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City Art Guide: Manila


City Art Guide: Manila

Image courtesy of The Italian Eye Magazine

The Philippines is one of the biggest up-and-coming markets in Asian contemporary art, and Manila is the centre of this growing scene. There are galleries, museums, design shops and other art spaces scattered around the city, all with something different to offer. Keep reading for The Artling’s top art picks in the Filipino capital!



GETTING AROUND in Manila can be a hassle if you don’t time it well, or, sometimes, even if you do. The best thing to do is to time your travel to avoid peak times (morning rush hour, lunchtime, and in the evenings). If you do get stuck during peak hours, be prepared with a book or some form of entertainment because it could take you one to two hours to reach your destination. The easiest way to explore the city is by hiring a driver or getting an Uber!

The best time to GO is in February during Art Fair Philippines, the leading art fair in the city set unconventionally in a carpark in central Makati. Galleries time their exhibition openings and there are events throughout the fair duration.


Raffy Napay installation at Art Fair Philippines 2016


To avoid getting stuck in traffic, it’s best to STAY within walking distance of the art fair, which is conveniently located in the centre of Makati City. There are a number of hotels in that area, such as the Shangri-La and the Fairmont.

If you’re looking for a quick bite to EAT, the Ayala Café, connected to the Ayala Museum, is near the fair and provides some hearty Southeast Asian staples. For a DRINK, don’t miss the kitschy speakeasies in Manila like Bank Bar, with its entrance within a 7-Eleven, or ABV with its antique elevator shaft that transports you to the Prohibition Era.



Installation view of Indy Paredes' solo exhibition at 1335 Mabini
Image courtesy of 1335 Mabini

Housed in a colonial mansion dating back to 1902, 1335 MABINI (Casa Tesoro, 1335 A. Mabini Street, Ermita, Manila 1000) is a multidisciplinary space that hosts exhibitions, workshops, lectures and an artist-in-residence program. With a mission to promote cultural exchange, 1335 Mabini represents artists from all over Asia and focuses especially on new media, video and installation art.  


Established in 2010, ALTRO MONDO (3rd Level, Greenbelt 5, Ayala Center, Makati City, Manila 1228) has endeavored to showcase art from both the Philippines and abroad, partnering with young and established curators to present their exhibitions.


ARTINFORMAL (277 Connecticut St., Mandaluyong, 1556 Metro Manila) stays true to its name, presenting informal exhibitions that bring together the Filipino arts community, from artists to curators to collectors. By promoting young Filipino artists in its international presence at major art fairs, Artinformal strengthens the art scene both within the Philippines and beyond.


Exterior of the gallery space
Image courtesy of Art Underground

Presenting artists who fuse various disciplines, from art to literature to fashion, ART UNDERGROUND (814 Balagtas St., Barangay Addition Hills, Mandaluyong City, 1550 Metro Manila) is platform for projects that challenge preconceived notions of what art is.


AVELLANA ART GALLERY (2680 FB Harrison St., Pasay City) looks to established artists for their roster, presenting exhibitions of new works by some of the Philippines’ older artists.


Installation view of Blanc Gallery
Image courtesy of Blanc Gallery

One of the younger galleries on the scene, BLANC GALLERY  (145 Katipunan Avenue, St. Ignatius Village, Quezon City 1110) was founded in 2006 and is devoted to supporting established and emerging Filipino artists. The gallery now has an exhibition and artists’ residency space, as well as a satellite site in Makati.


CRUCIBLE GALLERY has been around for twenty years, and they represent a range of artists, from young talents to National Artists like Arturo Luz.


“Stick Up Don’t Move Smile: Reinventing Black, 1957 to Today” at Finale Art File
Image courtesy of Finale Art File 

Starting as a mall kiosk selling works on paper, FINALE ART FILE  (Warehouse 17, La Fuerza Plaza, 2241 Chino Roces Ave., Makati, 1233 Metro Manila) has since presented hundreds of exhibits in the two decades since then. Their roster includes both modern and contemporary artists, providing a holistic view of art history and the contemporary scene in the Philippines.


"Space Dust" by Trek Valdizno at Galleria Duemila
Image courtesy of Galleria Duemila

The oldest commercial gallery in the Philippines, GALLERIA DUEMILA  (210 Loring Street, 1300 Pasay City, Metro Manila) was established in 1975 and specializes in contemporary paintings, sculptures, works on paper and installations, as well as rare secondary market works by modern Filipino masters.


Interior of Galerie Stephanie. Image courtesy of Galerie Stephanie.

GALERIE STEPHANIE  (Unit 1B Parc Plaza Bldg., 183 E. Rodriguez Jr. Ave., Libis, Quezon City) works with renowned National Artists as well as younger emerging artists, with whom they work closely with curators and consultants to develop their artworks and practice.


Oca Villamiel's installation work
Image courtesy of Light & Space Contemporary

Located in the heart of Quezon City, LIGHT & SPACE CONTEMPORARY (53 Fairlane St., West Fairview, Quezon City 1121) is a gallery and residency space. Dedicated to promoting cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary exchange, the gallery often hosts events that explore the intersection of the visual arts, film and theatre.


MO_SPACE  (3rd Level, Mos Design Bldg., B2 9th Ave., Bonifacio High Street, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig) is an artist-run gallery that works with emerging artists to put on innovative shows, from contemporary installations, to performances to video works.


Image courtesy of Pablo Gallery

Established in 2005, PABLO (C-11 South of Market, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig 1634) focuses on local and foreign contemporary art, and aims to promote interactions between the artists and the local audience. They also have a retail space called POST Gallery where you can sometimes find artist-designed merchandise.


Installation view at the new Silverlens space!
Image courtesy of Silverlens Galleries

SILVERLENS GALLERIES  (Lapanday Center, 2263 Don Chino Roces Avenue Extension, Makati City 1231) just reopened in a brand new space, a few blocks down from their original gallery. The two-storey building has two gallery spaces, a viewing room, a library, studios and storage area. Silverlens has an impressive roster, including Maria Taniguchi who has received the Hugo Boss Asia Art Award and Martha Atienza, on the shortlist for the Asian edition of the Benesse Prize.


THE DRAWING ROOM (Bldg. C Karrivin Plaza, 2316 Chino Roces Avenue Extension Brgy Magallanes, Makati City 1231) started as a gallery focusing on works on paper in 1998, but has since expanded significantly to encompass works in a variety of media by artists from all over the Philippines.


Installation view of Mike Adrao's solo exhibition at Tin-Aw Art Gallery
Image courtesy of Tin-Aw Art Gallery

With a name taken from the Filipino word that means 'clear water', TIN-AW ART GALLERY (Upper Ground Floor of Somerset Olympia Bldg., Makati Avenue, Makati City 1225) was launched in 2008. Set on the ground floor of a serviced apartment building, the modest exhibition space plays host to solo and group exhibitions by both emerging and established artists, such as Alfredo Esquillo and Mark Justiniani.


Works by Alfredo Esquilo
Image courtesy of West Gallery

With four gallery spaces, a visit to WEST GALLERY (48 West Avenue, 1104 Quezon City) is guaranteed to give you a good overview of some of the best emerging artists coming out of the Philippines.


Wall-to-wall art at Vinyl on Vinyl's gallery space
Image courtesy of Vinyl on Vinyl

Aiming to merge the fields of art, toys and music in one space, VINYL ON VINYL  (2241 Pasillo 18 La Fuerza Compound Chino Roces Makati) is an eclectic gallery housed in a warehouse space on Chino Roces Avenue in Makati, presenting exhibitions of illustrations, street and pop art.



The foyer of the Ateno Art Gallery. Image courtesy of Ateneo Art Gallery.

Established in 1960, the ATENEO ART GALLERY (Arts Wing, Areté Ateneo de Manila University Katipunan Avenue, Loyola Heights, Quezon City) grew out of acclaimed artist Fernando Zobel’s bequest of his collection of post-war works by key Filipino artists. Today, the gallery hosts innovative exhibitions and public programs, including the Ateneo Art Awards that highlights emerging artists in the Philippines.   


Exterior of the museum at night
Image courtesy of Ayala Museum

AYALA MUSEUM  (Makati Avenue corner De La Rosa Street, Greenbelt Park, Makati City 1224) is located in Makati city, right across from the Art Fair Philippines venue. It is run privately by the Ayala Foundation, and houses its permanent collection of artefacts on Filipino art, culture, and history as well as exhibitions of international and local artists. Read The Artling’s interview Ayala’s Senior Director of Arts & Culture here.


Michael Lin's "Locomotion" at the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design
Image courtesy of MCAD

Tucked away from the touristy area of Makati, the MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART AND DESIGN (MCAD)  (Dominga St. Malate, Manila) is a hidden gem located within the campus of De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde. It’s a huge warehouse space that hosts exhibitions of internationally-renowned artists, such as Thai video artist Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Soil and Stones, Souls and Songs a group exhibition in partnership with Hong Kong’s Para Site.


The METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF MANILA  (Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Complex, Roxas Boulevard, Manila) just celebrated its 40th anniversary, after its founding in 1976. The museum features historical artifacts and artworks, some of which were donations to the museum’s permanent collection, as well as a growing contemporary collection of artworks by Filipino artists.


Installation view of one of the six galleries in the Pinto Art Museum
Image courtesy of Sassy Manila

A 40-minute ride out of Manila, the PINTO ART MUSEUM  (1 Sierra Madre St., Grand Heights Rd, Antipolo, Rizal) is well worth the trek, nested within a 1.3 hectare hillside property known as Silangan Gardens in Antipolo. The museum, which opened to the public in 2010, houses a private collection of Filipino Art featuring some of the country’s most prominent modern and contemporary artists.

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Any views or opinions in the interview are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors.