Felipe M. de Leon Jr., chair of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, wrote a letter to the editor to clarify the participation of Filipino artists in the Venice Biennale, in reference to the article “More Filipino artists Shine in Venice Biennale” by Brylle B. Tabora (Aug. 10, 2015, Lifestyle).
De Leon makes a distinction between Filipino artists who have been chosen to represent the Philippines in the Philippine Pavilion, and the other artists who exhibit in Venice on their own, or not in an official capacity.
He writes: “We wish to point out some statements that could mislead the public or create misconceptions.
“The lead paragraph reads: ‘For visual artist Norberto Carating, the fact that he and two other Filipino visual artists got invited to the Venice Biennale without any government funding showed that Philippine art was as good as that of the rest of the world.’
“This could be misunderstood that the government did not support other Filipino artists who took part in the Venice Art Biennale 2015 when, in fact, the official national pavilion of the Philippines in the said event was funded and fully supported by the government.
“Moreover, the only invitation letter sent to the Philippines to participate in the Venice Art Biennale 2015 was sent by Mr. Paolo Baratta, president of La Biennale di Venezia, to the undersigned and Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario. No other invitation was sent to any other person or organization.
“Not all exhibits in Venice during the duration of the Venice Biennale are officially part of the Venice Biennale. There are independent art dealers not affiliated with La Biennale di Venezia who organize exhibits to take advantage of the crowd that the Venice Biennale draws. Some of these artists are there to network and sell their works. Only exhibitions and collateral events that are officially part of the 56th International Art Exhibition bear the logo of La Biennale di Venezia and are published in its official brochure, catalogue, website and other materials.
“As Commissioner of the Philippine Pavilion, I would like to reiterate there is only one National Pavilion at the 2015 Venice Art Biennale that represents the Philippines. The Philippine Pavilion exhibit titled ‘Tie A String around the World’ is curated by Patrick Flores and features the artists Manuel Conde, Carlos Francisco, Manny Montelibano and José Tence Ruiz. It will also feature a performance of David Medalla on Aug. 20.
“As chairperson of the NCCA, I wish to stress that we encourage Filipino artists to contribute to the development of Philippine contemporary art, but not in a way that could mislead the public and divide the Philippine art community.
“The Philippine Pavilion is not a commercial endeavor. It is a national representation, a venue in which the country is able to give voice to its unique realities through art. The Philippine Art Venice Biennale Coordinating Committee, composed of the NCCA, the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Office of Sen. Loren Legarda, worked hard for the Philippines’ comeback national pavilion in the Venice Art Biennale after 51 years of absence.
“Patrick Flores, and all other curators who submitted proposals during the open call, worked hard as well and underwent the democratic process of open call and selection.
“For individuals and groups to mislead the public in thinking that they, too, are part of the Venice Biennale would set a negative precedent for future artists, curators and cultural workers who will work hard to be democratically selected as the next representatives of the Philippines.
“This statement addresses the said concerns in the name of the people who worked hard and participated in the democratic selection of the Philippine Pavilion and its presentation in Venice.” Cathy Cañares Yamsuan