Molo Mansion art space fulfills SM’s mission to grow regional arts
The Molo Mansion second-floor art space gives a more focused art experience and motivates viewers to explore the various methods of Ilonggo artists in art making.
The Molo Mansion also functions as an art space, with its second-floor serving as an art gallery and a wellness venue with yoga sessions being organized. Outdoor art performances and musical events were held on its grounds.
The balcony at the gallery room offers a panorama of Iloilo’s gentrified past with a spectacular view of the restored St. Anne Cathedral (Molo Church), which shows its majesty when lighted at night, the sprawling Molo Plaza on the ground, and the green surroundings of the mansion complex.
The original owner, Don Estanislao Yusay, a prominent judge from Molo who served as president of the Superior Court of Negros in 1899, envisioned the construction of the American-Neoclassical-inspired mansion, which was completed in 1926. Since then, the mansion was handed down to family members until SM acquired the prime property in 2014 from the last householder—the prominent society couple Timoteo “Nene” Consing and Nieva Ramirez-Consing.
The Sy family of SM was the first tycoon in the country to invest in Iloilo City. They established the SM Shoemart at the downtown Marymart Shopping Center, corner Valeria-Delgado streets, in 1979, upon the invitation of the prominent Jamora family. Now 44 years old, the shopping center continues to operate in the area.
Likewise, it was the Sy Family’s SM Prime Holdings who trailblazed to transform Iloilo City’s business landscape by establishing SM City Iloilo on what used to be a vast deserted land of cogon, fishponds, and saltbeds at the Diversion Road with the old Iloilo Airport at the back. The opening of the mall in June 1999 in what is now the Benigno Aquino, Jr Avenue, ushered the dispersal of Iloilo’s business enterprises from the downtown area to Mandurriao district, bringing Iloilo’s economy to a new trajectory and creating new central business districts that we have come to know today.
SM City Iloilo now holds the strategic position of being in the middle of Iloilo City’s business triangle.
The mall giant restored the Molo Mansion for adaptive reuse in 2015, in response to the Ilonggo sentiment that the historic mansion be spared from demolition so that a new SM Mall may arise in its place.
Since then, it has become the home of the country’s premier souvenir brand, Kultura Filipino, on the ground floor, with food shops and cafés within its wide garden.
One of Molo Mansion‘s notable functions is as an art gallery for exchanging art shows, particularly by SM City Iloilo’s art community partner, the Himbon Ilonggo Contemporary Artists Group, and their associates.
As a distinct yet aggregate art space from the mall, the Molo Mansion art space gives a more focused art experience and motivates viewers to explore the various methods used by artists in art making.
The art space demonstrates SM’s strong commitment to the growth of the local and regional art scene and the fulfillment of its mission, which is to bring people and art together. It’s previous roadshow, “My City, My SM, My Art,” celebrated Philippine art—visual arts, painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, and filmmaking—and attained its aim of bringing people and art together. The art roadshow served as recognition of the transformative power of art, and it inspired Ilonggo artists to prevail and contribute to the growth of the local economy.
Its regular programming of providing art space for the Ilonggo artists to exhibit and sell works helped grow art appreciation and patronage in the city, indicating the unifying element of art.
Since 2018, it has been the host of a series of art exchange and partnership shows called Bayluhanay by Himbon members and the Eskinita Art Gallery of renowned Filipino contemporary artist Alfredo Esquillo, who also served as a mentor to numerous Ilonggo artists.
The word bayluhanay (or pagbayluhanay) is a Hiligaynon term that means “exchange” or “to exchange”. It was an engagement with exhibits and art talks aimed to facilitate the exchange of knowledge, share learning and skills, and establish linkages between different artists. It reached the sixth of its series in 2019 and came to an end with the pandemic.
In January 2020, Himbon showed Group of Twelve, an art exhibit that commemorated the end of a decade. The exhibit was a 50-year retrospective of Ilonggo art and the artists that helped shape the local art scene.
The collection showed old and new works, serving as a backward and forward link of the past with the present by showing works as far back as the 1970s in its attempt to summarize the milestones that shaped each decade since and illustrate the local art sector’s progression.
The message carries a substantial burden of passing on a collective memory conceived from values and convictions, which has now defined Ilonggo art. The collection envisages the artists over the art affairs that they have initiated. Hence, to a great extent, the Group of Twelve is an inter-generational chronicle of the artists and Ilonggo art.
The article is an edited version of the featured profile on the Molo Mansion, which is part of the Museums, Galleries, and Arts Spaces of Iloilo: Vignette of a Noble Past, Flamboyant Present, and Vibrant Future, by Ted Aldwin Ong, Iloilo Art Book 2021-2022, published by the Iloilo City Government.