After eight years, Art Fair Philippines has grown into the country’s premier showcase of contemporary art.
This year, however, it has a challenger.
The new kid in town is Alt Philippines, an alternative three-day event which will be staged by the so-called “breakaway 10,” a group of high-profile Manila galleries that has opted out of joining this year’s art fair.
Their tagline, “reframing the art show,” hints at a certain unspoken discontent with the way the art fair has been run.
The two events have squared off: Alt Philippines will run from Feb. 14-16 at the SM Aura in Bonifacio Global City, Art Fair Philippines 2020 from Feb. 21-23 at its usual space in The Link carpark at the Ayala Center in Makati.
For months, the local art scene has been rife with speculation as to how organizers of Art Fair Philippines will react to the impending “showdown.”
Now it seems clear that they’re doubling down.
“Around the office we’re calling it ‘the Art Fair on steroids!’” says Trickie Lopa, one of the event’s cofounders. “We have so much going on, you probably won’t be able to see everything in three days.”
If anything, competition among the different contemporary art platforms has been good for the art scene.
Two years ago, for instance, the art fair achieved a certain synergy with the Manila Biennale organized by the late Carlos Celdran. The emergence of Alt Philippines might turn out to be a win-win situation for local art aficionados, as well.
To widen the audience
“It has given us the opportunity to reexamine our mission,” says Dindin Araneta, another cofounder, about the split. “At the end of the day it’s really what it has been from the beginning: to widen the audience for contemporary art. One way of looking at it is that Manila can now sustain three art fairs. You have Manila Art, Art Fair Philippines and now Alt Phil. It says something about the strength of the local economy, the interest in contemporary art and the confidence of the
galleries.”She noted that there is also the summer affordable art fair Art in the Park, and art fairs in the Visayas and Mindanao.
As Mao said: Let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools of thought contend.
“We do acknowledge that it’s an art fair and that there’s a commercial aspect to it,” says Araneta. “But we try to balance it out. It’s not only this year that we’ve emphasized the educational component. We’ve always had tours, talks—it’s an integral part of our planning.”
Despite the defections, the gallery section has expanded to 61 exhibitors from last year’s 52, 30 percent of which are foreign galleries. The fair has always had participation from galleries from Japan and the Southeast Asian nations, but European galleries have become increasingly prominent. In the past they usually brought in works by expatriate Filipino artists such as Fernando Zobel, but this year they’re exhibiting European artists as well.
“It seems that our audience has also caught up,” says Lopa. “In 2013, you wouldn’t expect too many people to be interested in Asian artists. Now the foreign galleries are very confident about coming here because they feel that there is a market for their artists and there is appreciation for their works.”
While Art Fair Philippines has become the major buying and selling platform for contemporary art, collectors are only part of the audience.
On your lunch break
“We have 30,000 people coming in every year, and not everybody is a collector, not everyone is looking to buy art,” says Lopa. “We’re on the art.net calendar and we’re recognized as part of the international circuit, but we also get a lot of students, office workers, bank tellers. People want to experience art, and everything we do is informed by our mission of widening our audience. This is why our location is important to us. It really helps that you can go to the art fair on your lunch break, or after work.”
As usual, the fair will also include special exhibits. This year’s offerings include a selection of drawings by the late Onib Olmedo. Other artists mounting special exhibits are Jaime de Guzman, Perry Argel, Salvador Joel Alonday, Roedil Joe Geraldo, Jellyfish Kisses, Gene Paul Martin, Neil Pasilan, Rodel Tapaya and Carlo Villafuerte.New this year is an entire section on film, which is curated by Erwin Romulo, film critic Philbert Dy and film historian Teddy Co.
Marking the centennial of Philippine cinema, Lopa says the film section will showcase how people will be viewing cinema in the next 100 years. Indoor and outdoor screenings, projections and other new media exhibits are envisioned.
Also new is a section called ArtFairPH/Incubators, which are basically spaces where art collectives are given free rein to mount experiential works.
“We realized that there are so many young creative people doing exciting things but not necessarily in the gallery format,” says Lopa.
Among these are art/n23,Giatay, Limbo, Loadnadito, Project 20 and Signum, representing not just Manila but art scenes in Dumaguete and Cebu. The incubators will incorporate music and performance with wall-bound works and explore new media such as virtual reality.“We want to break new ground always,” says cofounder Lisa Periquet. “We push the boundaries and seek out new things. We’re not just going to get what’s comfortable, we’re looking for things that will be a bit different.”
One of the special exhibits this year, for instance, features the work of the pioneering American conceptual artist Sol LeWitt, curated by New York-based art historian Carina Evangelista.
The photography section, which started in 2018, has continued to attract viewers and collectors. This year’s featured artists are Poklong Anading, art/n23, bio/trans/forms, Denise Weldon, Tom Epperson, Luzviminda, Silverlens Photo, Strange Fruit and Tarzeer Pictures.
Educational componentA key educational component is ArtFairPH/Talks, programmed with Ateneo Art Gallery and the Museum Foundation of the Philippines. This year’s highlights include a panel on Olmedo with speakers Elmer Borlongan and Allan Cosio and Italian Ambassador Giorgio Guglielmo who will speak about his book “The Originals” on 30 landmark artists.
In addition to the talks, a new section is ArtFairPH/Open Studios, a series of workshops with respected practitioners. This year will include a photography workshop with Paco Guerrero, lighting for photography with Neal Oshima, Mark Nicdao and Boy Yñiguez, watercolor with Claude Tayag, cyanotype with Alexis Oshima and Angela Silva, wooden furniture with Benji Reyes, rubber-cut printmaking with the Association of Pinoyprintmakers, and sculptural planter-making with Rita Gudiño.
This year’s exhibitors are 1335 Mabini/GMJ, Altro Mondo Gallery, ARCHIVO 1984, Art Cube, Art Underground, Art Verité, Artery Art Space, art/n23, Association of Pinoyprintmakers, Avellana Art Gallery, bio | trans | forms, Boston Art Gallery, CANVAS, Denise Weldon | Tom Epperson Photographs, District Gallery, Eskinita Art Gallery, Galerie Roberto, Gallery of Fine Arts, Galerie Stephanie, Giatay, J Studio, Kaida Contemporary, León Gallery, Limbo, Loadnadito projects, Luzviminda, Mariyah Gallery, METRO, Mono8, Orange Project, Paseo Art Gallery, Pintô Art Museum, Project 20, Salcedo Private View, Secret Fresh, Signum, Silverlens, Strange Fruit, Tarzeer Pictures, Tin-aw Art Gallery, Tropical Futures Institute and Ysobel Art Gallery.International galleries are Porters Gallery (Singapore), Artemis Art (Malaysia), Cayón (Spain), ENERGY FIELD (Japan), G13 Gallery (Malaysia), Gajah Gallery (Singapore), GALERIE OVO (Taiwan), Gallery Kogure (Japan), Hanada Gallery (Japan), Kobayashi Gallery (Japan), La Lanta Fine Art (Thailand), Mind Set Art Center (Singapore), Number1 Gallery (Thailand), Nunu Fine Art (Taiwan), SHUKADO (Japan), Vin Gallery (Vietnam), Yavuz Gallery (Singapore), YOD Gallery + Asian Art Center (Japan). The Italian Embassy is also bringing Galleria Tiziana di Caro, an art gallery from Naples, Italy.
Fair tickets can be purchased in advance at www.artfairphilippines.com. Tickets will also be available at the reception area of Art Fair Philippines from Feb. 21-23.
https://artfairphilippines.com; follow @artfairph on Facebook and Instagram