One of the best collections of art in the country can’t be found in a museum or in a tycoon’s living room. It can be found in various Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) branches across Manila, which houses works by National Artists, as well as eminent masters who might soon join their ranks.
Kept within the institution’s four walls, as well as the hanging spaces of its satellite branches, the collection is a veritable showcase of the best in Philippine art. This month, the usual viewing privileges afforded to BPI’s patrons have been extended for a limited period to the public at large.
BPI Foundation Inc. celebrates 40 years of service with OBRA, an exhibition series which opens the bank's private art collection to the public. OBRA is a three-part series which begins this March with their inaugural exhibit, "Pagpugay."
The exhibit features works by National Artists Fernando Amorsolo, Benedicto Cabrera, Hernando R. Ocampo, and Jose Joya, as well as the works of other distinguished names: Ramon Orlina, Oscar Zalameda, Manuel Baldemor, Angelito Antonio, Mauro Manalang and Norma Belleza. The exhibit was launched in Ayala Museum, where it runs until the end of the month.
There is no supporter more passionate about this project than Maricris San Diego, BPI Foundation’s executive director. When asked to explain "Pagpugay," the overarching theme of the exhibit, San Diego pointed out that the exhibit aims to pay homage to the most basic unit of society—the family.
True enough, one finds various renditions of the parent and child genre, as well paintings of traditional Filipino scenes. On one wall hangs “Two Women Mestizas,” by BenCab, a portrait of two women in Filipino 19th century garb; on another wall hangs Amorsolo’s rural scenes and portraits of Filipina women. The exhibit celebrates both family and Filipino-ness.
BPI Foundation partners with Ayala Museum for this venture as the exhibit runs in Makati’s premier art station this month. It is also curated by the museum’s Kenneth Esguerra.
“The exhibit talks about how good we are, how positive the Philippines could be,” Esguerra said. “We see this, for example, through the family, which is the core unit [of society].”
Parallel to that, one can see how the foundation sees itself as being in support of the family, and how the traditional definition can stretch into BPI Foundation’s adopted family—its patrons and clients.
BPI Foundation also sees itself as custodians of this vast collection of masterpieces—this exhibit goes hand in hand with the institution’s vision of educating generations to come on their own art and culture.
“We wanted to share this exhibit with the Filipino people in order to impart a consciousness for Filipino values and history," San Diego added. “In the modern world today, it’s easy to forget our past so we wanted to pass it on to future generations. That’s really why we’re doing this. We believe that it’s a social responsibility on our part being the custodians of such a wealth of culture.”
BPI Foundation remains devoted to its role as stewards of our culture. These paintings have immeasurable value, but the institution does not see its art as investments.
As eminent historian and scholar Ambeth Ocampo noted in his inaugural address, paintings are only good investments if you intend to sell them. They aren’t assets, they’re liabilities because of all the insurance you have to pay to protect them, as well as the money you have to shell out to restore the pieces.
One can only look forward to the next installment in the series—a collection that will showcase significant moments in Philippine history. It arrives in June, just in time for Independence Day.
"Pagpugay" runs until March 25 at the third floor exhibition halls of Ayala Museum.