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An Interview with Ms Elizabeth L. Gustilo, Senior Director of Arts & Culture at Ayala Museum


An Interview with Ms Elizabeth L. Gustilo, Senior Director of Arts & Culture at Ayala Museum
Ms. Elizabeth L. Gustilo with works by the artist and major proponent of the Ayala Museum, Fernando Zobel.

As one of the leading private museums in the country, the Ayala Museum  makes Philippine history, art, and culture accessible to the public through engaging exhibitions and exciting cultural programs. We speak to Ms. Elizabeth L. Gustilo, to tell us more about her role as Senior Director of Arts & Culture at Ayala Museum, the history of the museum, and the programmes that are influencing the cultural landscape of Manila.

Toym Imao’s 'Last, Lost, Lust for Four Forgotten Episodes' installation exhibited Under the OpenSpace program, Exhibited from May 12, 2015 to June 15, 2015.
Image courtesy of Ayala Museum

Tell us about the history of the collection at Ayala Museum. How did the collection come about and what are the main highlights?

Ayala Museum, a history and visual arts museum, was originally envisioned by the artist and philanthropist Fernando Zobel (1924 – 1984) in the 1950s. A scion of the Ayala family, which runs the 182-year business conglomerate Ayala Corporation, Zobel staunchly advocated for the institution of a museum of Philippine history and iconography alongside the family’s infrastructural and re-development projects after the war. In April 1967, the Ayala Museum began to take shape as a principal project under the Filipinas Foundation, known as Ayala Foundation.

Over a period of seven years and under the guidance of Carlos Quirino, National Artist for Historical Literature, and Ayala Museum’s first director, a team of researchers, artists and woodcarvers from Paete, Laguna brought to life the museum’s most iconic diorama collection that discusses the country’s history. Maritime vessel models and a set of dolls that showed the evolution of Philippine costumes supplemented these dioramas. Throughout the 80s and 90s, the fine arts collection of the museum expanded with the active acquisition of works by Fernando Amorsolo and Fernando Zobel. With a growing need for expansion, the museum moved to its current home in September 2004.

Installation view of the Fernando Zobel exhibition at the Third Floor Galleries (Permanent Display)
Image courtesy of Ayala Museum

Ayala Museum now stands at six floors, housing both permanent and changing exhibition galleries (including one showcasing the original dioramas and maritime vessels), and, since 2013, its sister company, the Filipinas Heritage Library. The museum’s collection continued to expand through donations of artifacts and objects such as its prized pre-Hispanic Philippine gold collection and indigenous Philippine textiles donated by Mercedes Zobel. It has also established long-term loans like with the Roberto T. Villanueva Foundation for its collection of Chinese and Southeast Asian trade ceramics. These collections are all currently on permanent display at the Fourth Floor Galleries.

With the relocation of the Filipinas Heritage Library to the museum, guests now have access to a rich collection of Filipiniana materials—with over 2,000 rare book titles, 12,000 volumes of monographs in its main holdings, 35,000 archival photos, and over a thousand digitized Philippine music. The library is also a custodian of important during- and post-World War II references and sources such as the presidential papers of former President Elpidio Quirino and a donation of books from the collections of Roderick Hall and The Memorare 1945 Foundation.


As the Senior Director of Arts & Culture for Ayala Museum, what is your role in the organization? What would a typical day for you be like?

Like any chief executive, my role as director is to establish, legislate & administer our vision and mission; inspire the staff to achieve it; define the operational and programming framework; drive audience development; lead efforts to recruit sponsors and funders; and manage our financial resources. I am blessed to work with highly competent museum and library professionals, which allows me to focus my efforts daily at making art and culture accessible to the community we serve.

Exterior of the museum at night
Image courtesy of Ayala Museum

How do you select your special exhibitions, such as one of your most recent ones ‘A Taste of Gutai: Lito and Kim Camacho Collection’?

We have several special exhibition programs.  These are:

  • Images of Nation, which pays tribute to our country’s National Artists in the Visual Arts; 
    Exhibition shots of 'Images of Nation Ang Kiukok: The Golden Years (1954-2004)'
    On exhibition at the Third Floor Galleries from March 1 – June 26, 2016
    Image courtesy of Ayala Museum
  • News Frontiers, which provides the space and opportunity for the concept, production, and documentation of fresh and innovative issues and developments in Philippine contemporary work and provides a venue for its discourse and dialogue
  • Pioneers of Philippine Art, which gathers the works of Juan Luna, Fernando Amorsolo, and Fernando Zobel
  • The Collectors Series, which provides the public access to private collections, telling personal narratives of the fascination, passion and persistence shown by individuals towards a particular artist/art group.
  • OpenSpace, which are exhibitions located at the MuseumPlaza, transforming it into a public site for dialogue and interaction with contemporary art and artists.

'A Taste of Gutai' falls under the Collector’s Series.

Interspersed with its regular exhibition programs, Ayala Museum also calendars special exhibitions such as travelling exhibitions and exhibitions held in partnership with cultural institutions, artists, or artists groups based here and abroad.

Artist Kiri Dalena viewing the exhibition 'A Taste of Gutai: Lito and Kim Camacho Collection' on exhibition at the Ground Floor Gallery from February 5 – April 10, 2016.
Image courtesy of Ayala Museum

Ayala Museum is not just a museum, housing the Filipinas Heritage Library and a primary source for rare books, photographs, recordings and more. Tell us more about the education programmes that Ayala Museum has in place and the sort of impact these programmes hope to achieve in Manila.

Ayala Museum is dedicated to inspiring people to discover the joy & wonder of art & culture, in all its forms.  With this in mind, our education programmes include

  • History Comes Alive, which is a lecture series by popular Filipino historian, Ambeth Ocampo, on landmark historical events and key historical figures told in a manner both educational and entertaining
  • DesignTalks, which is series of talks throughout the year featuring the country’s top designers and creative professionals who have left their marks locally and globally
  • St’ART, which is a series of unique arts and crafts workshops for children
  • Conversation in Art, a lecture series anchored on our featured exhibitions & collections
  • Historical Symposia, inviting scholars, historians, eye witnesses and/or their descendants to talk about specific historical events
  • Day-at-the Museum, Ayala Museum’s outreach program providing opportunities for public school children and children from less fortunate communities to have an enriching experience in the museum.
  • Courses & Workshops, including fine art, writing, photography, facilitated by the country’s most esteemed industry leaders
    An Ayala Museum education associate facilitating one of the St’ART arts and crafts workshops for children.
    Image courtesy of Ayala Museum
  • Concerts & performances, featuring orchestral, vocal/choral, and classical musicians but within a more intimate and relaxed environment
  • Film Showings, including films and documentaries on art movements, artists, and historical events

Aside from being a history and visual arts museum, we like to think of ourselves as a community center, not for sports but for art; an institution for lifelong learning, if you will.

The Filipinas Heritage Library at the 6th Floor of Ayala Museum
Image courtesy of Ayala Museum 

There has been a significant increase in the number of private museums across Asia in recent years. What do you think a private museum can contribute to a city’s arts and culture scene that national museums cannot? How do you think these two forms of cultural institutions differ?

Private museums can add focus and tackle specialized subject matters while national museums are by nature encyclopedic.


Tell us more about your upcoming exhibitions and what you have planned for the museum in the year ahead.

The Dioramas, our defining collection of Pre-Colonial Philippine Gold from the 10th-13th century, the Roberto T. Villanueva Collection of Chinese and Southeast Asian trade ceramics, the Indigenous Philippine textiles from Mercedes Zobel and the works of Fernando Zobel are on exhibition all year round.

'Binibini', Surigao, Philippines, ca. 10th-13th century, 17.2 x 12.9 cm., 71.1 grams
Featured in the exhibition 'Gold of Ancestors: Pre-colonial Treasures of the Philippines' (Permanent Display)
Image courtesy of Neal Oshima and Ayala Museum

As for our changing exhibitions, we plan for our modern & contemporary exhibitions, such as Taste of Gutai, to be in the first quarter of the year to complement Art Fair Philippines & celebration of Arts Month in February.  In the 2nd quarter, our focus will be Philippine art & history in time with Independence Day celebrations. The 3rd quarter will see us collaborate with other cultural institutions to introduce aspects of their culture to the community we serve. The 4th quarter usually starts with the best of our young artists on exhibition through the Shell Art Awards and culminates a tribute to the country’s finest artists.



The Ayala Museum is located at Makati Avenue corner De La Rosa Street, Greenbelt Park, Makati City, 1224 Philippines. The Galleries are open from Tue-Sun 9am - 6pm, while the Filipinas Heritage Library is open Tue-Sat 9am - 6pm and the ArtistSpace is open Mon-Sun 10am - 7pm. For more information you can visit their website here.



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

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