Asia Society's Philippine Gold Dazzles Critics


Bowl. Surigao Treasure, Surigao del Sur province. Ca. 10th–13th century. Gold. H. 3 5/8 x Diam. 6 11/16 in. (9.2 x 17 cm). Ayala Museum, 81.5179. Photography by Neal Oshima; Image courtesy of Ayala Museum. An object uncovered by Berto Morales in 1981. 
 

Since its opening on September 11, Asia Society's Philippine Gold: Treasures of Forgotten Kingdoms exhibition has enveloped visitors into a world when golden artifacts predominated in the Asian country. Featuring objects ranging from jewelry to armament, Philippine Gold profiles an era before foreign powers — namely the Spanish and the Americans — colonized the archipelago.

The New York Times referred to the exhibit as "gorgeous" and "historically intriguing" while The New Yorker called it "fantastic." In its own praise-worthy review, Our Town explained the exhibit's curious origins:

Much of this spectacular cache was only discovered in the last half century. The most celebrated find, and a highlight of the current exhibit, was an accidental one in a hamlet in the Surigao del Sur province in northeastern Mindanao. On April 27, 1981, Berto Morales was operating a motorized scraper as part of a government irrigation project when a worker alerted him to a metal helmet obstructing his path.

Closer inspection revealed that the glistening helmet was crafted from gold. Morales spent the rest of the day in recovery mode, unearthing 22 pounds of ancient gold jewelry. The items retrieved on that day, along with subsequent finds in the vicinity by treasure hunters, became known as the Surigao Treasure. The fruits of American-led excavations earlier that year around present-day Butuan City in Mindanao are also featured here.

Philippine Gold: Treasures of Forgotten Kingdoms will remain on display at Asia Society in New York through January 3, 2016.