A museum in every mall, a mall in every museum

IF they can host a huge skating rink like this one in malls, why not even a small fraction of this space for a museum. (www.jaunted.com)

IF they can host a huge skiing rink like this one in malls, why not even a small fraction of this space for a museum? (www.jaunted.com)

EITHER way, mall-loving Filipinos are bound to benefit from it by bringing them convenient and accessible access to such oases of culture. Since you can’t take away the mall out of their system (for the time being, I hope), then why not make museum-going part of the shopping experience everyday of the week except, say, Monday?

It may sound strange, even ridiculous, but it’s one of the best ways we can slowly develop and instill among Filipinos the habit of regularly going to museums the way people do in other countries, particularly in Europe. And to make sure that mall developers allot a fraction of precious mall space to accommodate a museum, they should be required by law to do so as a condition for them to open for business.

It need not be mandatory for them to include a museum in every mall they build, but once their developments reach a certain aggregate floor space, then the government, through a yet-to-be created Ministry of Culture, should step in and make sure they build or make room for one.

ARE town plazas and opens spaces in the Philippine countryside becoming endangered species? (tripwow,tripadvisor.com)

ARE town plazas and opens spaces in the Philippine countryside becoming endangered species? (tripwow,tripadvisor.com)

Not a problem

Of course, not all museums are created equal. These malls can either manage the museums themselves or hire a bunch of professionals to do it for them. Since most mall developers also belong to—supply your favorite regional Philippine city—the top 400 families, it shouldn’t be a problem for them to procure priceless artifacts and works of art.

They can strike a deal with government-run museums to turn these mall-based exhibit halls as satellite venues featuring a fraction of what can be found, say, in the National or Metropolitan Museums. If they can do it in certain US airports, and subway stops in Moscow, why can’t we do it in malls here in the Philippines?

WOULDN'T your rather have this...(sundaypunch.prepys.com)

WOULDN’T your rather have this…(sundaypunch.prepys.com)

For a negligible fee, the public may wander through and get lost in the collections. Since it’s a form of public service, the government can probably waive certain taxes or give a list of incentives to these mall developers.

And there’s nothing like competition to keep members of the private sector creative and up on their feet. As people begin to imbibe the culture of malling-slash-museum-going, trust these malls to differentiate themselves from the competition by coming up with their respective museums exhibiting the biggest, rarest, oddest and most priceless artifacts.

In fact, much like their architecture, interiors and store mix, the kind of museum one puts up can become an ideal gauge of how a mall wants itself to be perceived by the public. In short, it can double as a marketing tool and extension of its brand, image or rank within the hierarchy of malls.

AND this...(www.flickr.com)

AND this…(www.flickr.com)


I thought I was being original with this seemingly inspired idea until my friend Armando also brought up a similar proposal after reading my recent article on Musée du Quia Branly’s recently concluded three-month exhibition of pre-colonial Philippine artifacts in Paris. (Refer to link:


“Since we have an undeniable mall culture,” he wrote to me on Facebook, “why not open satellite galleries there (malls) showing a revolving capsule collection that’s open for free to all mall-goers? It will be like a teaser or preview of real museums just to pique the public’s interest and entice them to come and visit our museums to view the complete collection.”

He likened it to that of watching a movie, another popular pastime among Filipinos that has started to wane of late because of cable TV and the availability of cheap, pirated DVDs.

THAN this? (www.backpackingphilippines.com)

THAN this? (www.backpackingphilippines.com)

 “You want to see the preview first,” he said, “before buying a ticket for the full movie experience.”

Armando even took to task Sen. Loren Legarda, a vocal supporter of culture and the arts, for saying that the French are teaching us “how great we are” for funding the Musée du Quia Branly display.

At first blush, Legarda’s statement did sound that way. But as I explained to Armando later, I guess what the good senator meant was it has taken a group of foreigners to fund and show to us and the rest of the world how rich, diverse and beautiful our culture was even before the arrival of the first batch of white men to our shores.

MOSCOW subway: art in the most unlikely place (boards.cruisecritic.com)

MOSCOW subway: art in the most unlikely place (boards.cruisecritic.com)


Put another way, while the government, particularly our esteemed lawmakers, are allowing billions of pesos to be squandered away in ghost projects that assure them of huge kickbacks, we can’t even find a fraction of that amount to pay for the gathering and showcasing of these artifacts and works of art that reflect our very soul as a people. Think about it.

I will assume and try to expound in a future entry why culture, particularly going to museums, is relegated to the bottom of our priorities both as a people and as a nation.

Before I end this, I’d like to leave you with my impressions on a new liquor ad I recently caught on TV. It’s a seemingly unrelated topic, but since we’re discussing malls and priorities here, I can’t help myself but share this with you.

I can’t even remember the damn drink’s name, but what caught my attention was the ad’s protagonist, a returning country boy and how amazed he is at outward signs of “progress” that have swept through his sleepy town while he was away.

POCKETS of art at the San Francisco Airport (philips.blogs.com)

POCKETS of art at the San Francisco Airport (philips.blogs.com)

While driving through the town’s main highway, he can’t help but think out loud that a major intersection now has a traffic light. Okay. Before long, his attention is caught by a huge space that was once occupied by the town’s plaza.

This time, the bida’s reaction is quite revealing, as it mirrors a great deal of our own set of priorities as a people. When he says, “wow, ang dating plaza, mall na,” (“wow, a mall now stands in what was once a plaza”) it’s as if the entire nation shares in his joy and is collectively reacting through him.

Sounds aunthentic

Now, why on earth would you rejoice when an enclosed, air-conditioned mall supplants a vast, tree-lined and open-air plaza? Why would you equate the loss of something tied to your youth as a sign of progress? But since he’s Pinoy, who’s as mall-crazy as they come despite having lived abroad, the line, strangely enough, comes out naturally and with a certain ring of truth and authenticity to it.


ART installations on San Francisco Airport's ceiling (aajpress.wordpress.com)

ART installations on San Francisco Airport’s ceiling (aajpress.wordpress.com)

Had he been a decent European, Japanese or even American, you wouldn’t catch him thinking that way. On the contrary, he would be saddened or aghast, or both, by the turn of events.

How should he react then? With dollops of indignation laced with concern. If that’s progress, hey, I’d rather have none of it.

Although her main beef was the wanton destruction of the environment while looking out one day from her hotel window in Hawaii, Joni Mitchell said it best in the song “Big Yellow Taxi”: “You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone…They paved paradise to put up a parking lot.”

JONI Mitchell (www.biography.com)

JONI Mitchell (www.biography.com)

Click link to listen to Joni: http://youtu.be/xWwUJH70ubM




6 thoughts on “A museum in every mall, a mall in every museum

  1. Alex it’s the Tanduay commercial! I too was saddened that the gen-now has deemed putting up a mall over a town plaza: Progress? But C’est La vie… and if we can’t beat them, let’s join them! And this is It: museums/galleries inside what is now Our parks & plazas, the air-conditioned malls!

    • So that’s the product! Well, before we think of putting up museums in malls, I think it is time we boycott this drink first. 😉 But how can I be effective when I don’t buy the thing in the first place?:-)

  2. I love this idea. I remember when the top floor at Megamall was occupied with art galleries. Even though I don’t like going into shops that have no customers (it’s a personal thing), I would go into the galleries just so I could look at the art up close.

    Instead of the usual booths selling all sorts things that are also inside the malls or have their own shops (like mobile phones), art installations would be great. But then again, of course, malls are primarily for retail so would the mall owners agree to “lose money” for such an endeavor because more people would willingly mob a booth selling the latest gadgetry than fawn and fork over money for a painting or a small sculpture.

    • Mayo, that is why having a museum or outlet to display carefully selected artifacts and works of art should be mandated by law. It’s the least the mall owners could do to give something back to the public. I doubt it if they would lose big if they invest in these attractions. Building malls, undoubtedly brings in the money. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have mushroomed all over the Philippines. I’m not totally against that. But I think it’s time for them to give something back to society apart from the “free” air con they provide. No less than the soul of this nation is at stake here. 🙂

  3. I think the Ayalas are trying to do something about it. Which is why the Ayala Museum is located in between their malls. Alas, people are not that interested to venture inside the museum so they really need to beef up their marketing. As a people, museums are viewed as something to be visited by kids and by dates and not something that one goes to just to unwind or stare at a painting for hours. Case in point, there are hardly any seats or benches in front of paintings in our museums when in fact this is common in most cosmopolitan museums abroad. So how do you encourage people to visit in the first place? Oh, and there’s that thing that they don’t allow photos taken inside our museums either. Although it’s quite understandable they fail to realize that in this day and age of social media they also need to utilize the platform to reach out to people.

    • Yup, the Ayalas are doing something about it through the Ayala Museum. But it’s still outside their mall premises. My idea here is a reasonable enough space inside malls themselves just to give the public options and develop in them the habit of going to museums. I’m not saying we should stop the building of malls. As for getting pictures, no museum in the world that displays works of art, particularly paintings, allow that. It would cost the works of art to fade. Although I was quite surprised at the Louvre when people were taking pictures of the Mona Lisa with their cameras’ flashes on. That was then. I don’t know now. Based on my experience at Musée du Quia Branly, they weren’t very particular. Perhaps, because the items on display were not works of art but artifacts from the Philippines. Nevertheless, I was quite discreet about it by turning my flash off. The results can be seen in my story. Those pictures are something I’m proud of because capturing images is not something I do everyday. 🙂

      When you hear lines like, “wow, and dating plaza, mall na,” said on TV like it were normal, acceptable and an occasion for us to celebrate, then something is very wrong with the people or country’s culture. A mall is never a good gauge of a country’s sophistication and progress. The only persons who prosper when you have malls are the mall developers and the big-city traders. In most cases, they even kill local entrepreneurship by edging out struggling mom and pop stores. Since these stores don’t have the money to rent a place in a mall, their owners simply throw in the towel. There are very few exceptions. That’s why malls from Luzon to Mindanao are mirrors of each other. There’s very little room for variety.

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