Arts and Culture

Gold in Our Veins:

A Visual Journey Into

Pre-Hispanic Philippines

by Jace Amodo, March 14, 2019 5:06pm

Photo by Jace Amodo/Inside Manila

Arts and Culture

Gold in Our Veins: A Visual Journey Into Pre-Hispanic Philippines

by Jace Amodo, March 14, 2019 5:06pm
Photo by Jace Amodo/Inside Manila

On a lax hump day at Makati's heart of art and culture, Ayala Museum unveils an exquisite landmark exhibition entitled Gold in Our Veins featuring the works of visual artist and educator Mark Lewis Lim Higgins. Unknown to many, the complex artworks add to the list of the museum's grandest exhibit ever.

Mark Higgins during the launch of Gold in Our Veins exhibit. Photo by Jace Amodo/Inside Manila

Gold in our veins

The contemporary Southeast Asian art exhibition is Mark Higgins's imagining of pre-Hispanic Philippines—a personal interpretation of a pre-colonized Philippines. It's his comeback exhibit after a 12-year hiatus; a successor to his previous local exhibits focusing heavily on the fusion of cultures. Such is the trilogy of Invisible Cities (2002), a collection of stories about people and cities, exploring geography, border, and the layering of history; Tribes (2004), exploring the sacred; and Diaspora (2007), a collection of stories about archaeology, tackling the origins, death, and the juxtaposition of time.

“Far beyond the limits and borders of what became countries or nations, we are all maps of our ancestors. This is my tribute to the gold that flows in all of our veins," says Mark Higgins.

In his artist statement, Mark Higgins describes his paintings as a celebration of the richness of our past rooted in our DNA, of which Filipinos are more often than not unaware. The artist took a deep dive on the untouched and unspoiled Philippines as shown in his works.

Every piece is a spill of curiosity to think through, that when you open so much as a peripheral peek, you may get a glimpse of the ancient histories of Indochina, the East Indies, and the Philippine Archipelago. A look in, a map to, a lesson from—Gold in Our Veins is a retrospective of what could have been.

The exhibit is housed inside a floor-to-ceiling "warehouse." Photo by Jace Amodo/Inside Manila

A grand installation

The exhibit area is hard to miss upon entering the museum. All 30 paintings are housed inside a floor-to-ceiling installation. Built in collaboration with acclaimed scenographer Gino Gonzales, the installation elevates the visual journey into time showcased through a 1930s-style Chinese warehouse makeover.

The artist giving his guests an exhibit tour. Photo by Jace Amodo/Inside Manila

Ayala Museum senior curator Ken Esguerra describes the immense installation as a "cabinet of curiosities." The shelter allows guests to see all the nation's cultures, "of who we are in the past and who we should be now," he told Inside Manila during the exhibit's launch.

Complemented collection

With every intention to be articulate and extraordinary, Ayala Museum placed its collection in the exhibit to further immense a guest in Mark Higgins’s paintings. The precious items came from the museum’s collection of Philippine archaeological gold, indigenous textiles, and Chinese and Southeast Asian trade ware ceramics. It is an unprecedented effort to expand the narrative that Gold in Our Veins wants to deliver.

"The pieces in the museum are serving their purpose to inspire people, for them to learn and be educated from this. And this is what happens. It’s really an assemblage, a collage," says Ken Esguerra.

The Elephant pourer with underglaze cobalt and overglaze enamels from Ayala Museum's Tradeware Ceramics Collection. Photo by Jace Amodo/Inside Manila

Gold in Our Veins opened at the museum's Ground Floor Gallery on February 21 and will be available for viewing until the 26th of May.

The Ayala Museum is at Makati Avenue corner De la Rosa Street, Greenbelt Park, Makati City, and is open Tuesday to Sundays, from 9 am to 6 pm. For more information, visit or follow @ayalamuseum on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


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