Art Curator, Critic, Poet

April 29, 1932 – September 13, 2021

Emmanuel “Eric” Torres was an art curator, critic, and poet. He was also the founding curator of the Ateneo Art Gallery (AAG).

Torres graduated from the Ateneo de Manila University in 1954 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Education and obtained his Master of Arts in English at the Iowa State University through a Fullbright-Smith-Mundt grant in 1957.

In 1960, Torres was appointed by Fernando Zobel as AAG’s first curator and served as senior curator until 2021. He was also a member of numerous art exhibition committees abroad.

Under Torres, the AAG collection expanded considerably with key works by early and postwar modernists such as Galo Ocampo, Nena Saguil, and Diosdado Lorenzo.

Torres recognized and supported artists known as social realists who emerged during the regime of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, such as Renato Habulan, Edgar Talusan Fernandez, Antipas Delotavo, Pablo Baens Santos, Leonilo Doloricon, Jose Tence Ruiz, and Alfredo Marinque.

As an educator, Torres taught English and Comparative Literature at the Ateneo and was a member of the University’s faculty from 1958 until his retirement in 2003.

He was named one of the Ten Outstanding Young Men in 1961 and received the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for Literature four times, all for his poetry.

Torres’ published works include three poetry collections and monographs and essays on art.

His art book Kayaman: 77 Paintings from The Central Bank Collection (1981) received the Manila Critics Circle and Gintong Aklat Award in 1982.

In 1991, Torres held a year-end exhibition at the Cultural Center of the Philippines entitled “Fifty Years of Philippine Abstract Painting 1994-1991.”

He passed away at the age of 89.

AAG wrote this tribute to Torres: “Through his critical eye, a purchase fund program by Zobel, and the generous donations from artists and alumni, the AAG was able to acquire significant works for the museum collection. These include iconic works that defined social realism and which remain relevant to this generation’s current events.”

AAG Managing Curator Yael Buencamino said Torres “helped shape the character of the museum” through collecting pieces by the artists whose themes dwell on the socio-political situation of the time, and are still applicable to what is happening today.

Ateneo President Roberto C. Yap, SJ paid homage to Torres: “Held in high esteem by the arts and humanities community both locally and internationally.”

In a Philstar tribute, Danton Remoto, a former student of Torres, recalled: “Professor Torres introduced me to a universe of words. It was a luminous world inhabited by Baudelaire and Rimbaud, Verlaine and Rilke, Eliot and Hopkins, Cummings and Lorca, Pound and Moore. And do not forget The Beatles.”

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