Philippine Art: Collecting Art, Collecting Memories

« Philippine Art: Collecting Art, Collecting Memories », 14/07/2017 – 11/03/2018, Asian Art Museum, San Francisco

Landmark exhibition at Asian Art Museum showcases centuries of creativity and cultural exchange

On view July 14, 2017–March 11, 2018 and presented in the Tateuchi Thematic Gallery, Philippine Art: Collecting Art, Collecting Memories is the result of more than a decade of study and collecting by the museum’s curatorial team — a labor of love to expand the institution’s holdings in this oft-overlooked area.

This is the first exhibition ever mounted in the United States of Philippine art spanning from the precolonial period to today. It explores the Philippines’ diverse artistic practices through twenty-five rare and compelling works: traditional carving and weaving; Islamic metalwork; Christian art from the colonial period; and modern and contemporary painting and mixed-media. This rich variety comes together to tell the sometimes unfamiliar story of how the Philippines — an island nation positioned along ancient trade routes between China and India, and, later, Europe via the Americas — has for centuries been a center for artistic exchange and innovation.

“The artistic culture of the Philippines has been marked by a history of invasion, resistance, accommodation and adaptation,” explains Natasha Reichle, who as the museum’s associate curator of Southeast Asian art spent years acquiring the artworks organized into this exhibition. “What has been fascinating is seeing how contemporary artists draw upon aspects of this complex legacy to create new works, works that are celebrated in the Philippines and valued in a global art market that is beginning to appreciate their beauty, originality and sophistication.”

“Ironically, the Philippines’ colonial history and Christian artistic legacy placed much of its art outside familiar ‘Asian art’ storylines of Hinduism or Buddhism, which may have led to its exclusion from our museum’s original founding collection,” explains Reichle. “Luckily for our visitors, this is a story that wants to be told. We have pieces in this exhibition acquired by donation, given directly from artists and collectors, even from the families of former missionaries and on-the-ground field researchers. The backstory of how we acquired every artwork mirrors the fascinating history of the Philippines.”

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