Rare exhibit of 100 Filipino self-portraits on view until March 3

It is a rare occasion to find a Juan Luna piece on display at a private gallery–let alone a Luna self-portrait–and even rarer to find a Luna and a Damian Domingo piece in the same exhibit. When you put these alongside even more self-portraits of masters such as Fernando Amorsolo, Victorio Edades, Fernando Zobel, Arturo Luz, Ang Kiukok, Jose Joya, Federico Alcuaz; contemporary artists such as Manuel Ocampo, Elmer Borlongan, Geraldine Javier, Lyra Garcellano, Maria Taniguchi, Christina Dy; and post-EDSA babies such as Liv Romualdez-Vinluan and Jeona Zoleta, what you will get is a groundbreaking exhibit of historical proportions–the kind that every art-loving Filipino must take the time to see.

"The Self in Art" (METRO Society, February 2012) Words by Nina Terol-Zialcita, images courtesy of Finale Art File, art direction by Butchie Pena
"The Self in Art" (METRO Society, February 2012) Words by Nina Terol-Zialcita, images courtesy of Finale Art File, art direction by Butchie Pena

The name of the exhibit is “Imagining Identity: Self-Portraits of 100 Filipino Artists“, and it runs until March 3 at Finale Art File, Chino Roces Avenue (Pasong Tamo), Makati City. In this feature published in the February 2012 issue of METRO Society, I take a closer look at the art and artists, and the generous souls who have made such a show possible. Here is an excerpt of the piece:

“Few works are as intriguing as an artist’s self-portrait, for here, an artist–who is mostly hidden or disguised by his works–finally reveals himself to the public. The revelation may be literal, almost photographic and matter-of-fact as in the case of Rembrandt, or it may still be laden with layers and symbolism, as in the case of Frida Kahlo and her monkeys. In any case, the art of self-portraiture itself begs closer examination because, through it, a society can glean how its people have perceived themselves and their environment through the ages.

“Finale Art File’s latest exhibit, ‘Imagining Identity’, presents Manila art lovers precisely with this opportunity. Through 100 Filipino self-portraits made available to the public from the Paulino Que collection, arguably the most important art collection today, the exhibit reveals the faces of some of the most important artists this country has ever known. In the process, it also reveals the movement of Philippine art through the ages and how artists have found themselves within the heady mix of art-making, surviving, politicking and jostling for public attention, and self-actualizing…

“… It is fascinating to see what is practically a historical timeline of Philippine art brought together in and through a single collection. As [Dr. Patrick] Flores [, curator of the University of the Philippines’ Vargas Museum] writes, “In the history of art in the Philippines, the Que Collection is able to deftly mark the turns in the fraught demands of modernity foisted on a country, a post-colony, a potential nation, a nation in pieces: to be critically aware of being in the world in time with others.”

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According to official releases by Finale Art File:

The exhibit is an extensive survey of both history and identity, featuring works produced from 1826 to 2011. The oldest artist featured in the collection is Damian Domingo (b.1796-d.1833), the first Filipino painter to depart from the tradition of religious art under Spanish colonization; the youngest is Maria Jeona Zoleta (b.1989).

The first self-portrait acquired by Que is among the oldest works in the show: Juan Luna’s Indio Bravo in 1886. Other historical works are Domingo’s 1826 miniature portrait on ivory; works by both master genre painter Fabian dela Rosa and Modernist champion Victorio Edades in the 1920s; a 1950 work by printmaking pioneer Manuel Rodriguez, Sr.; and the 1968 self-portrait of Federico Alcuaz, who passed away last February 2, 2011.

Works from the late 70s’s to 80’s include an early portrait by Social Realist Jose Tence Ruiz and Nena Saguil in Paris. The exhibit also shares David Medalla’s 1984 self-portrait and Manuel Ocampo’s portrait of self as a little fairy in 2003. Younger artists such as Lyra Garcellano, Troy Ignacio, Mark Justiniani, Yasmin Sison-Ching, Tatong Recheta Torres, and Liv Romualdez-Vinluan are also included.

The show also spans the entire range of ways that artists—who have altered our ways of seeing the world— represent themselves: from traditional self-portraits, such as Fernando Amorsolo’s graphite on paper sketch, to more concept-based works, such as Bea Camacho’s digital print of body circumference data graphs.

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About Mr. Paulino Que (another excerpt):

“A businessman by profession, art collector by vocation,” Paulino Que is perhaps the Philippines’ most important and most comprehensive art collector, having acquired a collection that rivals that of any museum or gallery standing in town today…

… Described as a ‘very passionate art collector,’ Que is known to be one of the leading supporters of the Philippine art scene, often lending his collections to various local and international exhibits and showing audiences the best that Philippine art can offer.”

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Imagining Identity: Self-Portraits of 100 Filipino Artists will be on view from February 8 to March 3, 2012 at Finale Art File, located at Warehouse 17, La Fuerza Compound, 2241 Chino Roces Avenue (Pasong Tamo), Makati City. 

Niña Terol-Zialcita

Niña Terol-Zialcita is a “Communicator, Connector, idea Curator, and Changemaker” who uses the power of words and ideas to advocate causes and promote the Philippines at its best. She is ProPinoy.net’s Deputy Editor, as well as Editor-in-Chief of asianTraveler, the longest-running travel magazine in the Philippines. When she is not writing, blogging, or traveling, Niña is conducting writing workshops with Writer’s Block Philippines, hanging out at art galleries and cafés, and performing poetry with her husband, percussionist and performance artist Paul Zialcita. She is also the author of the book "[r]evolutionaries: The new generation of Filipino youth and youth organizations".