Why Art in the Park is PH art’s favorite Sunday

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Featured artists Clarence Chun, Demi Padua, organizers Rhona Macasaet, Trickie Lopa, Lisa Peri-quet and featured artist Pepe Delfin —EUGENE ARANETA
Featured artists Clarence Chun, Demi Padua, organizers Rhona Macasaet, Trickie Lopa, Lisa Periquet and featured artist Pepe Delfin —EUGENE ARANETA

What happens when you take the most beloved Sunday in Philippine art, either severely limit access to it or cancel it altogether, and then finally hold it in its beloved home, open for all to come for the first time since 2019?

You get an art mob.

“We were jam-packed with people,” says event cofounder Lisa Periquet, describing how fair-goers literally ran into the Jaime Velasquez Park in Salcedo Village, Makati, as soon as the gates opened last March 19, 2023.

There was a reasonable explanation for that.

Since its first staging in 2006, Art in the Park has established itself as the definitive gateway art fair, the most accessible art fair for students, first-time and casual art collectors looking for the attractively priced piece, usually drawing between 13,000 and 15,000 visitors.

But all that was scuttled when the 2020 Art in the Park was cancelled due to the COVID-19 lockdown. Art in the Park had to migrate online in 2020 and 2021, but it really wasn’t the same, to be honest. In 2022, Art in the Park went for a hybrid format, part-online and part-onsite, but even that felt nothing like the real deal.

READ: Your Art Fair Philippines 2024 Shopping List

In 2023, with the lockdowns lifted, Art in the Park went back fully onsite. Organizers Philippine Arts Events Inc. (PAEI), had to deal with the fact that the layout of the park itself had been changed during the lockdown. PAEI rolled with the punches, moved the food and beverages stands outside the park itself, erected dining tents, and even managed to get Toledo Street shut down just for that day.

And what a response they got. Cofounder Trickie Lopa estimated that some 25,000 visitors flooded the park that day, obviously way more than in the past. Art lovers clearly missed their Art in the Park fix.

Organizer Rhona Macasaet describes how different it was: “There’s so much more to do when it’s live, with everybody interacting face-to-face. The atmosphere, the vibe last year … had such a buzz. There was a breathlessness in the air which made you want to just hang out.”

Different mediums

For Art in the Park 2024, Lopa actually expects the numbers to go down a bit after last year’s frenzy, saying it’ll probably go back to the 13,000-15,000 of the past.

Periquet says such a drop wouldn’t be a bad thing: “People can flow also, and rest and hang out there, so it doesn’t get so crowded.”

Otherwise, you can expect more of what makes the 18th Art in the Park the must-go single-day art event of the year. There will be the same number of vendors as last year, 60, but not all the same, as the organizers made sure to mix it up a bit.

“Much of the art can look the same, so we try to avoid that,” Periquet explains. “We always look at, for example, different mediums. We’re always open to pottery or sculptures.”

Call me, or not at all, but tell me something., 2024, acrylic on canvas Clarence Chun
Call me, or not at all, but tell me something., 2024, acrylic on canvas Clarence Chun

Among this year’s exhibitors are: Ang INK, Archivo 1984, Arnold Art Collection, Art for Space, Art Lab, Art Toys PH, Art Underground, Art Verite, Artbeat Collective, Artery Art Space, Authenticity Zero Collective, Avellana Art Gallery, Boston Art Gallery, Cartellino, Cevio Art Haus, Cornerstone, FA Gallery, FotomotoPH, Fuse Projects, Galería de las Islas, Galeria Paloma, Galerie Anna, Galerie Artes, Galerie Stephanie, ILCP Art Space, Istorya Studios, J Studio, Jon and Tessy Pettyjohn, Kaida Contemporary, Kalawakan Spacetime, Kasibulan, Komiket, Kulay Art Group, Kuta Artists Group, Looking for Juan, MAG, Metro Art Gallery, MONO8, Nineveh Artspace, Orange Project, Pintô Art Museum and Arboretum, Qube Gallery, Redlab, Resurrection Gallery, Sheerjoy, Sierra Madre Gallery, Space Encounters, Superduper Gallery, The Mighty Bhutens, Thursday Group, Tin-Aw Art Projects, Tiny Canvas, UP Artists Circle, UP College of Fine Arts, Urban Sketchers, Village Art Gallery, Vinyl on Vinyl, Vmeme Contemporary, White Walls Gallery and Ysobel Art Gallery.

Perhaps the other secret sauce of Art in the Park is that all items (except for those from the featured artists) will go for P70,000 or lower.

Featured artists

This year, there are three artists being featured for the first time. Periquet says, “We always get people we haven’t worked with before and we like sharing the works of new artists.”

Clarence Chun, whose work has been described as “hyper pop abstraction,” has had quite the journey before getting to Art in the Park. Born in Leyte, Chun grew up in Hawaii, and his work reflects that: “My concept is, how I live is what I do. There’s a certain current event that I’m really interested in. I get images from industries like that, or it’s what I see in the movies or what video game I buy.”

His pieces tend to be large (6’ x 10’) and are diptychs or triptychs. “So if you turn up, it’s like a small solo show,” Chun says. “Because we really want to have a solo show that everyone enjoys.”

“Play Pretend I” by Pepe Delfin
“Play Pretend I” by Pepe Delfin

Abstractionist Pepe Delfin says hers will be “a two-part presentation. The paintings are mostly going to focus on life in the great indoors, where we explore imagination and the punctuation of empathy because empathy is also imagination, family life and the inner world.”

The second part is a bit different. “I thought it would be nice to have an outside world component, so that’s where there is a mural that is an empty cityscape,” she explains. “And it’s going to be interactive, so I’m going to invite fairgoers to stick stickers on the mural, because I usually represent human beings as dots. So, I thought it would be nice if people can fill this empty city with dots themselves and ideally, the mural will be filled with stickers.”

What that represents, Delfin says, is, “We all live here and we’re all still here.”

Becoming a featured artist is a full circle moment for Demi Padua, best known for his collage-like work. That’s because Padua had work on sale at the very first Art in the Park, in 2006, and has participated several times through the years. This year, Padua is bringing in “small mixed-media pieces” and he promises that each piece “is individual in theme.”

Padua says becoming a featured artist is, “aba, masaya. Siyempre dati, para kang underdog. Ngayon, overwhelmed. Na hindi na yung nahihiya ka pa. (Of course, I’m happy. Before I felt like an underdog. Now, I feel overwhelmed, not insecure.)”

Building the audience

Art in the Park version 18 is hoping that art lovers will come, visit the booths, go over to the food and beverage stands when they’re hungry and then come back for more. It runs from 10 to 10 (a.m. to p.m.), after all.

Art in the Park is continually hoping to reach a broader range of art lovers, as well. Periquet says the audience is obviously growing younger, though perhaps not the serious collectors per se—or at least not yet. “Sometimes people dismiss the young people, maybe they’re not buying art right away but they’re getting art-aware. They’re getting art-interested. So, you’re building an audience. And I think that the Art Fair (which Periquet also cofounded with Lopa and the PAEI also organizes) has done that. I think Art in the Park has done the same thing.”

A mixed-media piece by Demi Padua
A mixed-media piece by Demi Padua

As usual, Art in the Park benefits the Museum Foundation of the Philippines Inc., (MFPI). “We have been a beneficiary for 18 years now and the proceeds that we received from them, in turn, are able to help our main beneficiary, the National Museum of the Philippines, plus other museums across the country. So, as you know, when it comes to projects or anyone, any organization and the culture and heritage preservation, it’s usually very challenging to get funding, so what PAEI does for us is very important,” says MFPI executive director Tanya Pico, who adds that PAEI and the MFPI have just happily renewed their partnership.

What happens then is a circle of life, where collectors buy art, which funds the MFPI, which then protects art—and then starts over the next year.

Finally, Pico points out one of the most appealing things about Art in the Park: It “gives you a way to buy art that’s really affordable, especially if you’re a beginner collector. I mean, you walk out of the park with this piece of art and it’s by a Filipino.” INQ

Visit artinthepark.ph; follow facebook/artinthepark and @artintheparkph on Instagram.

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