This article is the fourth in a series of research studies about Philippine communication environments. See Part 1 for an introduction to the topic of the communication environment and its relationship to culture. Read Part 2 and Part 3 to know more.
On his turn to take us on a trip to explore an out-of-the-ordinary environment, UP College of Mass Communication Graduate Studies department chairman Dr Jose Lacson chose to show us the Yuchengco Museum at RCBC Plaza, Makati City.
The museum, which houses the art collection of banker and ambassador Alfonso T. Yuchengco, was established to “foster a greater public appreciation of the finest in Filipino and Filipino-Chinese visual arts and creativity.” (from a flyer)
Photography is prohibited only at the first and second floors.
Yuchengco Museum: Art, Intimately
The museum is located in the Yuchengco Tower at the RCBC (Rizal Commercial Banking Center) complex of buildings along Ayala Avenue. Passersby see massive erections of glass and steel, a familiar conglomeration of materials for this area. More than a profit-oriented real estate development, it is a monument to the power and wealth of its owner.
Yet tucked in a corner of the megaphallic mass is what looks like a thimble. An odd, even aberrant, design choice, many think. Yet once inside the museum, the structure yields up the interesting secret of its shape.
The first floor is a wide space with high ceilings. Here, the museum’s most significant paintings are displayed, the public kept from close contact with the artworks by blue velvet ropes. As the museum patron’s first encounter with the collections, the ground floor’s rope barriers, though soft and of a luxurious material, seem to say, “Look, but don’t get too close.” Limits are thus set, immediately; the “welcome” into the space is not as warm as might be desired.
However, the barriers also serve to reinforce the importance of these particular pieces. That they were chosen for this form of protection highlights their value, both artistic and commercial.
At the second floor, exhibit spaces are smaller, the ceilings lower, thus more intimate. There are no more barriers from hereon, communicating an invitation: “Come closer.” Patrons may approach the artworks, peer closely at them, and inspect the brush strokes and textures of materials.
The Yuchengco family’s collection of personal art (reproduction ancestor scroll, commissioned portraits) and antiques (a jade horse, a breathtaking carved ivory tusk) is impressive. Obvious in the care lavished upon these objects is the family’s love of art and history, reflected in a “timeline” display of the Chinese presence in the Philippines beginning with arrival of the merchant ships bringing Chinese traders to these shores.
Rotating exhibits punctuate the permanent displays. At the time of our visit, works from paper were prominently displayed and provided an interesting look at modern art using found and discarded materials.
Hung from different heights by fishing line from a metal grid in the ceiling of the “thimble” is a multitude of papier-mache rocks, looking like so many planets suspended in space. One may view the work from all sides, from the floor above, and from underneath, lying on the carpet on the floor, upon which more rocks are scattered. The rocks also line the inner circumference of the space.
The integration of space and materials into the piece is enhanced by the accidental effect of light on the “rocks”. They look like the river rocks kept in some Filipino bathrooms and used for exfoliating – panghilod – and are thus a familiar size and shape, further inviting the viewer to explore, touch, and play.
There is a sense of freedom in the upper floors lacking in the first floor and lobby. Visitors to the museum feel free to sit, squat, and lie down to take photographs and experience the art. This interaction allows viewers to become one with the art and absorb its meaning and beauty in a personal way.
This may have been inadvertent, but it is a happy effect for all that, enhancing one’s experience at the museum, and ensuring that one will return again and again to enjoy the carefully chosen art for the special exhibits, and revisit the permament treasures that the Yuchengco family is so generously sharing with the world.
Click on a picture, then click again to see a full-size image.