One of my regrets was I never got to visit the old Metropolitan Museum of Manila, an art museum that exhibits local and international contemporary art, that was formerly located in a building designed by Gabriel Formoso.
Located within the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Complex along Roxas Boulevard in the Malate district of Manila, it billed itself as the country’s premier museum for modern and contemporary visual arts by local and international artists. Fret not, for though this building is now permanently closed, the museum has just transferred to a new location.
The Met first opened its doors in 1976 with an initial exhibit of international artists to expose Filipinos to contemporary visual works in other cultures. The first exhibit showcased 105 artworks, in various media, from the Brooklyn Museum and other American museums and galleries. Partly subsidized by the BSP, the museum’s administration was entrusted, in 1979, to the Metropolitan Museum of Manila Foundation.
By 1986, its focus shifted to local works, extending its reach to more common people by offering bilingual exhibition texts and developing several outreach educational programs like workshops and symposia, thereby promoting local pride and identity. Then came the Covid-19 pandemic.
During the pandemic and lockdown, the museum quickly transitioned its exhibitions and workshops online, with successful virtual exhibition openings and live conferences. At the same time, the famed institution was also gearing for another transition, arranged and made possible by the Chairman of its Board of Trustees, Joselito Y. Campos Jr.
In the last few decades, the nearby important galleries and hangouts in Manila have closed down, moving to Makati and, later, to Taguig, plus the original home of 45 years was already deemed inaccessible by many. Thus, the foundation decided to leave and move the museum to its new location in Bonifacio Global City, an emerging cultural hub in Taguig City, as an integral part of the office and commercial building of the Mariano K. Tan Center. The venue is near the sports park Track 30th and the High Street commercial center.
Fully opened to the public in February 2023, it also got a new nickname—the short, catchy, and easily recognizable The M, plus a new logo to better herald the beginning of a new era for the institution. Prior to its opening, it launched a preview of the new spaces with three exhibitions—“Ronald Ventura: Quick Turns on Hyper Highways,””Korea: A Land of Hats (presented in partnership with the Korean Cultural Center in the Philippines and the Coreana Cosmetics Museum) and “The Hat of the Matter” (supported by Bench, a global clothing brand).
Its brand new, state-of-the-art 3,000-sq-m space, plus an outdoor area for installations, was designed by the Manila-born, Brooklyn-based Filipino-Columbian architect Carlos Arnaiz. The entrance of the museum is accessed through an open pedestrian walkway that leads to the bustling and often busy Bonifacio High Street area of shops and dining places. Now with access to more foot traffic, the museum will now be introduced to a new audience, thus reinforcing its philosophy of “Art for All.”
As of this writing, the “Ronald Ventura: Quick Turns on Hyper Highways,” at the ground floor, is still ongoing. Upon entering the third floor, you are greeted by “Anito,” a towering 8-ft. high aluminum artwork, in rust finish, by the late Arturo Luz that took 8 people to transport into the space where it stands. There are three ongoing exhibits there.
“Plazas in the Philippines: Places of Memory, Places of the Heart,” curated by landscape architect and urban planner Paulo G. Alcazaren, highlights 16 plazas across the Philippines in celebration of their role as the beating heart of many a town and city.
The “Jefre: Points of Origin” Exhibit, the first solo museum show of USA-based Filipino-American artist Jefre in the country, is a celebration of the monumentality of the artist’s accomplishments, and a way of connecting his two facets, his two homes: that of his origins and the home of his American dream.
The “Sounds of Blackness” Exhibition, a powerful group exhibition curated by Larry Ossei-Mensah, brings together a diverse group of visual artists from the African Diaspora whose practices articulate a multiplicity of ideas and perspectives through various mediums.
For those who want to visit the museum, pre-register a day before your visit. It is open Tuesdays (admission is free on this day) to Saturdays (except on public holidays and other special notices). You can also contact them at (0917) 160-9667 or e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image credits: Benjamin Locsin Layug