Announcement, Art, Exhibit, Museum, UP Vargas Museum, West Wing Gallery (Edge)

Reply to the article “A little bit of flexibility”

Two weeks ago, the Vargas Museum sent to Business World through email, fax, and priority post a rejoinder to the article “A little bit of flexibility” by the reporter Sam Marcelo. A significant time has lapsed and the paper has not acknowledged receipt of the letter. In the interest of fairness, the Vargas is posting the same on its website, with reference to the link to the newspaper article. It is still the hope of Vargas that Business World air its side on the same page the museum had been mischaracterized.

8 December 2010


Associate Editor

Business World

Dear Ms Herrera:

We write to air our side in reference to the article written by Ms Sam Marcelo that appeared in the Arts and Leisure section of Business World on 16 November 2010. In the quotes attributed to Mr Norberto Roldan and Mr Steve Eland, the Vargas Museum is portrayed as demonstrating lack of flexibility with regard to contemporary art projects, a conclusion they formed based on their experience with the museum through the Immemorial project they organized at the Vargas. Had Ms Marcelo asked for our take on the matter, we would have explained to her that the Vargas Museum has always been open to the logistical requirements of contemporary art. We also know full well that these demands and the creative process are not separate. Thus as an institution, we patiently try to mediate between museum policy and the exigencies of current expression. It will be in bad form to belabor the details of this mediation in your paper. But we would like to state that the museum was never remiss in advising the organizers about the rules of engagement with the space at the outset and that we could only allow for so much improvisation given our limited resources for upkeep. We imagined that a sensitive curatorial approach would have been able to work around these creative constraints. Unfortunately, it seems that both Mr Roldan and Mr Eland have failed to appreciate the delicacy of this balance all together and think that if things do not go their way, the museum infringes on artistic options. What dismays us the most is Mr Eland’s rather impolitic and uncharitable comment, coming as it does from a visitor to the local art scene with scant knowledge of its contexts, that if the Vargas were truly “serious” in being a contemporary art space, it should “learn a little flexibility.” The museum has had its share of contemporary art projects in its premises, many of which have been logistically and conceptually challenging as your reporter might herself confirm. We were able to stage them without much conflict with artists and organizers who were judicious, sensible, diligent, collegial, decent, competent, and most of all responsible. Running a university art museum with a colonial and modern art collection and contemporary art spaces is not without its difficulties. Maintaining its infrastructure over time and simultaneously addressing the necessities of contemporary art can, indeed, be tough and tricky. We take this latitude “seriously.”

We hope that this letter has clarified our position.

Thank you very much.

With collegial regards,


Patrick D. Flores



About Jorge B. Vargas Museum

It aims to preserve its collection donated by Jorge B. Vargas and conducts research, exhibitions, publications, and educational programs. The Vargas Museum and Filipiniana Research Center houses a museum, archives, and library devoted to the Philippine history, art, and culture from the late 19th century until the post-war era. Its main beneficiaries are students, faculty, researchers and scholars of the Philippines and Asia.


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