November 29, 1926 – May 26, 2021
National Artist for Visual Art, Designer, Art Manager
National Artist Arturo Luz has passed away at the age of 94. A renowned artist, designer, and art manager, he was named National Artist for Visual Arts in 1997.
As a young man, he trained under Pablo Amorsolo and took classes at the University of Sto. Tomas with teachers Galo Ocampo and Diosdado Lorenzo, among others. He spent a few years abroad after the war and finished a three-year certificate course on art in the California College of Arts and Crafts in 1949. He also took classes at the Brooklyn Museum Art School in New York. He later studied at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris and presented his first solo exhibition at Paris’ Raymond Duncan Gallery.
He returned to Manila fresh with the learnings from his travels at the historical moment when modernism was gaining more influence through the works of artists that exhibited at the Philippine Art Gallery.
Luz began to stand out himself and win accolades, which included numerous awards and honors from the Art Association of the Philippines in 1951, 1952, 1955, 1958, 1960, and 1963. He befriended artist and patron Fernando Zobel, who helped him get a scholarship at the Instituto de Cultura Hispanica in Madrid from 1953-54. He also received a State Department Specialist Grant in 1963 to do research in the U.S., and later a grant from the Italian government to do the same in Rome.
His other awards include the first prize in the Asian Art Competition in Vietnam (1963), the Republic Cultural Heritage Award for Painting (1966), the Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan award for painting (1980), and the Order of Chevalier des Arts et Lettres from the French government in 1978, from which he was promoted to “officiel” in 1987. He was given the Gawad CCP [Cultural Center of the Philippines] para sa Sining in 1989 and the Diwa ng Lahi award from the City of Manila in 1993.
Luz was known for his paintings, prints, collage, sculptures, and jewelry. He was an accomplished artist who experimented with different types of forms and media, creating everything from linear paintings, burlap collages, to large-scale sculptures in marble, wood, metal, and photography.
In 1963, he represented the Philippines in the international exhibition Arte de America y España in Europe. This was followed by the Sao Paolo Biennale and the Tokyo International Print Biennale in 1974 and the British International Print Biennale in 1984.
Luz created the iconic mural “Black and White” for CCP’s inauguration in 1969. Through the years, the Philippine people got to see more of Luz’s work in exhibitions in numerous galleries and museums. A multi-venue celebration was held for his 80th birthday in 2006, titled “In Light of Luz,” with exhibitions at the Ateneo Art Gallery, Ayala Museum, CCP, Design Center Philippines, Metropolitan Museum of Manila, National Commission for Culture and the Arts, and the National Museum.
Luz was also a prominent art administrator, serving as president of the Art Association of the Philippines in 1952 and opening the long-running Luz Gallery with his wife in 1960. He was the inaugural director of both the Design Center of the Philippines from 1973-1987 and the Metropolitan Museum of Manila from 1976-1986. In 1977, the Museum of Philippine Art was handed over to the Luz Gallery and Arturo Luz served as its director until its closure in 1986.
Luz’s decades of practice were rooted in his eye for design and in the modernist tenets of innovation of form and experimentation with material. His influence extends not only to the artists who followed in his footsteps, but perhaps more so to those who continue to discover his works decades later — the students, designers, and art enthusiasts of the 21st century who are just now discovering the Arturo Luz ideals that continue to stand the test of time.