

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Dr Joven Cuanang has been an art patron for decades and a neurologist for even longer. Somehow, though, he always felt split in half between the two. That is, until he chanced upon the research of Semir Zeiki, whose work reveals the effects of art on the brain through functional magnetic resonance imaging. His school, the Pinto Academy of Arts and Science, is also known as the Philippine Centre of Neuroaesthetics. The lecture hall, which focuses on art therapy, is located in the same property as the Pinto Art Museum, which he established after his advocacy for art, culture, and ecology post-People Power Revolution gave him the opportunity to “adopt” local talents in the communities of Antipolo. Now known as the Salingpusa Collective, their works of contemporary art have spilled over to a new generation of artists, borne from the patronage of the doctor.

Cuanang’s inclination for art as a healing method deepened after he suffered a heart attack in 1997. He later acquired the two-hectare hillside lot on which his museum and art gallery are established amidst a sprawling botanical garden. Despite the unease in marrying the profession and the passion, the subject of nature and the mind and art and beauty are almost inseparable in his work.

Cuanang also owns the Boston Gallery in Manila, where he has launched the careers of contemporary artists, including Cultural Centre of the Philippines Thirteen Artists awardee Elmer Borlongan. In 2017, he founded Pinto International and started exhibiting Filipino art in New York. In 2020, he showed Connect With Your Heart, an exhibit of over 200 unsigned works for new art patrons to acquire, with proceeds going to the Pinto Arboretum. The botanical garden is a rescue centre for endangered Philippine plants, including a water conservation program.

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Cuanang has a long-standing friendship with National Artist BenCab. The two met in 1966 when the doctor was just an intern at a hospital that was staging a play – already an indication of his early foray into art as healing. BenCab was among the artist volunteers for the activity. During this first encounter, BenCab also volunteered to draw the doctor. Now, every five years, BenCab meets with the doctor to continue this tradition with a portrait of his friend, the art patron. 

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