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In 2013, art enthusiast Jam Acuzar founded Bellas Artes Projects, a non-profit foundation that seeks to put together a contemporary art collection of museum quality for Escuela de Bellas Artes, the oldest fine arts academy in the Philippines. Formerly located in Quiapo, Manila, the school building is preserved within Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar in Bagac, Bataan.

Through its artist-in-residence programs launched in 2014, Bellas Artes Projects supports artists by bringing them to Bataan for varying periods of time to see their respective works to completion. Filipino artist Alwin Reamillo was the first to participate in the program, followed by others from both the Philippines and overseas, such as Alfredo and Isabel Aquilizan, and New York-based artists John C. Gonzales and Hugo McCloud. But then, Acuzar says, “I realized it was a shame that not a lot of people were able to experience the art because it was so far away, being in Bataan.”

Acuzar shares that her foundation’s mission naturally evolved from building a collection for a museum in Bataan to pursuing something else entirely in Manila. At Bellas Artes Outpost, which is BAP’s satellite space located among a number of prominent art galleries in Makati, works by BAP’s artists in residence receive a second platform, and with it, a whole new audience. Four exhibitions that are a mix of traveling exhibitions and residency projects are mounted at the Outpost per year, serving to promote the artists and their work, while talks and workshops are organized to fuel a growing interest in the artistic community.

The existence of the outpost also allows the foundation to establish its presence in the city and make art more accessible to the public. “What we’re trying to provide here is a space where people can discover new and different things through art, especially for artists and those interested in art who can’t travel abroad and see more museums,” Acuzar says.

Designed by Claude Mark Wilson of architectural firm WeDesign, the Outpost is a welcoming space that features wooden furniture pieces and accents built by craftsmen in Bataan. Acuzar explains, “We asked Mark [Wilson] to connect the craftsmanship in Bataan with his design philosophy, so there were bits and pieces that were very interesting for him to combine, which is very much his aesthetic.”

Anchoring the Outpost is the Bellas Artes Projects library equipped with over 1,000 books devoted to art, architecture, and design, a combination of volumes culled from Acuzar’s personal collection and those donated by galleries, museums, and educational institutions here as well as abroad. “This is the only art library that’s open to the public, where you don’t have to pay anything to use it or do research here,” Acuzar says. “As a result of that, many museums and galleries have donated books to us. I started with about 300 books from my student days. Our previous artistic director, Diana Campbell Bettancourt, also contributed a number of books. Sooner or later, everyone just started donating.” The library’s donors includes Ayala Museum, Gagosian Gallery, Louis Vuitton Foundation, ArtInformal, Blanc Gallery, The Drawing Room (located just next door to the Outpost), and Silverlens, as well as artists, creatives, and art patrons such as Maria Taniguchi, Rita Nazareno, Miguel Rosales, and Kit and Fernando Zobel de Ayala.

And, in an exciting development for Bellas Artes Projects and the Outpost, Inti Guerrero joined the foundation as its new artistic director in July. Born in Bogotá, Colombia, the Hong Kong-based curator concurrently serves as the Estrellita B. Brodsky adjunct curator of Latin American art at the Tate in London. He has curated a number of exhibitions at museums including the Tate Modern in London, Para Site in Hong Kong, and the Museum of Modern Art of São Paulo in Brazil, and more recently curated the 38th edition of EVA International, Ireland’s biennale, prior to his current appointment with Bellas Artes Projects.
Bellas Artes Outpost is located in Building C, Karrivin Plaza, 2316 Chino Roces Avenue, Makati. It is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m.

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