PROP UP: Glenn Cuevo—Behind the science of curating art and styling spaces

Published September 25, 2021, 1:28 AM

by Joseph C. Tay

Art has always posed as something to be interpreted. It is a sanctuary to some, an outlet of creative freedom to others, and an enduring enigma to many.

For corporate banker turned interior stylist Glenn Cuevo, the measures of art extend beyond just aesthetics and visual poetry. It is a science of balance that can be introduced to interiors through paintings, sculptures, furniture, and accessories. Understanding the delicate nature of interior styling is better explained by the veteran himself. He shares a few of his notes on design, curation, and intimate conversations with the maestros of Philippine abstract art.

Cuevo began his journey as an interior stylist while doing his stint in the corporate banking world. With banking being the cutthroat and high-stress industry that it is known for, Cuevo sought solace in decorating and styling. “It was just my passion,” he says simply. “I would offer to design specific areas of the homes of my friends and colleagues. It was a stress reliever and something I enjoyed without realizing I was actually honing my skill in interior styling.”

Allow a space to breathe with the right amount of streamlined contemporary pieces. Photo features a painting by Lao Lianben, and sculptural pieces by Akiko Nakaya and Miguel Aquilizan.

Cuevo shares a special experience that he likens his talent to, something unknown to many. “I used to work for Singapore Airlines, with a job specifically in the area of weight and balance. It was my job to calculate the center of gravity of the aircraft for each flight based on the passengers and cargo.”

This calculation is made for the pilots to adjust the flaps accordingly for a safe take off and a smooth flight. For Cuevo, the responsibility for the lives of passengers made his role a crucial one, ingraining the importance of understanding space and being concise down to the smallest of changes. He looks back with fondness: “I would watch the plane as it sped smoothly through the runway, proud of how my work to get the precise calculation had a hand in that. Now, as an interior stylist, I see this in my design projects when I move around the furniture pieces and the art of my clients to achieve the desired balance and overall look.” 

A mix and match of color, finish, and material create an exciting atmosphere that breaks away from the ordinary, featuring sculptures by BenCab and Ramon Orlina.

A space is best experienced with meaningful pieces and a flow that executes the shared vision between the designer and the client. For Cuevo, he takes major inspiration through a few of his favorite artists. “I really admire the work of my friend, Lao Lianben. To me, he is a soulful abstractionist with depth and visual wisdom.”

Glenn feels the meditative nature of Lianben’s works and expresses it into his signature style, “Streamlined Contemporary.” “I understand it may not be for everyone,” Cuevo explains, “When it comes to abstract art, it has a certain beauty I have grown to love and have an eye for through years of exposure and experience in styling.” A few of his other inspirations include National Artists Arturo Luz and BenCab, as well as Fernando Zobel, Romulo Olazo, and Elmer Borlongan. 

A clean and balanced styling creates a quiet impact in the atmosphere of a client’s home. Photo shows paintings by Ronald Ventura and other works by Arturo Luz, Lao Lianben, and Ava Lugtu.

Cuevo breaks down the intricate balance of curation and décor. “There is no one formula. For art and sculptures, I would separate the figurative and abstract pieces then group them according to their colors. If you have a bluish Andres Barrioquinto and a bluish Borlongan and Marina Cruz, I would put them together. Then, I would mix in a small, orange H.R. Ocampo, or a very simple Annie Cabigting.“

He also considers the color palette of the house, with a meticulousness that presents four different shades of white if need be. “To me, what I regard the most is understanding and respecting space. I don’t believe that every corner must be decorated. There must be areas to breathe, to flow, and to have movement that is collaborated with the client.”

Sleek simplicity, highlighted with pieces by Fernando Zobel, Arturo Luz, Micaela Benedicto, and Miguel Aquilizan.

While this practice of curation and styling can seem daunting to the untrained, Cuevo owes his love for art to what has manifested into his career. He is able to make interior styling more accessible to his clients by working without a budget at first and making use of what he is provided with. He shares that he is passionate about scouting up and coming artists here in the Philippines to showcase contemporary talent that may have gone unnoticed to the public eye.

The beauty of streamlined contemporary taste is in its ability to create impact with just the right amount of minimalism. Through Cuevo, local art is exalted in the best way possible—by keeping a poetic balance that has quiet impact to those that experience his styling, and giving a platform to all artists alike; to the maestros and the young artists on the rise. The future of Filipino interior styling looks all the brighter with Cuevo at its helm.