Arts & Culture

20 Must-See Artworks at the Ateneo Art Gallery at Areté, Ateneo's New Art Hub

Ateneo's Debbie Tan lists her favorite works of art at the new gallery.

Debbie Tan, special assistant to the president at SMART Communications, is more popularly known as the "mother hen" of the Ateneo de Manila basketball team, which she has been co-managing for the last decade.

She's also been one of the major fundraisers for Areté, Ateneo's new creative and art hub complex that houses the new Ateneo Art Gallery. In her own words, here are her favorite works.

I volunteer as a docent at the Ateneo Art Gallery on Sundays. Invariably, these are the 20 pieces that I point out to visitors when I give my 'tour.'

The first three paintings that greet you as you enter the museum were chosen with great care by the Ateneo Art Gallery managing curator Boots Herrera. They are meant to captivate, with no other paintings to distract. All gifts of Fernando Zóbel, they give you an inkling of the wealth that is to come.

1. Carroza by Fernando Zóbel

One of Zóbel’s extant figurative works. Painted in 1953, polymer on wood. I love how Zóbel gives a whimsical twist to such a traditional figure. Possibly the most iconic work donated by Zóbel to the AAG.

2. Granadean Arabesque by Jose Joya

Painted in 1958, this “mural” is considered a landmark piece of Joya. You cannot help but be caught up in his broad strokes and the vibrant yellow tones. I can look at this painting all day long.

3. Blue Lamp by Arturo Luz


Small in comparison to the other 2 works that accompany it but in no way overwhelmed by them. Its “quietness” calls you to look at it closely.

4. Sarimanok by H R Ocampo (a gift from Fernando Zóbel)

I am normally not a fan of “bird” paintings but I love how the colors make this one come alive!

5. Crucifix by Napoleon Abueva (a gift from Fr Francisco Araneta, SJ)

I am quite drawn to this piece–a bronze corpus on a wooden plaque.

6. Kristo by Arturo Luz (a gift of the artist)

This adobe sculpture sits right below the Abueva crucifix cited above and I find the pairing perfect! I am always awed by how sculptors can create so much with just a few strokes.

7. Judas Kiss by Napoleon Abueva (a gift from Teodoro Katigbak)

Carved from one solid piece of adobe, I am amazed at how, with just a few cuts, Abueva is able to portray one of the most famous kisses in history.

8. Kinupot by Edgar Talusan Fernandez (a gift of the artist)

I first saw this last year when it came back from an exhibition abroad and it has fascinated me since. How the artist could portray movement while also conveying the restraint–amazing!

9. A House on Fire by Julie Lluch (a gift of the artist)

Another piece that invites closer inspection. Especially since it’s three-dimensional and you can walk around it and look at it from all angles. Most people assume it’s made of some sort of wood but it’s made of terracotta!


10. Mabini Art Project: 100 Paintings by Alfredo and Isabel Aquilizan (a gift of Security Bank Corporation)

Possibly the most photographed piece in the museum. Definitely IG-worthy. Soaring meters high, this installation immediately draws your eye.

11. Spring by Raffy Napay (a gift of the artist)

This one is a hidden gem. Literally as it’s located behind a wall. I’ve loved Raffy Napay’s work since he won at the Ateneo Art Awards a few years back. Working with his signature thread and yarn, this work, along with Raffy’s story, will leave you glowing!

12. Autoretrato by Pandy Aviado (a gift of the artist)

I love Pandy Aviado’s pose in this self-portrait. Very self-possessed and yet natural. We have two version of this actually–the final print and the wood plate.

13. The Door by Conrado Mercado

This work in relief, made of aluminum and brass, is another piece that I can look at for hours. I like standing as close as I can get to it and looking at every single person behind the door. And wondering what they are doing there.

14. Piitan by Alfredo Esquillo (a gift of the artist)

This painting has a haunting quality to it that makes one go back to it again and again. I look at the woman’s face and can’t help but ask “what is she thinking? What must she be feeling?”

15. Studies for Boy on Carabao by Manuel Rodriguez, Sr (a gift from the Juan and Isabel Zapanta Foundation)


The more I see of Manuel Rodriguez’ work, the more I am a fan. I love how the boy and the carabao mirror each other in posture and pattern.

16. Mother and Child with Street Vendors by Angelito Antonio (a gift from the Juan and Isabel Zapanta Foundation from the Enrico J L Manlapaz collection)

I like the composition of this painting and how the mother and child’s colors contrast with the rest of the work.

17. San Ignacio de Loyola, Sto Niño and San Francisco Javier Devotional Altarpiece (a bequest of Dr Ambeth Ocampo)

I’m a fan of the Jesuits.

18. Mientras El Chino Progresso by Fernando Amorsolo (a bequest of Dr Ambeth Ocampo)

Such an unusual piece by Amorsolo. And the social commentary it makes is priceless!

19. Favali at iba pang biktima by Anna Fer (a gift of the artist)

Isn’t it depressing that a painting done in 1987, over 30 years ago, is still so “true” today?

20. Bench by Napoleon Abueva (a bequest from Dr Ambeth Ocampo)

This bench came to straight from the Venice Biennale. I love how inviting it is – it calls you to sit and settle in and touch its grain. What better way to appreciate the art in front of you.


About The Author
Debbie Tan
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