With its sprawling open grounds, botanically diverse gardens, and well-ventilated structures, the Pintô Art Museum saw a post-lockdown wave of museum-goers searching for home and themselves
By Dr. JOVEN CUANANG
Just like the other art institutions in different parts of the world, Pintô Art Museum regretfully closed its doors during the height of the pandemic, following government restrictions. Even the initial months of this year when we were allowed to operate was a challenge, as we had to make sure we maintained the prescribed number of visitors and that they followed the minimum health standards. Despite Pintô having sprawling open grounds, botanically-diverse gardens, and well-ventilated structures, we did not take risks, subscribing to the percentage of crowd limits during community quarantines, checking vaccination cards carefully, and procuring additional medical equipment.
As soon as the restrictions became looser, we saw museum-goers come in, first in trickles and then in waves. We have yet to achieve our pre-pandemic visitor numbers, but it feels like we’re getting there. Young people, who make sure they are dressed to the nines, appoint corners in the museum where they dance to whatever Tiktok craze there is. Those who are young-at-heart stroll quietly in our gardens, admiring the plants and trees and flowers that have become so important and necessary during our life in the pandemic. And there are, of course, the art-lovers who come to Pintô to revisit their favorite works or discover new gems in our extensive art collection.
The tide shifted in the number of visitors when we opened our doors for free on May 24, in celebration of International Museum Day. We saw a record of more than 5,000 guests! Lines snaked on the street all throughout the day. Those who had work still managed to drop by after their shift, which ascertained we still had plenty of guests even by nightfall. It confirmed to us that people were itching to go out and surround themselves with the healing energy that only art and nature could provide. We welcomed all of them with open arms, as Pintô is as much a museum as it is a community.
This communal space further expanded when we hosted “Diamond in the Rough,” a once-in-lifetime exhibition that marked the 75 years of the diplomatic friendship between France and the Philippines. Held on June 28, the show saw the esteemed members of the diplomatic corps descend on Gallery 7, where they were treated to jazz orchestral music, good food provided by Sofitel, and carefully curated works by French and Filipino artists. The piece de résistance of the exhibition was the collection of sculptures by Paul Gauguin, who spent the most creative phase of his career in French Polynesia. Led by the French Ambassador to the Philippines Michelle Boccoz and former Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr., the event was a roaring success and forged alliances between Pintô Art Museum and other international art and cultural organizations.
Pintô, knowing very well the importance of the digital world, partnered with the Department of Foreign Affairs in October for a series of online events that brought the museum closer to people even outside the Philippines. These events included a roundtable discussion on the state of Philippine art featuring curators and educators Patrick Flores and Yael Buencamino, a tutorial on how to make a watercolor painting courtesy of the artist Gerardo Jimenez, and the launch of “Pintô: A 360° Virtual Experience Tour.” Now, anyone in any corner of the world can experience the riches of the museum, explore the collection, and have a full sense of what is considered as the most Instagrammed museum in the Philippines and Southeast Asia through VR (virtual reality) technology.
The past few months have offered us the opportunity to further improve the museum. Aside from Café Rizal, which occupies top position in any list of best restaurants in Antipolo City, we have added another gustatory destination: Café Dionysus, which is located at Pintô Art Academy. Since opening midway of the year, the restaurant has been offering sumptuous Mediterranean staples, Filipino rice bowls, and Carmen’s Best ice cream to the delight of our guests! We are also currently studying and finding ways to further enhance their safety, such as outfitting handrails, procuring additional medical equipment, and bolstering the training of our staff for emergencies. We are also hoping to launch an extension of our green space adjacent to Gallery 7, which will feature Greek columns, walking paths, as well as a giant pond that will surely be another attraction!
As soon as the restrictions became looser, we saw museum-goers come in, first in trickles and then in waves.
As we ease into the so-called new normal, Pintô Art Museum vows to having its doors open, warmly welcoming guests, and providing an alluring sense of escape. No matter their status in life, they can benefit from the tonic of art, architecture, and nature, which the museum provides abundantly and generously. Whether they are taking a selfie, marveling at a painting, or just taking a leisurely stroll, they will always have a home at Pintô.