A year ago, Paulino and Hetty Que allowed Manila art lovers to revel in their wonderful collection of Philippine contemporary
paintings. We all had our fill of the key Filipino artists making waves today in both the local and international art scene. This month, Paulino brings out more of his collection, older pieces that any enthusiast of Philippine art history should make a point to see.
Meaning To Be Modern, Philippine Paintings from 1907 to 1959 mounted at the Finale Art File takes us through a fifty-year-period that saw the emergence of important work by names we revere today: The Thirteen Moderns, The Triumvirate of Victorio Edades, Galo Ocampo, and Botong Francisco, and the stalwarts of the Philippine Art Gallery (PAG) and the Art Association of the Philippines (AAP) competitions. The modern movement in the Philippines essentially began with Edades challenging the prevalence of the classical, idyllic images adopted by Fernando Amorsolo and his disciples. In this exhibit, we see works considered subversive and avant-garde half a century ago. Even more interesting for me, this show allows us to revisit works by names that no longer resonate today, artists like Cenon Rivera, Hugo Yonzon, and Venancio Igarte.
This exhibit brings out so many gems, pieces atypical of the techniques that we have come to associate with certain artists. Who would have thought of Jose Joya as a voyeur? In his Athletes In Locker painted in 1953, we glimpse muscled buns and naked
torsos of unguarded male subjects. Nena Saguil‘s surreal Power Room, also from 1953, has a water closet dominatrix whipping turds and toilet paper to her bidding. And you have Sanso’s Nocturnalia, a woman of the night making her church offerings. She dons a veil, but the plunging neckline of her lace dress gives her away for what she is. I love Cesar Legaspi‘s Bar Girls, 1947. He depicts two women with harsh, almost masculine features, sitting down for a smoke, perhaps waiting for their next customer. Legaspi painted their faces green, making them even more sinister, almost grotesque. If I had to choose a favorite, this would be it.
One cannot take everything in in one go, especially not on opening night with its distractions. This exhibit deserves a second, more leisurely visit. That gives me the perfect excuse to go back and enjoy this great opportunity that Paulino Que has allowed us to experience.
Meaning To Be Modern, Philippine Paintings from 1907 to 1959 Paulino Que Collection runs from 5 to 30 March 2010 at the Finale Art File, Warehouse 17, La Fuerza Compound, 2241 Pasong Tamo, Makati City. Phone (632) 813-2310 or visit