Areté, Philip­pine Con­tem­po­rary art’s new­est play­ing field

Ate­neo’s Areté is a strong­hold for the past, present, and fu­ture of mod­ern and lib­eral arts

Northern Living - - CONTENTS - TEXT BELLE O. MAPA PHOTOGRAPHY RG MEDESTOMAS

A bizarre shape juts out of the Katipunan hori­zon: It’s a build­ing called Areté, Ate­neo de Manila Uni­ver­sity’s cre­ative hub.

Years ago, a mas­sive ea­gle’s nest con­tain­ing two eggs once sat in its place. It was a metaphor­i­cal out­door in­stal­la­tion meant to bless the grounds upon which a gi­ant could step foot—an im­age of dis­ci­plines in­ter­weav­ing, much like branches to fill a home as well as ideas in in­cu­ba­tion, ready to hatch into vi­brancy.

To­day, a mono­lithic two-winged struc­ture de­signed by ar­chi­tec­ture firm W.V. Coscol­luela & As­so­ciates takes flight, safe­guard­ing both the seeds of mod­ern and con­tem­po­rary art and fu­ture ideas.

On one end is the In­no­va­tion Wing, straight­edged and crowned in glass and con­crete to let in nat­u­ral light. Here is where cre­ation hap­pens, in­side class­rooms, stu­dios, and “Sand­boxes” or ac­tiv­ity hubs for var­i­ous dis­ci­plines of the arts. On the other is the Arts Wing, a metal­lic yet fluid con­struc­tion—“curvi­lin­ear,” as put by Ate­neo’s pres­i­dent Fr. Jett Vil­larin, S. J. — that will house the art mu­seum.

The two con­trast­ing build­ings of Areté are con­nected by a bridge­way, and it’s a pur­pose­ful struc­tural com­par­i­son to the two sides of a brain: one se­quenced, ra­tio­nal, and lin­ear, and the other imag­i­na­tive and un­con­ven­tional. Both ex­ist in bal­ance, nei­ther one func­tion­ing with­out the other.

State of con­tem­po­rary arts

“There is great in­ter­est in the field of the hu­man­i­ties now, not only in the vis­ual arts but also in other gen­res,” says Boots Herrera, di­rec­tor of the Ate­neo Art Gallery (AAG), which is due to tran­si­tion fully into the struc­ture in May. “On the part of the Ate­neo Art Gallery, our new home in Areté will al­low

us more flex­i­bil­ity to ex­pand our pro­grams to in­clude a wider com­mu­nity of artists.”

Con­tain­ing over a thou­sand art pieces, the AAG has more than enough ma­te­rial to cir­cu­late through­out the year for vis­i­tors to see. At the ground floor of its new space, three gal­leries will host both per­ma­nent col­lec­tions and tem­po­rary ex­hi­bi­tions. The third floor gal­leries will ex­plore the­matic and more his­tor­i­cal ex­hi­bi­tions, aside from hous­ing pro­grams to fur­ther dis­course on con­tem­po­rary art. At his be­quest, na­tional his­to­rian Am­beth Ocampo has do­nated select 19th cen­tury to early 20th cen­tury art­works from his per­sonal col­lec­tion as a means to con­tex­tu­al­ize the his­tory of Philip­pine mod­ern art.

While al­ready a mu­seum in essence, AAG elects to re­tain its name and brand. “Our name per­haps re­flects its his­tory, as the AAG was [ini­tially] housed in rel­a­tively small spa­ces and its founders did not an­tic­i­pate it grow­ing to what it is to­day,” Herrera ex­plains. “Also, the use of the term ‘gallery’ fol­lows the orig­i­nal con­cept of gal­le­ria, which refers to a fine art col­lec­tion, as op­posed to a gabi­netti, which is a col­lec­tion of cu­riosi­ties.”

The other side of the coin

Fi­nally, we are given a tour of the near-fin­ished In­no­va­tion Wing. Upon the main stair­well, verbs guide each foot­fall, with words on plaques drilled into each step. Quite play­fully, the word “start” is em­bed­ded into the first stair. We fol­low the re­main­ing words up un­til the last level, but the fi­nal plate is still to be placed.

In a com­mon area fur­nished with painted chairs and up­cy­cled ta­bles by Res­ur­rec­tion Fur­ni­ture, an­other metaphor for cere­bral hemi­spheres sur­faces. Two semi-cir­cle com­mu­nal ta­bles sit on ei­ther side, one col­or­ful and the other near-bare. Here is where stu­dents may lounge be­tween classes or brain­storm on new artis­tic pur­suits.

An empty and un­di­vided third floor is set to be the hyped Sand­box, what could be Areté’s iconic fea­ture that would set it apart from other cre­ative hubs in the coun­try. It is pegged to house the lat­est tech and equip­ment for var­i­ous facets of art, from 3D printer lab­o­ra­to­ries to ex­per­i­men­tal class­rooms, what­ever they may be.

We catch a glimpse of the class­rooms. In one hall­way, par­al­lel to each other are a mu­sic room with a view of the Marik­ina val­ley, and a dance stu­dio with wooden floors. Trape­zoidal com­mon ta­bles are pushed against the wall in an­other room, but in full func­tion, they may be con­nected to each other in what­ever ge­o­met­ri­cal shape stu­dents and teach­ers see fit for their lessons. Down­stairs, at the Le Cor­don Bleu In­sti­tute, sleek kitchen fix­tures and mas­sive ovens await stu­dents of restau­rant en­trepreneur­ship.

It’s an ex­cit­ing time to be an un­der­grad­u­ate up on the hill, and for those al­ready out of school, it’s not a bad time to come back—at least to en­joy the art.

The ark-like ar­chi­tec­ture of Areté was con­cep­tu­al­ized by WV Coscol­luela & As­so­ciates.

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