Fernando Zobel is an important figure in Philippine art history. His influence is wide and deep, from art making to formation of taste and to the production of discourse on iconography and identity. This essay focuses on his role in generating critical texts on the history of art in the Philippines, initiating a much-needed discussion on the categories of form, the cultural context of style, and the criteria for evaluating the value of objects. As a collector and connoisseur, Zobel endeavored to significantly set the terms with which the history of colonial and modern art would be written. Such an effort deserves to be revisited and subjected to critique, with the view of tracing the genealogy of the discourse of art history and prospecting new perspectives on the historiography of the colonial and the modern. Zobel is an exemplary personage in this regard because he was a polytropic agent. He made art, collected it, and historicized it. It finally offers analysis, too, of the political economy underlying this discourse; Zobel belonged to an economically ascendant clan in the country, created a coterie of taste makers, and pursued an “internationalist” ideal in the quest for modernism. Across the different roles that Zobel played may be discerned important aspects of consciousness, or better still, ciphers of the identity-effect: the “colonial,” the “Filipino,” the “modern,” and “class.”


modern, collecting, art history, colonial art, iconography, Philippine art

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Kritika Kultura
Department of English
School of Humanities
Ateneo de Manila University

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International Board of Editors

Jan Baetens
Faculty of Arts
Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven (Belgium)

Joel David
Professor of Cultural Studies
Inha University (South Korea)

Michael Denning
Professor of American Studies and English
Department of English
Yale University (US)

Faculty of Cultural Sciences
Universitas Gadjah Mada (Indonesia)

Regenia Gagnier
Professor of English
University of Exeter (UK)

Leela Gandhi
John Hawkes Professor of the Humanities and English
Brown University (US)

Inderpal Grewal
Professor of Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies
Professor of South Asian Studies, Ethnicity, Race and Migration Studies
Yale University (US)

Peter Horn
Professor Emeritus and Honorary Lifetime Fellow
University of Cape Town (South Africa)
Honorary Professor and Research Associate in German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

Anette Horn
Professor of German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

David Lloyd
Distinguished Professor of English
University of California, Riverside (US)

Bienvenido Lumbera
National Artist for Literature
Professor Emeritus
University of the Philippines

Rajeev S. Patke
Director of the Division of Humanities
Professor of Humanities
Yale NUS College (Singapore)

Vicente L. Rafael
Giovanni and Amne Costigan Endowed Professor of History
University of Washington (US)

Vaidehi Ramanathan
Department of Linguistics
University of California, Davis (US)

Temario Rivera
Professorial Lecturer
Department of Political Science
University of the Philippines

E. San Juan, Jr.
Philippines Studies Center (US)

Neferti X.M. Tadiar
Professor of Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies
Barnard College (US)
Director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race
Columbia University (US)

Antony Tatlow
Honorary Professor of Drama
Trinity College Dublin (Ireland)