Last Sunday, I was in The Link for the first ever Art Fair Philippines. The event is a project of Trickie Lopa and Lisa Ongpin Periquet, the duo that organizes the annual Art in the Park. I was very excited because my interest in art has been steadily growing and I wanted to see what's in store for Philippine contemporary art.
Art Fair Philippines was held from February 7-10 at the carpark of The Link in Makati, a conscious choice by the organizers who felt that it enhances the presence of Philippine contemporary art in a global setting, which uses unconventional settings and non-traditional spaces. But the layout was carefully selected, with the help of Kenneth Cobonpue and Leando V. Locsin Partners, which facilitated the flow of viewing. The 24 galleries were personally handpicked by the organizers, and none of them disappointed.
According to Trickie, "We’re so excited about the inroads Philippine art has achieved within the worldwide contemporary arts community. One goal is to make sure Filipinos are aware that we have this exciting arts scene that we should all be proud of and fully support."
The 24 galleries and art groups involved were: Altro Mondo; Art Cube; Art Informal; Avellana Gallery; Bureau of Artistic Rehab (BAR); Blanc; Boston Gallery; Center for Art, New Ventures and Sustainable Development (Canvas); The Drawing Room; Finale Art File; Galleria Duemila; Light and Space Contemporary; Liongoren Gallery; Manila Contemporary; Mo Space; Now Gallery; Pablo; Paseo Gallery; PMAP Philippine Art Awards; Salcedo Auctions; Secret Fresh; Silverlens; Tin-Aw; and West Gallery. The participating groups and artists were given freedom to put out what they want, as long as the pieces had a message to communicate.
According to a friend, the arrival of AFP is a direct response to last year's Manilart. Some have criticized Manilart, with Silvana Diaz of Galleria Duemila blaming the darkness and the loud music that made it hard to appreciate the pieces. Isa Lorenzo of Silverlens chose to participate in AFP instead of Manilart because the AFP organizers "are more in touch with international art fairs and the level of organization and professionalism involved." Despite the surface rivalry, Trickie remains ambivalent and says "I hope this isn’t built into some sort of rivalry because there’s room for everyone. We should be so lucky that our visual arts scene is getting so many alternative venues these days," in an interview with Business World.
I feel happy that more and more events like this are sprouting, because it offers a venue for artists to have a bigger audience and for viewers to see that Philippine art is quite competitive and isn't limited to oil paintings of barrios and sarimanok. Today's artist is as diverse as those found in more established art scenes, and it won't be surprising if we would have our own biennale. With Ronald Ventura's staggering $1.1 million bid at Sotheby's, breaking the record for the most expensive contemporary Southeast Asian painting, it makes me hope that our other artists will get the recognition that is due them.
Because there were so many galleries, I didn't get the chance to really appreciate the works. Call it Stendhal Syndrome or a short attention span, but even though I spent a good few hours strolling around with Nikko, I was overwhelmed so much of it was a blur. There's always a gallery next door, an undiscovered talent that it was a mad rush to take it all in. But I did have some favorite works. Perhaps my biggest mistake of the night was not getting the names of the piece and the artist. The biggest sin.
I saw some of my amigas, who were also checking out the local art scene. There was Raf Mirafuente of Extrapolation, my latest jazz obsession; Chui Chuidan, whose boyfriend Zean Cabangis has an artwork, and who was profiled as one of the six young artists to invest in now by Rogue, and whose solo exhibit I wrote about for Star; Don Jaucian, and Stefan Punongbayan, who was with his awesome mom, who asked him if he saw all the artworks.
That night, Nikko and I dropped by the Manila Polo Club for the Fila Polo Cup. We made it in time for the festivities, and I saw more of my amigas: My boss Tim who hosted the event, Joedan Reyes, whose brother was in my batch in high school, and James Donovan and Carol Esguerra, the president and CFO of the company I work for during the weekdays. I didn't get to see Queenie Rehman, who I went to high school with and was the Philippine representative for the Miss World competition. I got a pair of really nice running shoes from Fila.