Salingpusa throwback: Why ‘sampayan’ exhibit is a first | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Salingpusa group works on mural at Pinto garden party circa early 1990s
Salingpusa group works on mural at Pinto garden party circa early 1990s

It’s a story that’s been told, but one that bears retelling:

Around the time of the Edsa revolution in 1986, the eminent neurologist and art connoisseur Dr. Joven Cuanang, newly settled in Antipolo, Rizal, chanced upon a ragged bunch of youths who were hanging out near the famed Hinulugang Taktak waterfall.

They were, he learned, struggling artists—mostly from the University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts—who were unable to get their works shown in the established galleries in Manila, and were scrounging around for odd jobs to survive.

“They were considered unbankable,” Cuanang recalls.

To help them sell their works, the doctor held garden parties in his home every Sunday for his art lover friends. To display their works, the artists hung them from clotheslines strung all over the vast garden.

In a few years, the artists began calling themselves the Salingpusa group. Cuanang built a proper art gallery for them. He called it Pinto, Tagalog for “door” because, he said, it was meant to be “a door to new possibilities.”

Today, not only has the “sampayan” art gallery turned into the sprawling, multipurpose cultural complex known as the Pinto Art Museum, the Museum has become a favorite destination in Rizal.

And the original members of the Salingpusa group—among them Elmer Borlongan, Emmanuel Garibay, Mark Justiniani, Antonio Leano, Ferdie Montemayor—have become some of the most sought-after artists here and abroad.

As the local art scene starts to reopen gradually, Pinto Art Museum hopes to recapture the spirit of its early days in “Connect with Your Heart,” an exhibit to open July 11.

Art as commodity

The museum’s statement goes:

“Art in the Philippines has enjoyed an unprecedented boom, marked by the establishment of numerous galleries, art fairs and events. But while this burgeoning has been beneficial to artists and collectors, we feel that the focus has shifted away from Art, the very thing that united our passions in the first place.

“In the frenzy of acquisition and publicity, art has become a commodity—a product whose value comes from the name of its artist rather than the quality of the work itself. The public seems to be more concerned with the reputation and bankability of the artist rather than what the art is saying. We fear that this attitude threatens the creativity, vision and pure imagination that is the soul of art.”

“‘Connect with Your Heart’ offers an antidote to this state of the arts.

Pinto Art Museum’s newest gallery

“‘Connect with Your Heart’ is a sampayan show with a novel concept: The artworks will not be signed until they are bought. Prospective buyers will acquire pieces not on the basis of who made them, but on their personal emotional and aesthetic response to the work—the connection with their hearts.

“All of the artists we have hosted at Boston Gallery and Pinto from early in their careers have agreed to this format. Many share our concern over recent developments in the art world. Most of them are the same people who have made Philippine art what it is today: the most vibrant in Southeast Asia.”

More than 200 artists will join, submitting pieces in a uniform size of 18” x 24” rendered in different media. A maximum price of P30,000 has been set.

“Connect with Your Heart” opens at Pinto Art Museum July 11 at 10 a.m., and runs until July 26. Exhibit hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except Mondays, when the museum is closed.

To comply with social distancing policy of Pinto Art Museum, visitors must make an appointment at the numbers below.

In the ’80s, Salingpusa artists at “sampayan” art exhibit

Exhibition proceeds will go to the completion of Pinto Arboretum, a rescue center for endangered Philippine plants and trees; the establishment of an ecologically sound water conservation program at the Arboretum; and the establishment of a gallery to house the collection of rare Maitum jars and anthropomorphic sculptures recently acquired by the El Refugio Arts and Sciences Foundation Inc., the nonprofit foundation supporting the Pinto Museum of Philippine Contemporary Art, the Pinto Museum of Indigenous Art, the Pinto Arboretum, and the Pinto Academy for Healing and Wholeness. INQ

Pinto Art Museum, tel. 0927-7646270, 86971015 (Jenny Villanueva); email Boston Gallery, tel. 0917-5490545, 87229205 (Rommel Pascual), email

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