Ayala Art Museum

For the second day in Manila (the day before I had been to Intramuros – read about it here) I decided I would go to the Ayala Museum, the latest addition to Manila’s art scene. It’s out in Makati district, the new business district in Centro Manila; so I had to take a small walk to get to take a cab. I didn’t mind it though, as I think the best way to explore a city and to discover its hidden treasure is wondering in the small alleys – especially if you can do so wearing a cute little red dress.

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It’s quite a ride from Rizal Park, where my hotel is, to Makati, around 20 minutes. And I couldn’t wait to get to the museum as I read so many interesting articles about it!

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Ayala Museum, as an institution and previously in a different location, exists from the Sixties as a showcase for Filipino history and iconography, but the actual building, designed by one of the local masters of contemporary architecture, Leandro Locsin, was inaugurated as an art museum in September 2004 in celebration of the Ayala Corporation’s 170th anniversary. Ayala was originally a very wealthy Spanish family during colonial rule and today, as a corporation, it represents the biggest and oldest Filipino business group, with interests in real estate, renewable energy, electronics, banking and many more.

The museum is part of the Greenbelt complex (or Ayala Centre), huge outdoor shopping mall that combines high-end boutiques, restaurants and other amenities in a nice and cool setting. Love it!

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What I love the most about South-East Asian cities (like Bangkok or Ho Chi Minh) is that the nice weather conditions allow you to spend most of your time outdoor, in a rich and luxuriant environment.

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Apparently kids enjoy the mall as much as their shopping parents!

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The museum itself is a four-storey building hosting both permanent exhibitions and changing ones, mostly featuring works of young artists or art pieces on loan from collections from abroad.

Our visit started at the fourth floor gallery, where the permanent exhibition ‘Gold of Ancestors’ is host. Almost one thousand gold objects are shown, most of which existed in the Philippines before Spanish arrived in the XVI century. There are plenty of necklaces, rings and earrings. They are all amazing and some of them preserved in a very good state. I hoped at the museum shop they would have a copy of them, but… no. Pity though.

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The curator of the exhibition is Florina H. Capistrano-Baker, and I really think she did a very good job: the cases and the lighting system are both very sophisticated and some videos around the gallery help better understand the importance of wearing jewellery for elite individuals in the not-yet-colonized Philippines.

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On the third floor, the most interesting exhibition was a retrospective one of the work of Constancio Bernardo, one of the most important artists of XX century in the Philippines. There are more than one thousands pieces, ranging from the self portraits to the sketches he draw while at Yale University, but I was particularly interested in his canvases of abstraction, most probably because of the use of sharp colours. The exhibition will be on till the end of February, 2014. So my suggestion is you don’t miss it if you happen to be travelling in Manila before that.

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The second floor features two different exhibitions: ‘Maritime Vessels’ – collection of ship models – and ‘Diorama Experience’. Both of them are not particularly appealing from a purely artistic point of view, but especially the second one helped me (a lot) understand the different milestones in the Philippines’ history.

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The dioramas, carved by skilled artisans from Laguna, depict sixty major events, from prehistorical  times to Spanish rule to the declaration of independence from the United States in 1946. I personally think that it would be wonderful if all the kids could have the chance to look at these dioramas, after all isn’t history in children’s eyes something like a series of images put together following a time line? Charming.

Also, by checking the Ayala Museum’s website, I discovered that as part of the museum’s participation in the international Google Art Project, high resolution images of fifteen select dioramas have been uploaded to the web; this means that you can have a look at them from your laptop, no matter where you are.

Also, the diorama audio guides are available in rentable units for iPod touch and iPhone. Click here to read more about this partnership. Amazing, isn’t it?

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On the ground floor, in the main gallery, works from most relevant Filipino contemporary visual artists are on show. Ambie Abaño, Pandy Aviado, Max Balatbat, BenCab, Rosscapili, Joey Cobcobo – some of their names. I loved this exhibition. I find that it offers various views of global (and Philippino in particular) realities. Using various media – like oil, acrylic, photographs, silk – the young artists show the lively colors of festivals, the organized chaos of sidewalks, the musicality and rhythm, the shared issue of global warming and flooding, day-to-day survival, as well as questions on culture, identity, and morality. Also, I loved the curator’s choice for the walls’ colours: by using bright colors, the entropy becomes even more important, overwhelming the spectator in a rush of emotions.

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So, the Ayala Museum was amazing. Then it was lunch time. We decided to try the M Cafe, described by fellow travellers here as ‘much more than a simple refuelling stop for museum patrons, it is a magnet for Manila’s chi-chi class’. It seemed perfect for me!

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With a cool outdoor bar, light balloons as ceiling lamps and a bold Illy coffee machine, I immediately fell in love with this little bistro.

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After much thinking, I ordered a vegetarian mushroom sandwich, which came with plenty of fresh and crispy salad.

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It was very good! I was ready for the second part of the day!

 

For the day at Ayala Museum I was delighted to wear:

Cute red dress: ‘S Max Mara

Flats: Prada

Sunglasses: Dior

Bag: Gucci

Silver and gold bracelets: Dodo by Pomellato

 

Pictures were taken with my white iPhone 5

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