The year 1995 was an auspicious one for art lovers Eddie and Norma Chua. Little did they know their chance meeting with Federico Aguilar Alcuaz would lead to a life-long friendship and the construction of a four-story museum housing most of the National Artist’s works.
It has already been two decades since the time that the Chua couple started to collect pieces such as Lladro and Hummel figurines and Chinese porcelains. A year after, their desire to collect art works was stoked during an exhibit of nude paintings that they attended.
The suggestion to collect works by Alcuaz came from painter and art critic Rod Paras-Perez who, at that time, told the couple that the artist would eventually be included in the prestigious Order of National Artists, which actually happened two decades after.
“Depending on his mood, he would select paintings to include in our collection,” wrote Chua in a recently released publication on Alcuaz’s works in Spain.
A work from the Alcuazaic series. / Photographs courtesy of The CrownPlas Museum
“Upon earning his trust, we gained access to his Philippines studio and condominium storage; Barcelona, Spain studio; and Hannover, Germany house,” he noted.
Having the biggest collection of Alcuaz works in the world, the couple decided to convert their bungalow house in Quezon City into a gallery but Norma passed away later that year and did not saw its completion.
The gallery was opened on 15 March 2004, coinciding with the birth anniversary of Norma especially since the collections would not be possible without her.
National Artist Napoleon Abueva and Alcuaz himself inaugurated the Gallery of Eddie and Norma Chua with an inaugural exhibition curated by Paras-Perez.
‘Flowers and Fruit.’
“As the collection grew bigger, they were stored in four different locations and in 2010, the gallery was demolished to give way to a four-story museum which was completed in 2013,” said Chua.
Renamed The CrownPlas Museum, it was inaugurated on 15 March the following year and Abueva again graced the event.
“The museum is a dream come true,” Chua said, adding that as an art collector, “I am aware that the paintings and masterpieces are simply entrusted to us.”
Apart from Alcuaz’s works, also exhibited inside the museum are Capodimonte and the aforementioned figurines, Swarovski crystals, furniture pieces, scholar’s stones, and wood and bronze sculptures.
Portrait of the late art lover Norma Chua.
Perhaps one of the most interesting works in the collection are the ones which Alcuaz himself called the Alcuazaic suite or Alcuazaics. Here, he used tiny rolled paper from magazine pages pasted on a format to form meandering images of mirage-like appearances.
Paras-Perez wrote in 2005 that “Alcuaz coined the term Alcuazaics, grafting his name to the ancient technique of mosaic making, which attained full effulgence in ancient Constantinople.”
Alcuaz made about 140 pieces of Alcuazaics while overseas and in the Philippines because as he himself noted that “I simply couldn’t stop, for always new ideas, pop up that instead of finishing them, I had to start two new series and this went on for years.”
As he entered his Manila Pavilion rooms, he said the new ideas which he likened to the beats of music swayed his head “like a baton of a conductor.”
Despite that “so many who saw them wanted to buy a piece I would not, the only way I could part with them is when somebody buys them all together,” he said.
Self-portrait by the National Artist.
Paras-Perez noted that “each Alcuazaic is a unique, self-contained world — a visual symphonette with a structure still evocative of a prelude, conflict and climax and a sense of resolution.”
Today, most of these works are on exhibit or in the storage of the Chua couple museum as these were not exhibited nor “rarely allowed to be acquired” except for them.
As a private institution, the museum is open on select dates only every year.
It has played its part in the 500-year celebration of the Philippine part in the first circumnavigation of the world through the recent publication of the book Federico Alguilar Alcuaz: Navegando al Alma Española (Navigating the Spanish Soul).
Credit belongs to : www.tribune.net.ph