Philippines // Manila //

National Gallery

Just beyond the southern walls of Intramuros (the closest LRT station is UN Avenue), the National Gallery (t02/527-1215) is the foremost art museum in the Philippines, housed in the grand old Legislative Building on the northern edge of Rizal Park. Galleries are laid out thematically in rather desultory fashion over two floors, but each one is relatively small and easy to digest. The highlights are paintings by Filipino masters including Juan Luna (1859–99), Félix Hidalgo (1855–1913), José Joya (1931–95) and Fernando Amorsolo (1892–1972), with the most famous works displayed in the Hall of the Masters near the entrance; Luna’s vast and magnificent Spolarium (1884) is here, a thinly veiled attack in oils on the atrocities of the Spanish regime, portraying fallen gladiators being dragged onto a pile of corpses.

Other galleries are dedicated to National Artist award winners (Amorsolo was the first in 1972), showcasing Joya’s Origins and Amorsolo’s Portrait of President Manuel Roxas. There’s also a section on architect Juan Arellano (1888–1960), who designed the building (completed in 1926), and a special gallery dedicated to the large Juan Luna collection; look out for his haunting Mother in Bed and the simple naturalism of Study for Rice Harvesting. The second floor contains mostly minor works from modern Filipino artists, and also a Bones Gallery where a huge sperm whale skeleton takes pride of place.

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