Jorge B. Vargas (1890-1980) was the country’s first Executive Secretary, having served this position during the Commonwealth period.
On March 1, 1978, Mr. Jorge B. Vargas bequeathed his collection of art, stamps and coins, his library, personal papers and memorabilia to his Alma Mater, the University of the Philippines.
In 1983, the University of the Philippines laid the cornerstone for a building that would house Mr. Vargas’ collection, originally displayed in a private museum located in the premises of his residence at the Kawilihan compound in Mandaluyong. The transfer of the objects to the Diliman campus began in 1986. The museum building was formally inaugurated by then President Corazon C. Aquino on February 22, 1987.
A center for Philippine art and culture, its main thrusts are research, exhibition and education.
The Jorge B. Vargas Art Collection consists of oil paintings, watercolors, pastels, drawings, and sculptures. It enjoys the unique distinction of being the only art repository in the country embracing the entire range of Philippine artistic creativity from the 1880s to the 1960s.
Among the collection are works by late 19th century artists such as Lorenzo Guerrero, Simon Flores, Juan Luna, and Felix Resurrecion Hidalgo. From a later period include paintings done in the 1930s and 1940s most notably by Fabian de la Rosa and Fernando Amorsolo. There are also artworks by Jorge Pineda, Vicente Rivera y Mir and other artists which were referred to as belonging to the “Amorsolo School.” The collection also boasts of modernist works such as those of Victorio Edades, Juan Aralleno, Diosdado Lorenzo, along with contemporaries who were active in the 1950s.
The Museum collection also comprises of outstanding works by women artists, recognized masters of semi-figurative art, UP graduates of the 1950s and 1960s and editorial drawings, cartoons, and caricatures. It includes sculptural pieces of Guillermo Tolentino and Graciano Nepomuceno, among other sculptors.
Through this collection, Vargas Museum aims to contribute towards the appreciation of the country’s artistic heritage and to foster an awareness of the history of Philippine art.
The library houses a vast collection of 3,193 titles of books and 1, 542 volumes of periodicals documenting the varied interest of Mr. Vargas, especially in the areas of history, law, art, philatelic and numismatic. Organized from its specialized collection, the library has the following indices: Vargasiana (bibliography), Quezoniana (MLQ), Philippine art, numismatic, philatelic, ethnographic, and linguistic sources. It is an excellent venue for advanced scholars in a variety of disciplines to pursue their individual or institutional research, including access to manuscripts and rare books.
Please take note, appointments are required to gain access to the library. For appointments, you may email Ms. Ma. Cecilia Raynera – firstname.lastname@example.org.
The U.P. Vargas Museum, more popularly known for its rich collection of artworks from renowned Filipino artists, is also home to a diverse body of archives and manuscripts that is considered to be a unique and primary source of historical information. Based on an initial survey, the archives consist of 88 boxes or approximately 300 linear feet of loose documents such as artworks’ receipts, minutes of meetings, and correspondence; 332 volumes of scrapbooks including newspaper clippings, greeting cards, photographs, and events programs; and memorabilia such as trophies and plaques, hotel keys, matchboxes and lighters. Having served in various government positions such as being the Executive Secretary of President Manuel L. Quezon and mayor of Manila during World War II, Jorge B. Vargas’ archival collection is virtually a memory house of the Commonwealth era, American colonization and Japanese occupation. Moreover, the museum’s collection of records provides the appropriate contextual perspective to the artworks and to Vargas as a collector.
Please take note, appointments are required to gain access to the Archives. For appointments, you may email Ms. Ma. Cecilia Raynera – email@example.com.
The building of the museum was formally inaugurated in 1987, almost nine years after Mr. Vargas bequeathed his collection to the University of the Philippines.
The multi-level architecture was designed to support the museum’s diverse functions. It has a bookshop, an audiovisual room and space for the museum’s community arts program and eventually, there will be a café for the museum and the university’s visitors.
The Ground Floor. This is the main access to the building. Its front lobby serves as the main reception area with stairs leading to the other levels of the structure.
This floor features areas for changing exhibitions. The eastern portion, renamed The Lobby, hosts temporary exhibitions of short duration. Another area designated for changing displays is on the west side of the building named The Edge Gallery that stretches the whole are of the western portion and also covers the back side of the building. This area is designated for major solo exhibitions or group shows of contemporary artists.
Aside from regular changing exhibitions, spaces in the ground floor are also popular venues for lectures, meet-the-artist sessions, book launchings, poetry readings and music recitals and concerts.
The Second Floor. Visitors will find on this floor the main gallery of the museum where thematic exhibitions of the permanent collection are displayed. On occasion it hosts special exhibitions such as those touring from abroad or local collections that require ideal conditions for display. It was renamed The Kawilihan Gallery after the house of Vargases in Kawilihan, Mandaluyong, where the artworks were used to be displayed before it was donated to the university.
The Third Floor. This level houses the archives, library and the Vargas memorabilia. It also has an exhibition space called The Third Floor Foyer where archival materials, photography and three-dimensional artworks are displayed. Technical and artistic support services personnel – curator, researcher, specialist and staff – also hold office in this level.
The Basement. This is the Vargas Museum’s activity center where workshops and community arts programs are held. Soon to open are the open storage center and philatelic gallery featuring stamps issued from 1890 to 1978.
The Jorge B. Vargas Museum’s present public programs focus on exhibitions that deal with Philippine and Asian history, modern and contemporary art as well as on other disciplines that may interest the University of the Philippines’ community. It lives up to the donor, former Commonwealth Executive Secretary Jorge B. Vargas’ vision of a humanist and nationalist agenda where Filipinos and people are placed first. It honors his wishes to keep his collection intact by caring and doing research on them that includes his personal and public papers, photographs, memorabilia, art, stamps, coins and Filipiniana and rare books. The Museum has spaces to display the Vargas collection and changing exhibitions for temporary programs either developed in-house or those generated by artists who turn in their proposals a year or more in advance.
Among the recent exhibitions organized at the Vargas Museum, we strove to present different aspects of Philippine art, history and culture. We featured parts of the vast collection of the Museum, as well as those loaned from collectors and artists. College of Fine Arts and the University of the Philippines centenary celebrations in 2007 and 2008, respectively, the Museum pays tribute to the first Filipino Dean of the UP SFA and honors him with the Fabian de la Rosa (1869-1938) Retrospective Exhibition. It is currently on view at the Kawilihan Gallery since 7 September 2006 until 14 January 2007. He is heir to the artistic traditions of Simon Flores, Juan Luna and Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo. He was also the first mentor of the first National Artist of the Philippines, Fernando Amorsolo, and his brother Pablo. A leading academic painter at the time of worldwide social ferment, and revolution and nationalism in the country, his works reflects much of our history. De la Rosa lived and practiced his art through the Spanish and American colonial regimes in the country, and among the last of the generation of artists influenced by Lorenzo Guerrero, Miguel Zaragoza, Flores, Luna and Hidalgo. The exhibition includes de la Rosa’s artworks loaned from both private and public collections in the country. Also, several pieces by Simon Flores, the Amorsolo brothers, and his contemporaries and colleagues from the UP SFA are part of the exhibition.
A volume of essays on and of De la Rosa and Philippine art will be launched on November 2006. The show runs until 14 January 2007. The exhibition is organized in association of the Spanish Program for Cultural Cooperation and the Filipiniana.Net, a division of the Vibal Publishing House, Inc.
On view at the Edge Gallery is the Contemporary Filipino Impressionists Exhibit, a complimentary show to the Fabian de la Rosa Retrospective Exhibition. Featuring the works of preeminent artists from Cebu from the 1950s to the present, the exhibit pays tribute to the legacy of de la Rosa and the endurance of Impressionism in painting for over a hundred years.
Finally, the International Workshop on Asia, Europe and Impressionism (Impressionism and Creativity from the Asian Perspective) will be held on November 24 to 26, 2006. Co-hosted with the Asia-Europe Meeting and the Instituto Cervantes de Manila, the workshop aims to arrive at a better construction of the cultural and historic traditions of Impressionism in Europe and Asia, and how aesthetics has become responsive and reflexive to, and reflective of society through the discourses of translation and transaction of Impressionism in both Asia and Europe.
These exhibitions, among others that focus on Filipino artists, live up to the spirit within which Jorge B. Vargas collected art and objects. He was one of the first Filipino collectors who acquired Philippine art and housed them in a museum to honor them. The Vargas Museum is committed to continue his legacy.