Metropolitan Museum spotlights Juan Arellano, the architect-painter

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The Metropolitan Museum of Manila, with the support of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), presents “Framing the Spectacle of Space: Juan Arellano, Architect-Painter”—an exhibition featuring the works of Juan Arellano as an architect, designer, urban planner, and painter through the thematic lens of theater and theatricality.

Arellano’s Metropolitan Theater completed in 1931

Surrounded by wall-mounted archival photos of architectural structures, plans, and building designs, one sees Arellano’s affinity for scenography and stagecraft. These urban and architectural interventions of the metropolis traces Manila’s passage of time – from the epoch of its colonial spectacle, its rehabilitation from the ravages of war until its current form, adapting from the fast-paced evolution of contemporary times.

Arellano’s comprehensive body of work includes grand neoclassical edifices like the Post Office and the Old Legislative Building, framing the City Beautiful urbanism initiated by Daniel Burnham. These exuberant spaces enveloped old Manila and became potent symbols of national power, driven by culture and civic livelihood.

High fashion costumes recovered from the abandoned Met building collection

But nowhere is the construction of national memory more profoundly played out in state architecture than in Arellano’s Metropolitan Theater, completed in 1931. The theater marked a radical shift from Arellano’s classical lineage as he embraced art deco. This fusion of the modern art deco with native art asserted Filipino cultural independence through nationalist forms.


Some authentic elements of the Metropolitan Theater’s interior can be seen at the exhibit including the banana and mango fruit motifs that used to decorate the ceiling of its main performance hall. Original polychromatic lighting fixtures of the theater lobby adorned a makeshift cinematheque inside the museum where selected excerpts of movies and musical performances are flashed on screen.

On the other side of the gallery, a high fashion wardrobe collection known to be part of large productions which are recovered from the abandoned building of the MET theater are showcased.

Original polychromatic lighting fixtures of the theater lobby adorn a makeshift cinematheque inside the museum

In so doing, the legacy of Juan Arellano continues to enliven through educating the public on his contributions to
Philippine arts, culture, and heritage. The curator of the exhibit, Dr. Gerard Lico, currently spearheads the Metropolitan Theater Restoration Project.

A series of lecture and public programs are prepared in line with the exhibition. Framing the Spectacle of Space is on view until December 29.

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