Metro Manila is bustling with art; however, the spaces where they are best found are scattered around different parts of the huge super-region. In addition, the traffic along its roads, which can really be bad during peak hours and rainy days, makes the search for these art spaces a bit challenging. Thus, the game then is a matter of being able to plan out where exactly to go based on what you’d actually want to see. Whether you are a tourist who would like to spend some of your time in Manila with the arts (and I think you really should), or a local who would like to discover Philippine art whether for the first time or not (and I also think you really should), you’d find this guide very useful in navigating you around the clutter of this vibrant art scene.
Disclaimers: Please take note, however, that this guide does not aim to box the different art spaces into specific categories (as they usually cross around categories); the goal of this guide is to pinpoint the best places to visit when you have something particular in mind. In addition, the content of this article are the places that I personally have visited. Since I continue to try to discover more places, this article will continue to be a work-in-progress.
How if I do not know where to start?
Everybody starts somewhere, and it is a good thing that there are places that showcases a survey of the history of Philippine art across different eras. If you want to see a high-level picture of the evolution of art in the country, you might want to visit the following museums:
National Art Gallery/ National Museum of Fine Arts
As expected, the National Art Gallery holds the widest array of Philippine art starting those dated at the 1700’s to the latter end of the Modern movement. Majority of the artworks are grouped per period, ranging from the religious arts of the 17th to the 19th centuries, academic or conservative-style art, to the modernists. Some exhibits feature specific artists, one of which is the country’s national hero, Jose Rizal. The highlights of the gallery are the two gigantic paintings by Juan Luna and Felix Resurrecion Hidalgo, named Spoliarium and the El Asesinato del Gobernador Bustamante, respectively. The first painting won first place in the 1884 Exposición Nacional de Bellas Artes in Madrid — which was one of the first Filipino-made art works that won an international competition, introducing the country in the international art scene.
For more details about the museum, you may visit the exhibition descriptions from the National Art Gallery website.
Address: Taft Ave, Ermita, Manila Museum Hours: 10AM to 5PM, closed during Mondays and holidays Ticket Prices: (both National Art Gallery, Museum of the Filipino People and exhibits in the National Planetarium) Student - Php. 50 Senior Citizen - Php. 120 Adult - Php. 150 Contact Number: 527-0278 Website: nationalmuseum.gov.ph/ Photography: Yes! How to commute: Take a commute to the U.N. Avenue LRT1 station, and walk along Gen. Luna Street towards the huge Lapu-Lapu monument. Walk towards Finance Road, passing beside the Museum of Filipino People. The yellow classic-looking building is the National Art Gallery.
Metropolitan Museum of Manila
Along with the fact that the Met specializes on modern and contemporary art, they have a semi-permanent exhibition surveying the latter part of Philippine art history. The exhibition, namely The Philippine Contemporary: To Scale the Past and the Possible, holds different modern and contemporary art in different mediums — paintings, sculptures, installations, mixed media, photography, and the like. In addition, the Met also holds the gold and pottery collections of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (Central Bank of the Philippines), which are readily displayed at the basement. Temporary exhibitions are also held at the ground floor, usually those leaning towards modern art.
Address: Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Roxas Boulevard, Manila Museum Hours: 10AM to 5:30PM, closed during Sundays and holidays (The Gold and Pottery exhibits are open up to 4:30 only) Ticket Prices: Senior Citizen/Persons with Disability - Php. 80 Student/Adult - Php. 100 Contact Number: 250-5271 Website: metmuseum.ph/ Photography: Ground Floor, depends on the collection; Second Floor, No How to commute: Take a commute to the Vito Cruz LRT1 station, and walk along Taft Avenue towards Torre Lorenzo building. Turn right to Ocampo Street, and walk straight until you reach the Rizal Memorial Coliseum. In front of the coliseum are orange CCP-bound jeepneys queued. Ride a jeep and alight at Roxas Boulevard. Walk along Roxas Boulevard in front of the Central Bank and Department of Finance. You will see the label of the Met Museum after a few minutes.
Classical or Traditionalist Art
If you are more inclined to appreciate realistic, fine-looking images of people or landscapes, the following museums are your must-go’s:
Lopez Memorial Museum and Library
The Lopez Museum holds one of the best public collections of classical or traditionalist art, specifically those of the maestros Juan Luna and Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo. In here, you may also find multiple studies and sketches of the renowned paintings of these Filipino academic painters. Nowadays, the museum is currently more leaning towards showcasing well-curated temporary exhibitions that mix different artworks from various art movements and mediums, and their permanent collection usually makes way for these exhibitions. Check their website or the Events page of this website to find out what to expect before visiting!
Address: Benpres Building, Exchange Road, Ortigas, Pasig City Museum Hours: 8AM to 5PM, closed during Sundays and holidays Ticket Prices: Gradeschool Student - Php. 60 High School/College Student - Php. 80 Adult - Php. 100 Contact Number: 631-2417 Website: lopez-museum.com/ Photography: Usually, Yes! How to commute: Take a commute to the Shaw Central MRT3 station and take the South exit to the Greenfield District Pavilion. Exit the mall to Sta. Cristo Street and turn left to reach Shaw Boulevard. Ride a jeepney bound to pass by Tektite. These are queued in front of the office space on your right. Alight when you reach the Benpres Building, which is right beside the Philippine Stock Exchange in the Tektite Towers.
Jorge B. Vargas Museum
The Vargas Museum, located at the state university of the country, aims to contribute to the art scene through research, exhibition and education. Holding the collection of Jorge B. Vargas, the country’s very first executive secretary, the museum prides itself with a wide collection of academic, conservative and modern art works dated 1880’s to 1960’s. The academic and conservative-style art work collection includes works of Simon Flores, Juan Luna and Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo. The permanent collection is showcased at the second floor, while the ground and third floors are for their temporary exhibitions.
Address: Roxas Avenue, University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City Museum Hours: 9AM to 5PM, closed during Sundays and Mondays Ticket Prices: UP Student, Faculty, Alumni - Php. 20 Others - Php. 30 Contact Number: 928-1927 Website: vargasmuseum.wordpress.com/ Photography: Yes! How to commute: Take a commute to Katipunan LRT2 station. Exit at the North exit, turn left and walk along Aurora Boulevard until you reach Katipunan Avenue. Turn left and walk towards the jeepney terminal under the fly-over. Ride a jeepney bound to UP Campus (Loob) and alight the jeepney right in front of the Vargas Museum.
Modern and Contemporary Art
Although there are pretty much distinct differences between modern and contemporary art, I opted to place these two art groups together as the trend in the country for modern art museums is to also showcase contemporary art as well, although usually temporarily. Here are the museums that showcases both modern and contemporary art.
The Sanso Museum is an institution dedicated to the works of Juvenal Sanso, a well-known Spanish artist. Although born a Spanish, his heart is with the Filipinos are he was raised here in the Philippines. His works range around modernist paintings and prints. It is prominent in majority of his artworks, specifically those in his Black Period, the remnants of his dark memories of the World War that had happened here in the country while he was a boy. An artillery shell blasted in his house, which left him almost deaf in one ear. This ‘dark’ style did not fail to surface even if Sanso was under the tutelage of Fernando Amorsolo, who is known for painting idyllic and beautiful Filipino women and landscapes. After several decades however, his style has changed into paintings and prints with bright colors. This shift in style is prominent here in the museum, as the viewer moves from one level of the building to another.
Aside from the exhibition, the museum also hosts seasonal printmaking classes with reknowned printmaker Pandy Aviado.
Address: V. Cruz Street, Sta. Lucia, San Juan City Museum Hours: Mondays to Saturdays, 9AM to 5:00PM, lunch break every 12nn to 1pm; closed on Sundays and holidays Ticket Prices: Php. 100 Contact Number: 952-1568 Website: juvenalsanso.com/ Photography: Yes! How to commute: Take a commute to Shaw Central MRT station. Exit at the North exit to EDSA Starmall. Exit Starmall and walk towards Shaw Boulevard. Take a jeep to Kalentong. Alight from the jeepney when you reach KFC, which is right across Jollibee. Turn right to General Kalentong Street until you reach jeepney barkers calling for passengers to Sta. Lucia. Take one of those jeepneys and alight at Petron before the intersection of Parada Street and P. Guevarra Street. Walk along P. Guevarra Street, passing by the two adjacent Petron gas stations and turn right after seeing North Park restaurant. After turning right, you'd find the museum.
Ateneo Art Gallery
The Ateneo Art Gallery is the very first museum dedicated to the modern art movement, and its collection, majority of which were donated by the National Artist Fernando Zobel from his personal art collection, is one of the best. Works by renowned artists and national artists of the post-war era such as Vicente Manansala, H.R. Ocampo, Anita Magsaysay-Ho, Arturo Luz, Cesar Legaspi, Ang Kiukok, Napoleon Abueva, J. Elizalde Navarro, and David Medalla are displayed in the gallery. The gallery has 2 wings: one is usually allotted for their permanent collection, and the other is allotted for temporary exhibitions by contemporary artists. The gallery also hosts the annual Ateneo Art Awards for Visual Arts and Art Criticism.
Address: Old Rizal Library, Ateneo de Manila University, Katipunan Avenue, Loyola Heights, Quezon City Museum Hours: Mondays to Friday, 8AM to 7:30PM; Saturdays, 8AM to 6PM; closed on Sundays and holidays Ticket Prices: Free, unless a group of 30 or above (Php. 30) Contact Number: 928-1927 Website: ateneoartgallery.org/ Photography: Yes! How to commute: Take a commute to Katipunan LRT2 station. Exit at the North exit, turn left and walk along Aurora Boulevard until you reach Katipunan Avenue. Turn left and walk towards the tricycle station. Take a tricycle ride to Leong Hall or Xavier Hall, and walk to the Old Rizal Library.
One of the most active museums in the metro is the Ayala Museum, holding different history and art talks, and writing and art workshops for all ages. Aside from these, they also display good collections of art works of modern and contemporary artists, within its third floor and ground floor galleries, and third floor corridors. The highlights of their collection are those from Fernando Zobel and Carlos ‘Botong’ Francisco, both of which are National Artists. In addition, they have traveling exhibitions, showcasing other works from their permanent collection in the provinces. The second floor is dedicated to the dioramas, depicting the history of the country, and the fourth floor is dedicated to the gold collection and other special artifacts owned by the museum.
Address: Dela Rosa Street, Makati City Museum Hours: 9AM to 6PM, closed on Mondays and holidays; Artist Space open daily, 10AM to 7PM Ticket Prices: Basic Admission: Regular Resident: Php 150 Resident Student/ Senior Citizen: Php 75 Regular Non-Resident: Php 350 Non-Resident Student/ Senior Citizen: Php 250 Full Admission: Regular Resident: Php 225 Resident Student/ Senior Citizen: Php 125 Regular Non-Resident: Php 425 Non-Resident Student/ Senior Citizen: Php 300 Contact Number: 759-8288 Website: ayalamuseum.org/ Photography: Ground Floor, depends on the collection; Second Floor, Yes; Artist Space, Yes; Others, No How to commute: Take a commute to Ayala MRT3. Walk along SM Makati, Glorietta and Landmark. Upon reaching Greenbelt 3, turn right and take the escalator. Walk straight to reach the museum.
Cultural Center of the Philippines
Although more known to house theaters for small to grand productions, the Cultural Center of the Philippines also holds art exhibitions. Across its 5 floors are multiple galleries and corridors dedicated to exhibition contemporary visual arts. The CCP is also known for their retrospective exhibitions for artists who brought about big contributions to the Philippine art scene — such as Bencab, Constancio Bernardo, and the like. Aside from works curated in the galleries, dispersed around the corridors are different paintings, sculptures and mixed-media works made by renowned visual artists. While waiting for the play to start, a leisurely walk around CCP’s exhibitions is very much recommended.
Address: CCP Complex, Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City Museum Hours: 7AM to 8:30PM, closed during Sundays and Mondays Ticket Prices:Free Contact Number: 832-1125 Website: culturalcenter.gov.ph/ Photography: Yes! How to commute: Take a commute to the Vito Cruz LRT1 station, and walk along Taft Avenue towards Torre Lorenzo building. Turn right to Ocampo Street, and walk straight until you reach the Rizal Memorial Coliseum. In front of the coliseum are orange CCP-bound jeepneys queued. Ride a jeep and alight at Harbor Square. The Cultural Center of the Philippines right wing entrance is across the street.
Contemporary Art (For Sale)
One of the ways to find contemporary art that are for sale is to go to a commercial art gallery. In contrast to visiting an actual artist studio or an auction house, a visitor is given the luxury of seeing artworks that are curated together – usually with proper spacing and lighting, if they visit a commercial art gallery. For these galleries in the country, the trend is to showcase Philippine contemporary art and only a little of modern art (most of which are accessible through private collections and auction events), as contemporary art are more accessible. These are also the usual venues for budding artists to expose themselves to the art scene.