Taking pride of place in the pop-up exhibition of rarely seen Federico Aguilar Alcuaz paintings at Makati Shangri-La, Manila, mezzanine was an unassuming oil-on-canvas oeuvre, about two by three feet, that for years languished under its owner’s bed.
The story goes that the art lover’s wife could not stand the work. Rather than risk marital strife, he stashed away the beloved painting where it remained close but where she would not see it.
And there it remained until last month when Didi Dee, founder and artistic director of Hiraya Gallery, saw it, christened it “Little Prince” and made it standard bearer of 28 Alcuaz works, all from private collections, now appreciated by hotel guests.
It’s an untitled work, Dee clarified. Somehow, she sees the silhouette of a child of royalty among the splotches of green, white, maroon and black.
One can sense the excitement in Dee’s voice when she related the “Prince’s” provenance.
The collector received it as a gift back in 1991. Alcuaz, a world-famous Filipino painter, finished it in 1969. Imagine spending more than half your life under a bed.
Show the piece to an avid Alcuaz collector and watch his jaw drop. That’s what happened when Dee unveiled the piece to the owner of CrownPlas Museum, a private collector and a Makati Shangri-La regular, who himself generously lent more than a dozen Alcuaz watercolors for the exhibit.
The Alcuaz exhibit was Dee’s second foray into exhibiting art at Makati Shangri-La.
Her first was “Love the Earth, Heal the Spirit” that had 17 works of Filipino artist Fernando Modesto and ran for two weeks in early June.
The exhibits are part of the hotel’s Lobby Lounge Luxe project that began with a joint exhibit by fashion designer Rajo Laurel, luxury pearl brand Jewelmer and the Makati Shangri-La last April.
Dee said her involvement in the project was serendipitous. Marco Tiraferri, the hotel’s executive assistant manager for food and beverage, initially offered Dee’s friend, artist Sequi Cu-Unjieng, the space at the lounge where Laurel and Jewelmer had shown.
Tiraferri’s idea is to bring art to the hotel, make it more accessible to guests by taking advantage of the foot traffic at the lobby lounge daily. Since they are in the hotel, why not make the visit more memorable by treating them to art for free?
Dee agreed to help, on one condition: Transfer the exhibit to the mezzanine where the art can be viewed at a more leisurely pace. People would still be there anyway, with three restaurants—Sage, Shang Palace and Inagiku—and multiple function rooms in the area.
Besides, the mezzanine offered a calmer view of the musicians who perform for guests enjoying Afternoon High Tea at the lobby.
The opening night for the Alcuaz paintings on June 16 did not have many guests.
“But they lingered until late. One guest chanced on a friend who ended up buying five small works. The friend said he had been looking for Alcuaz’s works for a long time,” Dee recalled.
More shows coming
“This is an opportunity to have a presence in Makati (Hiraya Gallery is on UN Avenue, Ermita, Manila) without having to pay the exorbitant rent. We have people giving positive feedback about this venture, those who do not go to Ermita. I think this is working well for the artist, the hotel and the gallery. A win-win situation,” she noted.
The current exhibit features New York-based Julio Jose Austria and his colleague Sophia Chizuco.
Other artists set to exhibit are ceramic artist Lanelle Abueva-Fernando, painter Joven Ignacio, abstract painter Donna Sy and sculptor-jeweler Hans Brumann.
“Keeping Distance” runs until July 31 at the Lobby Lounge Luxe on the mezzanine floor of the Makati Shangri-La. Admission is free. Exhibit is produced by Hiraya Gallery, tel. 5233331; www.hiraya.com.
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