Published: February 20, 2018
SAN FRANCISCO – The Asian Art Museum of San Francisco is hosting “Philippine Art: Collecting Art, Collecting Memories,” an exhibition devoted to historic and modern artworks from the Philippines, through March 11. The result of more than a decade of study and collecting by the museum’s curatorial team to expand the institution’s holdings in this oft-overlooked area, it is the first exhibition ever mounted in the United States of Philippine art spanning from the precolonial period to today.
The exhibition of 25 works explores the Philippines’ diverse artistic practices: traditional carving and weaving, Islamic metalwork, Christian art from the colonial period and modern and contemporary painting and mixed-media. “Philippine Art: Collecting Art, Collecting Memories” is divided into three sections, the first focused on works with roots in precolonial culture, including works serving ceremonial or practical purposes. The second section considers the impact of Christianity on Philippine art, while the final section looks at works by well-known modern and contemporary Philippine artists.
Spread across numerous islands, the tropical Philippines was originally animist. With the influx of Muslim traders, many peoples, especially in the south, converted to Islam by the 1400s. Now largely Catholic – the result of hundreds of years of rule by Spain – the nation spent the early Twentieth Century under American colonial government followed by Japanese occupation during World War II; the Philippines only gained independence in 1946. This long relationship with the United States precipitated successive waves of immigration, with Filipinos now the second largest ethnic Asian community in the country.
“The artistic culture of the Philippines has been marked by a history of invasion, resistance, accommodation and adaptation,” explains Natasha Reichle, who, as the museum’s associate curator of Southeast Asian art, spent years acquiring the artworks organized into this exhibition. “Ironically, the Philippines’ colonial history and Christian artistic legacy placed much of its art outside familiar ‘Asian art’ storylines of Hinduism or Buddhism, which may have led to its exclusion from our museum’s original founding collection,” Reichle further explains.
“The San Francisco Bay Area is home to one of the most important communities of Filipino ancestry outside of Asia, yet until now we have not been able to fully convey the real dimensions of this nation’s rich creative culture,” says museum director Jay Xu. “We are pleased to present these additions to our collection, which reflect not only the heritage of so many in our hometown, but which help visitors understand the inherent diversity of what it means to be Asian and underscore the Asian Art Museum’s role in making this diversity both relatable and relevant.”
The Asian Art Museum is at 200 Larkin Street. For more information, 415-581-3500 or www.asianart.org.
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