SWISS Ambassador to the Philippines Ivo Sieber, Lea Salonga, John Lloyd Cruz, Swatch president Virgie Ramos andNational Artist for Visual Arts BenCab pose beside the painting BenCab created for Swatch at the preview of Art Fair Philippines 2014. PHOTO BY RICHARD A. REYES
The Swatch VIP Lounge was one of the more glamorous spaces at the Art Fair Philippines last Feb. 19-23. The Swiss watch brand partnered with the annual fair to celebrate a milestone—its 25th anniversary in the Philippines.
The lounge was inviting yet intriguing—with its deep cushioned seats and dark wooden panels revealing some of the brand’s popular lines.
Conceptualized and designed by scenographer Gino Gonzales, the lounge was the venue of the unveiling of the Swatch painting of the happy horse in the Year of the Horse by BenCab. The oversized painting of a black stallion is punctuated only by a red stripe and swirl beneath and beside the horse.
This is the first time the National Artist for Visual Arts has worked with an international brand; the horse painting is only the first part.
Later this year, Swatch will hold a grand launch of a Swatch designed by BenCab.
“This collaboration is big since Swatch has worked with only around 70 international visual artists since it started 30 years ago,” said Virgie S. Ramos, exclusive franchise holder of Swatch in the Philippines.
“BenCab is a big Swatch user. Once when he had to paint my portrait for a charity, he arrived wearing a Swatch watch. I took notice of that,” she added.
Ramos recalled how Bencab would send her sketches of himself, always wearing Swatch.
When the time came to think of a local artist to partner with, he was a ready choice. Asked about his design for the forthcoming Swatch, BenCab said it would feature his muse, the broken woman he calls Sabel.
The woman, said to be a “melancholic symbol of despair and isolation,” figures in the artist’s realistic and impressionistic paintings. In the BenCab museum on Asin Road in Benguet, in the outskirts of Baguio, a huge “canvas” made of white Mariwasa tiles features multiple figures of Sabel created with a few painterly brushstrokes.
Swatch by BenCab should be great news for Philippine art patrons who know that a painting by the artist can go for well over P1 million. For just several thousand pesos, they can soon proudly say they own a BenCab.
Aside from these developments, Ramos was also excited to talk about the Swatch Art Peace Hotel in Shanghai. Open to aspiring young artists, the hotel will be a venue for the undisturbed creation of art.
Since only online applications are accepted, interested parties must register first by creating an account. Once the registration is confirmed, the artist will have to convince the jury, in writing, how he or she is different from other candidates.
“We really hope some of these young artists here will consider this opportunity to live and create in a space devoted to art,” Ramos said.