CCP Museum: The First Five Years

As late as three years back, I would meet long-lost friends at the CCP lobby who still ask, “What, you have art galleries here?” as though the CCP Museum of art never existed for some three years. We remember when in 1970, then Director Roberto Chabet would think of poster ideas like getting Nora Aunor or Elizabeth Ramsey to pose inside the Main Gallery, looking at a painting, with a caption that says, “Visit the Art Gallery.” But there was no serious campaign done. The Cultural Center was just at its infancy and all its moves were under close scrutiny and observation. Today, the seemingly slow build-up of development in the CCP Museum can still make claims for the tremendous increase of activities in the visual arts.

What the CCP Museum emphasized in its early stage was the introduction of advanced art—labeled by reviewers as “avant-garde,” or “gimmicks,” or plain “pakulo,” as though such works were done by sensationalist young artists who have not had thought wisely enough to go on to the next phase of their lives. The public was puzzled, dumbfounded to find scraps of metal, scatterings of sand on the floor, hanging planks and other objects that were not associated with art, but intelligent enough to re-examine what art was all about. At last this is what we feel now.

‘Explaining’ exhibits

Later in 1972, the second phase of the Museum Introductory Program started. While the earlier phase just exposed the public to puzzling works with no explanations, this second started to “explain” exhibits through notes and more guided tours and more analytical press releases. Instead of organizing large exhibits which considered a great deal of diplomacy by including “all” artists, the Museum became more emphatic and selective, but balanced as to include children’s exhibits and an annual for all artists. It made the Thirteen Artists program permanent, establishing promising thirteen young artists every two years. The public became less curious with the giant capiz shells at the CCP lobby and the tapestry of H.R. Ocampo at the Main Theater and was looking for more artistic things to see. This “educational” phase was thus challenging and determined what type of regular audience the CCP was going to have in the future.

Any successful cultural institution has to establish an audience that is more or less stable and reacting to its services. A rapport between artist and viewer must be established inside a gallery through better directed exhibits. It is only through regular communication between audience and artist that art becomes relevant—something that is as genuinely significant as
any other institution for the development of
a country.

Regular patrons

The audience that the CCP can proudly claim to have today is basically the student. While there is a bulk of tourists and visitors from provinces, it is the students who are regular and who visit the Center not just to accomplish their assignments but also to experience what this “new” art is all about.

Today, the limits and functions of the CCP Museum are known. It has a Museum of artifacts from the collections of Arturo de Santos and Potenciano Badillo, a Main Art Gallery for major exhibitions, and a Small Art Gallery for one-man exhibits and “experimental” works. It also holds theater presentations at the End Room. It has a complete documentation of CCP art activities and publishes irregularly a magazine on the visual arts, Marks. The Museum office accommodates regular visits of artists who want to show their works for a “possible exhibit at the Center,” who discuss projects and plans for ephemeral works of art, who ask for consultation regarding some research problems, who dig into the Museum files for some important data or ask for some other forms or make suggestions. Out of this came interesting projects of “unknown” artists and suggestions which were included in its program of activities.

Looking back, we seem to transcend the inevitable problems that still beset all art museums in the world: lack of an ideal place, misunderstanding with the artists, office inefficiencies, and most all, financial limitations. In spite of the dramatic change of climate in the visual arts, what we accomplished is never ideal, and five years is too short a time to create an effortless ambiance of art that illuminates its public and keep works of artists all the more significant. The CCP Museum hopes to finally set such ambiance.

Business Day, 10 October 1975.

From Raymundo Albano: Texts. Download the whole book here.