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IN A NUTSHELL By Samantha King (The Philippine Star) Updated November 13, 2009 12:00 AM
I donâ€™t know the first thing about starting a purposeful collection. In another lifetime, I remember trying to out-hoard my kindergarten classmates in the savage world of sticker collectingâ€¦ where we engaged in trade-offs and cemented deals that put even the most hardened hoodlums to shame. And that was it. These days, the only things I seem to be collecting are the dust settling on my mounds of unread reading matter. Which is why, in the near future, Iâ€™d actually like to start a collection of my own, and I mean a real collection â€” not just a random pile of objects, but a specialized and distinct pile of objects. In all honesty, I would love nothing more than to start off my grand collection with the acquisition of mind-blowing artworks from the great Filipino artists of our time. But since Iâ€™m not quite ready to give up any of my limbs just yet, I guess I can live with simply admiring those works from afar. Or up close, if youâ€™ve managed to grab a copy of Christiane de la Pazâ€™s book, Private Collections.
Iâ€™m being direct to the point when I say that this book is not for the faint of mindâ€¦ or muscle, for that matter. Yes, the book is heavier than your average bowling ball, and yes, rupturing your spine whilst lugging it around is a possibility (if you donâ€™t have proper motor function, perhaps). But for the impressive content of 1,111 artworks drawn from the art collections of 30 Filipino art collectors, coupled with insightful essays about their personalities and lives, their philosophies and tastes, their methods and reasons for collecting â€” not to mention the beautiful photographs of the artworks â€” you can forgive the book for being so darn heavy (and for being a bit on the pricey side as well).
Personally, I actually enjoyed Private Collections. Aside from the thoughtful organization of the art collectors according to who was at the start, middle and end of his or her collecting career, it was pleasantly surprising to see that the featured collections were not limited to the realm of â€œhigh art.â€ I was expecting the book to be loaded with stereotypical collections of the affluent upper class: traditional paintings, musty wooden sculptures, the erstwhile commissioned portraitâ€¦ Well, all I can say is that De la Paz did a good job in selecting her featured collectors. The diversity is something to be applauded, and shamelessly envied, if I do say so myself. However, thatâ€™s another thing I admire about Private Collections â€” it isnâ€™t pretentious. The book is a study and a labor of love on collecting, private collectors and private collections. It doesnâ€™t presume to pass judgment on the tastes of these art connoisseurs, it merely seeks to share the stories behind these personas and their treasures, while providing valuable insight about our talented Filipino artists along the way. Nor does the book try to incite shameless envy, either. (Maybe thatâ€™s just me â€” darn those beautiful artworks!)
What it all boils down to is just as Francis Bacon once said:Â â€œSome books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.â€ In the case of Private Collections, I suggest a preliminary taste of what it has to offer; maybe a quick flip through the pages to get a feel of what youâ€™re getting into first. Only then may you proceed to heartily devour it. I guarantee three kilos of an appetizing read!