Grounded, the ongoing exhibit which is now entering its second month, continues the Lopez Museum’s penchant for one-word titles.
This time around, “grounded” is a nod to the museum’s position as a cultural institution, an examination of its relationship with different localities as it made its way from Pasay to Pasig in the 1980s, and as it prepares to relocate to Makati by the middle of the decade.
Lopez Group chairman emeritus Oscar M. Lopez and museum director Cedie Lopez Vargas with columnist Paulo AlcazarenIn this exhibit curated by Claro Ramirez, Toym Imao, Josephine Turalba, Eric Zamuco, Alma Quinto and Goldie Poblador, along with video artist Barbara Hlali of Germany and Egyptian multimedia artists Ahmad Al Shaer and Khaled Hafez, add the contemporary counterpoint to several pieces from the museum’s collection. These include works by Jose Joya, J. Elizalde Navarro, Federico Alcuaz, Juan Arellano, Roberto Chabet, Brenda Fajardo, Juvenal Sanso, Nena Saguil and Pacita Abad.
One of the most striking works on display, Poblador’s interactive sculpture, Ang Simula ng Pagsibol, attracts adults and kids like moths to a flame. The twentysomething artist covered a glass-blown sculpture with a test tube made of borosilicate glass and filled it with neon phosphorus, causing it to light up when touched.
Vargas and ABS-CBN chairman Eugenio Lopez III discuss with Josephine Turalba, one of the artists featured in Grounded, her work during the exhibit openingDiyos, Choose, Dues, meanwhile, dominates the rotunda. Imao’s installation made of fiberglass, silica sand and sawdust piques visitors’ curiosity not only because of its size, but also because of its lighthearted take on Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam.
Grounded is one of the museum’s last few exhibits at its Benpres Building home and is ongoing until August 3, 2013.
Members with benefits
The museum is gradually gearing up for its third move, to the Carlos Ott-designed Proscenium sometime in 2017, says executive director Cedie Lopez Vargas.
Knowledge Channel Foundation Inc. president Rina Lopez Bautista and daughter MargaritaThe next four years will see the museum undergoing a period of organizational strengthening, asset consolidation and program development.
But even before it leaves Benpres, museum habitués can expect something new from the 53-year-old institution.
Setting up a membership program was something that had been percolating in Vargas’ mind for some time, but she wanted to offer something more than the standard discounts-and-freebies package.
For an annual fee of P1,500, members will receive a personalized membership card, as well as enjoy free unlimited access to museum exhibitions, use of the library and Wi-Fi, and discounts on selected library services and on lecture and workshop fees.
Guest artist Toym Imao and Grounded curator Chitz RamirezBut beyond that, members will be able to take home books from the library’s newly minted lending section (see sidebar story).
“When you come in to the museum to view the art, to read or to research you open up new worlds of experiential knowledge for yourself. Now you can take a bit of that experience home with you when you take out a book,” Vargas explains.
Lopez Group employees and their families, in particular, are encouraged to develop closer ties with the museum and library by signing up for the program.
“By the time we move to Rockwell, we will have more offerings…. We expect the community there to have certain expectations of a museum and of a library and we intend to meet those expectations,” Vargas says.
The director also encourages employees to donate books to the lending program, which currently has a couple of hundred volumes, including works of National Artist Nick Joaquin, Ambeth Ocampo and Gilda Cordero-Fernando, and even culinary and coffee table books.
After over 20 years of buying and collecting, Lopez Group founder Eugenio Lopez Sr., Vargas’ grandfather, hadMiriam College interns at the Roberto M. Lopez Conservation Center accumulated scores of Rizal memorabilia, the single largest collection of Lunas and Hidalgos of any individual or institution, and dozens of first-edition books and manuscripts, periodicals and maps.
The collection soon became too large to be accommodated in the Lopez home, too historically valuable,too interesting not to be shared with his countrymen.
EL Sr. opened the Lopez Memorial Museum on February 13, 1960, in a four-story building designed by National Artist Juan Nakpil. The facility also served as EL Sr.’s tribute to his parents, former Iloilo governor Benito Lopez and Presentacion Hofileña Lopez.
The museum’s location on Lancaster St., Pasay, was right in front of the Lopez abode, such that former head librarian Elvie Iremedio would always catch a glimpse of EL Sr. on his way to work. He was always very early, Iremedio recalls of the founder, who was then also president of Meralco. EL Sr. would also drop by the museum with his guests whenever he hosted parties at his home.
Guest lecturer Nick Deocampo with head librarian Mercy ServidaThe Lopezes kept the museum open all throughout the martial law years. Oscar M. Lopez, EL Sr.’s son, would even host the staff at his home just so they would have a Christmas party. But despite the hardships of those years, Iremedio says, they always received their salaries on time.
Acquisitions slowed to a trickle, but the treasures the museum was known for—the Lunas and Hidalgos, the Rizaliana and rare books—were on permanent exhibition, says current head librarian Mercedita Servida, who joined the museum in 1980.
By 1986, the museum had moved to its second and current home at the Benpres Building in Ortigas to protect its collection from the salty air from Manila Bay and the frequent floods in Pasay. Martial rule had been lifted and the Lopezes abroad had returned from exile. The principals immediately undertook a preservation program for the library holdings that included newspaper binding and microfilming.
“It was a major expense, but they really allocated a budget for the library,” Servida notes.
The museum staff in Dumaguete for a cultural tripThe library today is arguably the hub for Filipiniana materials, even surpassing the National Library in certain areas. Another thing that sets the Lopez Museum and Library apart is the brand of customer service it offers.
For example, Iremedio, Servida and library assistant Mark Manalili know the collection so well that they can prepare the necessary books for any researcher who calls ahead and advises the staff about his or her requirements.
“We engage them in a one-on-one, ask them what they need,” Servida says. “Especially for serious scholars, we would prepare as many as 20 books at a time so they can cross reference.” If they don’t find the information they need in the proffered books, then that’s when they can undertake a search of their own.
Servida would also remind their OJTs to render “personalized service” and to look at their job as a give-and-take where they also learn from the researcher.
“We don’t want our researchers to leave the library disappointed. We want them to feel like they’ve hit the jackpot,” Servida chuckles.