Conversations about: Fernando Zobel de Ayala y Montojo, 1924 – 1984, painter [ the dead artist, NOT Fernando Zobel “el guapo” the dreamboat ]

We stood before a big white canvas with a messy black splotch in the middle…  we were all awed before it because it had been purchased for an unspeakable sum.  Actually, everything in that house was purchased for unspeakable sums so it was just another purchase during a leisurely afternoon.  The more august among us murmured expressions of comprehension, appreciation, and delight.  Needless to say, I wasn’t one of them.  I wanted to go down and back to the living room where there was more foie gras and more Dom Perignon served by the waiters and big bags of potato chips secreted inside the magnificent Batangas I altar table.

“I have never pretended to be an art connoisseur and I’m certainly not going to start now…  So what’s this all about???”  I looked up and down and left and right and just couldn’t “get it.”

The rest of the company, who were good friends of mine anyway, stared incredulously at me and broke out in guffaws and giggles…

In truly “top-out-of-sight” Manila — the Manila of the Roxas-de Ayala-Zobel-Soriano, the Tuason-Legarda-Prieto-Valdes, the Roxas-Zaragoza-Araneta-O, the Ortigas, the Aboitiz, and now of course the monosyllabic Chinoy ultrarich the Sy, Tan, Go, Tiu, Que Pe, et. al. — a painting by their “primo” Fernando Zobel in one’s home, usually in the living room, is a sign of one’s belonging in that special world.  You see, you just cannot walk into a Manila art gallery and buy a Fernando Zobel.  Not only will you need the $$$ megabucks, you will need the stratospheric social connections to pull it off.  If you bought one and didn’t need either, then you bought a fake, darling.



  1. Ramon Temporal said,

    October 21, 2010 at 3:30 am

    Yes, there was a Victorio Edades painting that was part of the Zobel Collection given to Ateneo.
    It was there during the opening show of the Gallery. It was a large portait of a
    young woman. It was the piece I liked most in that show- that even now I still
    remembered it.
    I was a sophomore then and President of the Ateneo Arts Club. With Eric Torres, the Curator of the Gallery and Louie Acosta, I volunteered to help set up that show in 1967.

  2. Antonio C. Quiroz, MD, FACP, FACC said,

    October 9, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    James A. Michener devoted five pages of his best selling book IBERIA to his meeting with a “talented Filipino”…”.Don Enrique Francisco Fernando Zobel de Ayala y Montojo Torrontegui Zambrano, Harvard 1949, sometimes bibliographical expert in rare books at the Houghton Library in Cambridge, etcher extraordinary and one of Spain’s major abstract painter”. Apparently he was well respected and was made a member of the Order Of Isabel la Catolica. He also led a young group of artists. They were “avowed enemies of corsi.” ..the most in-word in Spanish society at that time meaning cheap but pretentious, kitsch but heavily pompous. I do not know anything about art, so I just leave these comments about Don Fernando

  3. Presy Guevara said,

    September 20, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    Thanks for the info, Enrique.

  4. Enrique Bustos said,

    September 20, 2010 at 1:27 pm


    I am not sure if there is a Victorio Edades in the collection donated by Fernando Zobel to the Ateneo Art Gallery.


  5. Enrique Bustos said,

    August 3, 2010 at 4:36 pm


    I believe Fernando Zobel made an impact in Spain because in 1983, King Juan Carlos conferred on him the “Medalla de Oro al Merito en las Bellas Artes” in recognition of his promotion of Spanish contemporary art. He was also elected to the elite “Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando” in Madrid.

  6. Myles Garcia said,

    August 3, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    Does anyone…Enrique? know if F. Zobel made any significant impact on the Spanish art scene when he moved there?

  7. Presy Guevara said,

    July 25, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    Enrique, no mention of Professor Victorio Edades?

  8. Enrique Bustos said,

    July 25, 2010 at 1:07 am

    The nucleus of the Ateneo Art Gallery came from the donation of Fernando Zobel he donated over 200 artworks of his own personal collection including priceless international prints, such as Rembrandt, Monet, and Picasso. He had modestly called it then, a study collection.The collection includes Fernando Amorsolo and Fabian de la Rosa the donation also consists of paintings by key postwar modernists such as Vicente Manansala, Hernando Ocampo, Anita Magsaysay-Ho, Arturo Luz, Cesar Legaspi, Napoleon Abueva, Ang Kiukok, Jerry Elizalde Navarro and David Medalla

    Fernando Zobel first broached the idea of establishing the first modern art museum in the Philippines with his half sister Mercedes Zobel de Mcmicking but was turned down Fernando Zobel instead donated most of his personal collection to the Ateneo de Manila University because he was about to immigrate back to Spain to established the Museum of Spanish Abstract Art in Cuenca Spain.

    A few years after the donation of Fernando Zobel Mercedes Zobel Mcmicking established the Ayala Museum

  9. Dr. Taddy Buyson Gonzales said,

    July 23, 2010 at 11:56 pm

    Our Yearbook, Ateneo HS Class68, was dedicated to Zobel’s works.

    the cover was a fascinating unique oil painting of his and inside were more of his striking pieces.

    most pieces were from the school’s collection.

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