A Timeline of Filipino American Art History
top navigation
1521-1889: Worlds In Collision

The first section of the website groups together the consequences of a “lost Spaniard”, Magellan, “hooded thugs”, the Christian clergy, and “fun at sea”, the generations of trade among Europe, Asia and the Americas. This first era of collision radicalizes Western understanding of the commodification of the exotic. Goods from Asia are now more readily available to the masses of Europe due to newly revealed oversea trade routes. The Spaniards set up trading posts in existing commercial centers developed by the Malays, Chinese, Japanese, and Indonesians. Differing tastes in art objects led Europeans to treat indigenous art as mere curiosities and refashioned them once they arrived in European cities. It was the raw but trainable, natural talents of the natives that was the real commodity to be exploited. The Indios’ (non-Spaniard) artistic education became a top priority to help civilize and Christianize the population. Indigenous artists rapidly mastered retablos, altarpieces, and devotional sculptures to appease the conquering clergy but also started to use these idioms to reflect and express their own identity.

In this section, we see the products of the first wave of Filipino artists working in a Western idiom or with Western subject matter who were applauded for their mastery and skill. Nicolas de la Cruz Bagay was one of the first Filipino artists to be shown outside of the Philippines. Simon Flores was one of the first Filipinos to win a medal (silver medal) at the Centennial Worlds Fair in Philadelphia in 1876. The conceding forces of Western technicality with Filipino subjectivity created a new idiom of self-identity for the Filipino. From here forward, the act of artistic production whether visual, musical, or kinesthetic becomes simultaneously an act of deference, national pride, and resistance. This complex dynamic is elemental in the development of ensuing Filipino artistic production in diaspora.