Lopez Museum

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The Lopez Museum, Benpres Building
The Lopez Museum signage
Sculptured door: Entrance to the Museum

The Lopez Museum is a Philippine art and history museum and library located in Pasig, Philippines at the ground floor of the Benpres Building, Exchange Road corner Meralco Avenue, Ortigas Center.


The Lopez Museum was founded on 13 February 1960 by Eugenio Lopez, Sr in honor of his parents, Benito Lopez and Presentacion Hofileña. Eugenio Lopez built the museum to provide scholars and students access to his personal collection of rare Filipiniana books, manuscripts, maps, archaeological artifacts and fine art.

Eugenio Lopez is known to many as a leading industrialist of post-World War II Philippines. With resources that came from sugar production, he pioneered in diverse fields of business including transportation (bus, taxicab and air transport operations), mass media (ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation and The Manila Chronicle), energy (MERALCO) becoming one of the first Filipino successes in business in a then largely American dominated economy.

A staunch nationalist, Eugenio Lopez believed that by preserving and promoting the Filipino heritage, his country men would eventually develop sense of national pride and enable the country to develop a unified spirit ultimately resulting in ensuring a strengthening of a collective national soul in the succeeding generations.

He died in July 1975 in San Francisco, California, United States, where he had lived in self-imposed exile since 1972, away from the oppression of martial law. He had led a full life as a leading industrialist and a media magnate, leaving behind him a legacy for the Filipino people.

The art collection[edit]

As is the story for most museums built from a core of personal acquisitions, the Lopez Museum collection is an amalgam of objects reflecting the overt as well as latent idiosyncrasies of each of its curators and directors. Apart from constituting a seminal contribution to extant Philippine heritage, the Lopez Museum collection stands as one of the oldest, publicly accessible private art collections in the country.

Eminent historian Renato Constantino was Lopez Museum’s first curator, from 1960 to 1972. Engaged by LMM founder and prominent antiquarian Eugenio Lopez, Sr (Eñing), it was only logical that it would be under his watch that the museum acquired Juan Luna’s España y Filipinas, a seminal work much cited for capturing the image of a country patronizingly led up the rungs of evolutionary colonial tutelage. Such acquisitions complemented the Philippine rare books and antiquarian map collection amassed by Eñing, who in consultation with renowned collector and connoisseur Alfonso Ongpin, further acquired other seminal and technically astute works by Luna, Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo, and Fernando Amorsolo. A second key acquisition phase was led by Eñing’s youngest son, Roberto Lopez who was inclined toward Philippine Modernism, thus improving this aspect of the LMM collection with works vetted under the supervision of art historian, Rod Paras Perez.

An even more pronounced and art historically-sensitive acquisition program was adopted under the term of Eugenio Lopez, Jr who was at the helm of LMM from 1993 to 1999. Lopez, Jr worked alongside a sharp professional complement made up of Mariles Ebro Matias, Joselina Cruz, and Maita Reyes who collaboratively elevated LMM’s museum education, curatorial, and conservation programs unto previously unreached heights. It was during these successive phases that key works of national artists (Carlos Francisco, Napoleon Abueva, Hernando Ocampo, Vicente Manansala, Cesar Legaspi, Victorio Edades, Jeremias Elizalde Navarro, Arturo Luz, Jose Joya, Ang Kiukok, Benedicto Cabrera) as well as the works of younger, emergent voices further layered the discursive potential of LMM’s visual art trove. The current leadership, under Oscar Lopez and Director Mercedes Vargas, intends to keep its library and art collection holdings current and significant, while keeping abreast with international museum standards relevant to contemporary exhibition discourse, heritage conservation, extension, and outreach.

Expectedly, the character of the Lopez Museum collection has cumulatively morphed with the institution’s shifting concerns. Presently, one of the major challenges confronting LMM is the need to continually showcase segments of its permanent collection alongside contemporary Filipino creative expression couched within the frames of increasing interdisciplinarity and merging communication platforms. It is in this light that curation brings the possibility of infusing context and sub-text to an otherwise private quest for personal roots and a shared locus for nationalist heritage.

The library collection: 600 years of history[edit]

Consisting of over 19,000 Filipiniana titles by about 12,000 authors, the Lopez Library houses an invaluable collection of Philippine incunabula, rare books, manuscripts, dictionaries, literary works in Western and vernacular languages, religious tracts, periodicals, newspapers, coffee table volumes, academic treatises, contemporary writing, maps, archival photographs, cartoons and microfilms. It remains a critical node in the small network of institutions devoted to ongoing Philippine scholarship produced locally and internationally.

Among its more important holdings are 21 rare titles of Philippine imprints dated from 1597 to 1800, 69 key titles from the 18th century, and 777 titles from the 19th century. The library’s rare books and manuscripts include those of eminent printers, Tomas Pinpin, Raymundo Magysa, Nicolas Bagay, Laureano Atlas, and Juan Correa. The library is home to the first edition of Belarmin-Lopez’s Doctrina Cristiana (Manila 1620) translated into Ilocano (Libro a naisuratan amin ti bagas), Pedro Chirino’s Relacion de las Islas Filipinas, as well as key editions of Antonio de Morga’s Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas (Jose Rizal’s 1890 edition, Blair and Robertson’s 1904 edition, and W. E. Retana’s 1909 edition).

In addition to a huge aggregate of secondary works on the National Hero, Dr Jose Rizal authored by both Filipino and Western authors, the Lopez Library also serves as steward to 93 of Rizal’s letters to his parents, sisters, brother and brothers-in-law, among other objects which constitute the most priceless items in LMM’s Rizaliana collection.

Among other items worthy of note are a variety of dictionaries, grammar books, and LMM’s collection of devotional literature: sermons, novenas, accounts of the lives of saints that were used as tools in the propagation of Roman Catholicism during the Spanish colonial period. Equally important and indispensable are such primary sources as the manuscripts and personal papers of individuals such as Pablo Pastells, Gaspar de San Agustín, Eulogio Despujol, H. L. Legarda, Manuel Sastron y Piñol, and Justo Zaragosa.

Microfilm copies of the Philippine Revolutionary papers, commonly known as the Philippine Insurgent Records, American Consular Reports (1817–1898) from the National Archives, Washington, DC, United States. and several reels of the British Consular Reports, circa 1844–1898, together with the H. H. Bartlett collection from the American Philosophical Society Library, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, are among the significant additions to the library’s growing microfilm collection which also includes the Tribune (1925–1945), Manila Chronicle (1945–1972), Harpers Weekly, and other key periodicals which are already accessible through digitized versions.

LMM’s deep archive of photographs includes a substantial collection of the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars, early years of the American regime, the Commonwealth era, the post-independence period, up to Martial Law. Other more recent additions that may be of interest to both researchers and casual readers are dissertations on the Philippines submitted to various universities and colleges in the United States (in xerographic and acid free reprints from the University Microfilm, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA). These dissertations cover the period of 1958–1997.

LVN memorabilia[edit]

On July 27, 2008, rare LVN memorabilia were donated to the Lopez Museum by the heirs of Doña Narcisa Buencamino vda. De Leon, represented by Narcisa L. Escaler and Nieva Paz L. Eraña. LVN's name was coined, in 1938, from the first letters of the owners’ names: De Leon, Carmen Villongco and Eleuterio Navoa Jr. De Leon, known as Doña Sisang who became president after buying out the inactive partner-families.[1]

Digitization project: Preserving the library collections[edit]

One of two parallel and collaborative programs (the other being Conservation) that is envisioned to preserve and promote the Library collection, the Digitization Project aims to accomplish the following:

  • capture, catalogue and store images of original materials
  • make these images searchable/accessible/retrievable for a greater range of users
  • protect and preserve the originals by reducing handling, and
  • contribute to making the operation of the Library cost-efficient

Exhibition program[edit]

Since its inception in the 1960s, the Lopez Museum has primarily been identified as a key viewing venue for important works by Spanish colonial period painters Juan Luna and Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo. However, with the museum’s transition to Pasig and a deliberate shift to more dynamic acquisition and exhibition programs, LMM spatially reconfigured its galleries and adjunct exhibition spaces to showcase key objects from the permanent collection alongside other newer, acquired pieces such as those by national artists Francisco, Manansala, Ocampo, Legaspi, Edades, Luz, et al. and even commissioned installations and contemporary artifacts such as films, TV clips, video, and other multimedia work.

Beginning in 2001, LMM instilled a semi-annual changing exhibit program in an effort to practice prudent resource use as well as infuse its exhibitions with a less-static character. This tactical shift sought to balance attention to interpreting segments of the permanent collection aongside exploring intersections within contemporary as well as pop-inflected artistic expression through curatorial intervention and the instigation of artists’ projects. LMM’s recent exhibitions include:

  • Fixation: Notions of Obsession, which brought a selection of LMM’s pieces in conversation with the object troves and installations of Raymond Red, Alfredo and Isabel Aquilizan, Ikoy Ricio, and Alice & Lucinda;
  • Projections: Maps, directions & sites, distortions, charts, detours, rumblings & ramblings, a seminal examination of the LMM map collection amidst territorial investigations within the works of Lordy Rodriguez, Mafe Baluyos, Erwin Leaño, and Lena Cobangbang;
  • Grave Findings: A Reclamation Project, which allowed Maria Taniguchi to mimic and re-stage the excavations done in Calatagan, Batangas the site from which pre-colonial funerary furniture now ensconced in the LMM collection was originally drawn from;
  • Juan Arellano: Drawing Space which was a modest survey of paintings and drawings by the renowned American colonial period architect also as re-invested with a contemporary re-reading in a multimedia installation by Datu Arellano;
  • Babble, Bauble: Tweaking Femme, which was a visual attempt to look at female representation in images from LMM’s art collection, contemporary film and television; and he recently concluded Fuzzy Logic: Art and Technology, which was an examination of the ambivalent relationships that thread art and science in the cross-generational practice of Kidlat Tahimik, Santiago Bose, Charlie Co, Yason Banal, Louie Cordero, Alfred Villaruel, Wire Tuazon, among others as juxtaposed against LMM pieces by Navarro, Roberto Chabet, Ray Albano, Galo and Hernando Ocampo, Alfonso A. Ossorio, etc.

This current exhibition tract has thus far allowed the museum to attempt at tentative but nevertheless less canonical, and perhaps necessary re-consideration of the bodies of work of artists it has had a hand in validating through its collections. It has likewise created opportunities for LMM to interrogate its own museological track amidst the parallel practices of other institutions it works alongside with or to which it serves as de facto counterpoints to.

  • "The Sum of its Parts": The Lopez Museum opened on June 2, 2008, the exhibit, "The Sum of its Parts" (until September 2008, at the ground floor, Benpres Building, Exchange Road corner Meralco Avenue, Pasig). The exhibit shows its heritage of unique expertise in conservation and acquisition in the collections or works by Hidalgo, Luna, Pacita Abad, Nena Saguil, Juvenal Sanso, Claudio Bravo, and contemporary artist Jonathan Olazo's installation work (taking off from his father, Romulo Olazo, known for his 1960s "Diaphanous Series" - graphic art medium of printmaking).[2]
  • "Keeping the Faith: Acts of Mediation": The exhibit opened on November 24, 2008. It featured contemporary artist Kiri Dalena, filmmakers Egay Navarro and Rica Concepcion, and sculptor Agnes Arellano showed their works respectively, alongside works of 19th century masters Juan Luna and Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo, National Artists Vicente Manansala, J Elizalde Navarro, Benedicto Cabrera, and artists such as Jose Tence Ruiz and Danilo Dalena. Dalena's installation "Barricade, book of slogans, erased slogans, and isolation room" referenced images from the Lopez library archive of materials from the martial law period. The show also presents Navarro and Concepcion's documentary on the late Baguio artist Roberto Villanueva as well as Arellano's sculptural work "Angel of Death and Bronze Bullets." Curated by husband and wife team of Claro and Eileen Legaspi-Ramirez, the exhibit explores the notions of access across the registers of time and place. Eileen said, "As you come and see this exhibition, you would come away with a sense of how we've tried to negotiate the Bridges theme in terms of how, as human beings, we constantly have to deal with being made to stay put or move on literally and metaphorically....Every exhibition here at Lopez opens up to us the privilege of engaging with contemporary artists who we strongly feel can bring into the museum new ideas and voices that challenge us to re-think and re-evaluate our intentions and museological practices." The exhibit, which runs until April 4, 2009, is part of the annual project Zero In, undertaken by a consortium of private museums composed of Ateneo Art Gallery, Ayala Museum, Bahay Tsinoy, Lopez Museum and Museo Pambata.

Education and publications programs[edit]

Apart from tending to its intrinsic stewardship function as a heritage institution, Lopez Museum has also consistently been proactive in the area of audience development. Thus, the museum has also been the site of a wide diversity of workshop offerings and thought-provoking public talks and roundtable conversations carried out alongside its archival and exhibition services. Over the past six years, LMM has invited exhibiting artists, critics, curators, cultural workers, as well as other cross-disciplinary academics and scholars to engage with the museum’s menu of curatorial and outreach talking points which touch on a range encompassing psychology, sociology, political science, anthropology, the natural and physical sciences, to more emergent fields of discourse such as new media studies and pop culture. These events have allowed museum visitors and researchers to encounter first-hand such individuals as Ambeth Ocampo, Benedicto Cabrera, Cid Reyes, Patrick Flores, Kidlat Tahimik, among many others.

Students and lovers of geography, history, politics, art and education will delight in Lopez Memorial Museum’s exhibits showcasing rare maps in one and school texts in the other. Maps are not just physical but charged political delimitations of territory in the exhibit Tutelage [1] at the Library. The exhibit Double Take at the main gallery, features works from the museum’s permanent collection, LVN archival photographs and a video installation by featured artist, director Raya Martin.

Also as an explicit demonstration of its commitment to scholarship are the slew of publications that have seen print under LMM’s initiative. These include: The Philippine Insurrection Against the US edited by Renato Constantino, Juan Luna: The Filipino Painter by Santiago A. Pilar, Orchidiana Philippiniana by Helen Valmayor, Philippine Rariora by Mauro Garcia, Manansala Nudes and Fernando Zobel by Rod Paras-Perez. Its most recent releases are Locus: Interventions in Art Practice (co-published through the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and Pananaw ng Sining Bayan, Inc.) and LMM’s contribution to the Philippine Centennial, Hidalgo and the Generation of 1872 by Alfredo Roces.

Throughout the years, LMM has also hosted continuing education classes in allied disciplines such as creative writing, book binding, book repair, drawing, cartooning, textile crafts among others. Several workshops catering to the museum professional have also been given and this include disaster preparedness and docent trainings

Institutional collaborations[edit]

With the aim of further broadening its audience reach and deepening its network partnerships, Lopez Museum has helped initiate a consortium of cultural institutions called Zero-in (with the Ayala Museum, and the Ateneo Art Gallery as original members). Since expanding to include Museo Pambata and Bahay Tsinoy, the Zero-in consortium has come together annually to mount a multi-venue series of exhibitions that allow these institutions to explore avenues for potential synergy visà-vis their collections and interesting technical expertise. Now into its sixth year, Zero-in has launched outreach programs to public school teachers and students, and facilitated ongoing and past loans and projects among its member institutions. Lopez Museum has also partnered up in varying degrees with such institutions as the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, Japan Foundation, Casa Asia, the Museum Foundation of the Philippines, Metrobank Foundation, Prince Klaus Foundation, and CollAsia 2010.

The future: New media[edit]

Any learning institution in this age of information overloading faces the daunting task of keeping a largely distracted audience keyed into how the past and present converge, that is, without getting pulled into all sorts of unsustainable tracts. Now practically half-a-century old, the Lopez Museum finds itself precisely at that precarious perch, of having to run a tight ship amidst a rapidly changing communications technology landscape.

Lopez Museum “is a very traditional institution, but what I wanted to do was to explore ways to use new media and more visual learning. I also wanted to make the Museum more visible in all our network’s platforms—TV, radio and glossies (magazines)”, Director Vargas relates.

The Museum under Vargas is keenly aware of its need to engage its target publics not only in terms of developing critical reader-visitors but in making museums a more likely destination among those seeking time-worthy pursuits. She elaborates: “we’re not a museum-going public. People are more concerned with survival, with basic needs. The sad part is that the Filipino is so artistic—we have such a rich and varied culture but it does not take precedence because (so many) are below the poverty level. So, one of my goals is to promote museum awareness among the younger generation.”

As it passes into another half-century of further nurturing a new contingent of driven museum workers and crafters of culture, Lopez Museum looks forward to how it can dynamically play a role in taking stock of past and current intellectual production and giving this back to those who can make best sense of it in the everyday life of the present Filipino.

See also[edit]



  1. The Lopez Museum
  2. The Eugenio Lopez Foundation, Inc.
  3. Lopez Link, a monthly publication of the Lopez Group


  • Lenzi, Iola (2004). Museums of Southeast Asia. Singapore: Archipelago Press. p. 200 pages. ISBN 981-4068-96-9. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 14°34′57″N 121°03′46″E / 14.58243°N 121.06279°E / 14.58243; 121.06279