Swatch grand dame Virgie Ramos does not do mediocre. There has never been a Swatch event that went by quietly or without any fanfare. With Tita Virgie’s flair for the dramatic, her guests are always delighted by her memorable events.
Swatch Philippines turned 25 and kicked off the silver celebration at Art Fair 2014. The annual Art Fair Philippines is an outstanding exhibit that showcases the best in Philippine contemporary art. Open until today, Feb. 23, the fair is staged on two floors at The Link car park building between the Makati Shangri-La Hotel and the Landmark Department Store in Ayala Center, Makati.
Art Fair Philippines is a heady mix of established names and promising newcomers in the local art scene, all showcased in curated exhibit spaces. I was excited to receive my Swatch invitation to the event, which came with a special edition watch.
I matched my Swatch Year of the Horse watch with a horse headpiece by Mark Shandar and an oversized top with hand-painted brush strokes by Gina Bocar. The headpiece was a redo, having had its first appearance at my annual Chinese New Year party, which featured feng shui expert Marites Allen giving auspicious forecasts and me giving away Swatch watches to lucky guests.
But I digress. At the Art Fair, my first stop was at the Swatch VIP Lounge. Swatch queen Virgie, together with Swiss ambassador Ivo Sieber and Swatch collectors Lea Salonga and John Lloyd Cruz, unveiled the dynamic happy horse in motion by National Artist BenCab.
This masterpiece is the first horse painting by the famous artist, who was born in the Year of the Horse and is a Swatch enthusiast.
Lea has been a proud Swatcher since she was 15. She led the champagne toast with the Swatch family, friends and collectors. Everyone was happy opening their own mini Moët & Chandon bottles and toasting to 25 years of Swatch in the Philippines.
As I walked through the halls of the Art Fair, I enjoyed the many exhibits, particularly of the Swatchpresented artists Louie Cordero, Jose John Santos III, Rodel Tapaya and Marina Cruz. The most colorful and cutest was the Swatch “So Good” pastry installation. I ate one of the macarons from this edible art installation. Afterwards, I couldn’t resist going back to the Swatch VIP Lounge to have the photomen with their instant printing devices take my picture to have as a keepsake.
Art Fair Philippines was transformed into an alternative gallery by a collaboration between architects Leandro V. Locsin Partners and designer Kenneth Cobonpue. This year, the fair expands into a second floor area, the Ayala Art Annex, featuring more galleries and installations especially commissioned for the fair. There is also a lecture suite and a room dedicated to video art.
Christie’s hosted the lecture series of the fair in its own section, Christie’s Art Forum. The lectors focused on broadening the audience’s knowledge of Southeast Asian contemporary art and art historical movements.
Last Friday, fave fashion designer Rajo Laurel was part of the visual performing art exhibit. Rajo designed and completed a dress over three hours, while Nikki Luna painted an artwork, both working in full view of the audience.
Quite a number of galleries are represented at Art Fair, including Altro Mondo, Archivo, Art Cube, Art Informal, Avellana Art Gallery, Blanc, Boston Gallery, Canvas, Crucible, Equator Art Projects, Finale, Galleria Duemila, Light and Space Contemporary, Liongoren Gallery, Manila Contemporary, MO Space, Nova, Now Gallery, Pablo, Paseo Art Gallery, Richard Koh Fine Art, Salcedo Private View, Secret Fresh, Silverlens, Taksu, The Drawing Room, Tin-Aw, West Gallery and 1335 Mabini.
Sponsors include Ayala Corporation, Ayala Land Premier, Alveo, Bank of the Philippine Islands, Globe and Swatch.
At the Art Cube Gallery, glass works by Ramon Orlina and incredibly detailed metal works of Daniel de la Cruz were my top choices, if only price were no object. I loved his Alice In Wonderland-inspired artworks, which were whimsical and fanciful.
For the Swatch Press Night at the Art Fair, I went back dressed up like a mermaid so I wouldn’t miss indulging in the 12inch-long cake of different yummy flavors by chef Gilbert Pangilinan of Kai. In attendance were many of the participating artists, who interpreted Swatch’s 25 years and were given a chance to win one of 10 giant Swatch watches. Young and talented artist Gene Paul Martin of Secret Fresh Gallery was one of the winners. His exhibit was a favorite of mine, too.
Internationally acclaimed artist Kenneth was a lucky winner, too. His collaboration with Swatch is on display on the other floor with proceeds going to Habitat for Humanities.
Salcedo Auctions is having a special auction on March 8 with preview dates ongoing until March 7. Do check out its exhibit at the Art Fair to find out more details.
And here’s a shout-out to all Filipino artists out there! There’s a Swatch Art Peace Hotel corner at the lounge where you can find out how to qualify for a Swatch-sponsored residency at the amazing hotel in the very prestigious Bund neighborhood in Shanghai, China.
As for those of you who have already applied through www.swatchartpeacehotel.com, best of luck and hope you make it.
It’s always a fun time with Swatch. Kudos to concept and production designer Gino Gonzales and Swatch Philippines creative director Rowell Santiago! Congratulations, Swatch Philippines and looking forward to the next 25 and more!
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