The Menarco Vertical Museum
Filipino in its perspective yet global in its concerns, the Menarco Vertical Museum Collection comprises of 39 works. It covers the period from the beginnings of modernism in the country to the present and includes nearly every genre with an emphasis on recent contemporary art.
The collection, while not shown in its entirety on site, is displayed through rotating presentations per floor in the modern and eco-intuitive Menarco Tower in Bonifacio Global City. Museums should be easily accessible, not only because of their location but also in terms of being able to move around the building. The vertical nature of the museum allows visitors to experience the collection by degrees, at a steady, almost reflective pace, by being able to gradually see the works floor-by-floor as if climbing up a ladder. There is a clear beginning, middle, and end.
Each piece benefits from this unique space where there is interplay of holistic technology and timeless architecture that allows it to be exhibited in new ways and configurations. Menarco Tower carries the distinction of being the healthiest building in the Asian region because of its WELL and LEED certifications. Founder and CEO Carmen Jimenez-Ong says, “Humanity is at the forefront of our decision-making process, and we place people’s well-being first. We are all connected, and the decisions we make that jeopardize our health or our environment eventually come back to bless us or haunt us.”
It is through this aspect of putting people’s well-being first that the collection serves the community of those living and working in the financial business district. Art is known for its therapeutic and cognitive benefits, making it an enlightening way to spend the day. But it is more than entertainment; after several years of the pandemic, going to a museum brings back the practice of shared experiences and social interactions that bring people together.
Together, viewers can start with the beautiful and complicated work of Patricia Perez Eustaquio in the lobby, where a tour of the museum begins. One is immediately rewarded by the delight of paying attention. On the same floor, there is also the work of Alfredo Esquillo, which questions colonialism; and a video installation by Martha Atienza, which talks about the effects of climate change. The tour ends on the 32nd floor with the work of Pow Martinez, showing a satirical take on utopian ideals.
Philippine contemporary art is an ongoing process still unfolding in its relevance, according to the book “The Philippine Contemporary: To Scale the Past and the Possible.” Filipino artists work on art’s global stage. They are thinkers and makers of not only aesthetic objects but also give critique on modern conditions. Art educator and critic, Dr. Patrick Flores, describes Philippine contemporary art as being “profoundly troubled by the problems of the time.”
These problems pose concerns about the future of our digital life. In the face of fake news, algorithms, and AI, a museum can give us what a smartphone cannot: a connection to objects. Objects that contain significance, objects that keep track of experience, objects that don’t let us forget what we should remember, and objects with deeper meaning and stillness that remind us of the complicated business of being human.