Near to the Oval cricket ground and in the shadows of the adjacent gas storage cylinders is the appropriately named Gasworks gallery. It’s latest exhibition is a solo show for Philippine artist and rising star Pio Abad. Following on from his promising show at Zabludowicz collection, this exhibition further explores the rule of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos and its legacy.
Imelda Marcos is well known for her vast collection of shoes, but footwear was not the only thing this powerful couple amassed, and Abad has recreated some of these in the gallery. One wall shows many photographs of their silverware horde and the opposite wall displays impressive copies of some of their classical art collection, which even contained a Raphael and a Titian.
The most bizarre addition is a replica of a statue that depicts the Marcos couple as Malakas and Maganda, essentially the Philippine Adam and Eve. It harks back to ancient Greek and Roman times when wealthy patrons would commission paintings or sculpture depicting them as heroes.
Abad also displays a communist flag with an auction gavel in place of the hammer — suggesting that the people’s labour was being used to fuel the opulent lifestyles of the ruling family.
This is a fascinating and measured political art installation that chooses to focus on the opulence, wealth and bizarre collection of the ruling couple rather than the cruelty that was reported under the dictatorial regime of Ferdinand Marcos. It’s also an accessible show with plenty of information to ensure that it can be grasped by those who are unfamiliar with Philippine politics.
Pio Abad: Some are smarter than others in on at Gasworks, 155 Vauxhall St, SE11 5RH until 16 November. Entrance is free.