Critic/ism in flux exhibit

Critic/ism in flux
May 3, 2024 – September 20, 2024
9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Purita Kalaw-Ledesma Center, Makati City

How was the fluctuating field of Philippine art criticism observed and supported by Purita Kalaw-Ledesma during her years, and how has it oscillated beyond her lifetime?

Purita Kalaw-Ledesma believed that art criticism plays a vital role in the progress of arts and culture. As she wrote in 1962, “No nation has progressed in its cultural development without competent art critics.” This sentiment was also reflected in her other texts including her 1955 master’s thesis, her 1974 book co-authored with Amadis Ma. Guerrero (The Struggle for Philippine Art), and her introduction to Selections: ‘90 Art Criticism. The last of which was pivotal: the publication coincided with the launch of the Kalaw Ledesma Art Criticism Award in 1990, then subsequently revivified in 2013 through the Ateneo Art Awards – Purita Kalaw-Ledesma Prizes in Art Criticism.

This recognition even goes before 1990. Its early beginnings can be traced to an art competition by the Art Association of the Philippines (AAP). In particular, for its 7th annual contest in 1954, AAP introduced a critical review category. Francisco Arcellana’s “Notes for Purita” emerged as the first winning piece.

The year when Purita founded AAP in 1948 was also the year when she started to chronicle the Philippine art scene – an act that she diligently performed until 2000 – eventually building an archive of 83 scrapbooks filled with newspaper articles, letters, invitations, and other ephemera. These volumes, hefty in size and content, provide an insightful view of the evolving landscape of Philippine modern art and, along with it, the fluctuating terrain of art criticism. The archival materials offer a glimpse into the personalities: who they were, what they wrote about, when they were actively writing, where they got published, and so on.

With the critics and the field itself in flux, one thing is unchanging: Filipino art critics are not just art critics; they also wear multiple hats. Such conjecture can be arguably said to anyone working in the arts and culture in the Philippines. Notably, Fernando Zóbel and Arturo Luz were not just artists or art administrators; they were also lecturers at Ateneo Graduate School in the 1950s for an art appreciation class that had been pivotal in producing a generation of art critics such as Emmanuel Torres – poet, professor, and first curator of Ateneo Art Gallery. This career multiplicity is the case even now, considering the diverse backgrounds of our shortlisted writers and prizewinners.

On the whole, this exhibition is not only a retrospective of Philippine art criticism through the archives and selected artworks from the KLFI Collection, or a celebration of the AAA PKL Prizes in Art Criticism through featured pieces by our prizewinners. It is also an invitation to envision the after. Stirring inquiries and imaginaries are contemporary works – all with some sort of text in it – by Anna Miguel Cervantes, Lena Cobangbang, and Nice Buenaventura. Whatever lies ahead, Purita’s optimism for flourishing art criticism still rings true today: “The field is open for gifted and perceptive writers who, having sufficient background in the fine arts, can have a beautiful mission to fulfill.”


The exhibit is free and open to the public. Prior to your visit, please register first through this link:

For questions, please email [email protected].

* Quotes from Purita Kalaw-Ledesma lifted from “The Search for National Identity in the Fine Arts.” Article was located in PKL Scrapbook Vol. XV and in a personal manuscript titled Purita’s Writings.

Exhibit curation by Lk Rigor
Poster by Diane Go