This online exhibit presents Filipino and British artworks together

Published August 18, 2020, 7:18 PM

by Jules Vivas

It’s time to learn more about British art, but also about our own

Albert Richards, France: The Beginning of an Advance – Typhoon Orchard, 1944

The relationship of our country with the United Kingdom can be traced back to 1579, when Sir Francis Drake arrived in Mindanao after his voyage of almost three years aboard the Golden Hind.

For the next four centuries, economic ties defined the relations between the two countries. The Philippines became involved in the footprint of the East India Company and, because of that, British companies took part in improving transportation infrastructure in the Philippines.

Filipinos were also first introduced to the English language when the British invaded Manila and Cavite in 1762, but this occupation had no lasting effect in the country. Indeed we’ve had a long and lasting affair with the European country. 

The National Museum of the Philippines and the British Council collaborates to bring us a virtual exhibition called “Together Apart—Art World Voices that Connect Us Now,” launching tomorrow Aug. 19 through the British Council Philippines’ website.

A front view of the facade of the National Museum of Natural History at the Luneta Park, photo from IPTC

The online exhibit highlights the thoughts of art leaders in the Philippines, the UK, as well as other parts of the world amid the global crisis. These industry leaders have given deep personal reactions toward the artworks from the British Council collection, which will serve as a reminder of the transformative power of art. Chief curator of the Ateneo Art Gallery Boots Herrera and anthropology lecturer at the University College London Rafael Schacter are some of the participating leaders.

“We want to bring the experience to the Filipino audience during this time of closed art galleries, physical distancing, and digital interaction,” explained Pilar Aramayo-Prudencio, the country director of the British Council in the Philippines. “As a cultural relations organization, we have always believed that culture connects us. As the world moves to a more virtual space, these digital innovations enable us to connect despite current restrictions,” he added.

If you can find your footing between two cultures, sometimes you can have the best of both worlds.

Randy Pausch

Co-curated by the National Museum of the Philippines, the presentation allows a global audience to discover select pieces from the National Fine Arts Collection. The artworks bridge circumstances of the time they were created with today’s context. Presented through exhibition themes, these pieces evoke familiar feelings and perspectives from anxiety to the need for solidarity.

Notable artworks include those by distinguished British portraitist Lucian Freud and pioneering female abstract artist Nena Saguil from the Philippines, to name a few.

“As the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic progresses, we learn that museums, through its collections, have important roles to remind us that, especially during hard times, we can always turn to art for social and personal redress,” muses Dr. Ana Labrador, deputy director general for museums, National Museum of the Philippines. 

The exhibit started as an online campaign through Platform, a new avenue for cultural engagement, which ran earlier this year.

Since 1938, the British Council has been collecting works of art, as well as craft and design, to promote the achievements of the very best British artists, craft practitioners, and designers. This global resource features over 8,500 works. It has been referred to as a “Museum Without Walls.” 

On the other hand, the National Fine Arts Collection is housed at the National Museum of Fine Arts, where it is protected and promoted by the National Museum of the Philippines. It represents Philippine art from the 18th century to present. The works are accessible to the public through programs that showcase achievements and aspirations of the country’s artistic heritage.