By Rissa A. Coronel
It’s a sign of the times that ManilART2020 has migrated many of its activities online. This is not just for compliance with health guidelines, but also for making art more accessible and responsive in the future. This year, the fair’s focus is on a “2020 Vision for a Future Reimagined.” While digital platforms for art are not new, its mainstreaming in the art world at large has been accelerated as a response to this year’s Covid-19 pandemic.
Where everyone can discover and be discovered
Online exhibits have spanned various disciplines across the years—some of the earliest instances of these exhibitions include a virtual tour of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and the archival Scottish Cultural Resources Access Network, both operational since the year 2000. Carlo Acutis—titled the “first millennial saint” and beatified just this year by the Catholic Church—made his own virtual museum of Eucharistic miracles as well.
Art has been accessible in niche areas ever since artists, galleries, and collectors have had the means to make accounts on certain platforms: online creators from the early to mid-2000’s would be intimately familiar with art communities DeviantArt and Behance, for example. With everyone on social media, it’s now easier to discover and be discovered–-one can easily search #ArtistsOfInstagram or #ArtistsOnTwitter, among countless other keywords.
Several industries have moved from physical spaces to the online sphere to keep their operations running. It’s the same for museums, galleries, and artists the world over- they are crafting the language for art’s future as they go along. For instance, this year’s iteration of ArtBasel offered online viewing rooms in place of their canceled Hong Kong fair. Still, it turned out to be a success with upwards of 230 art dealers, 2,000 artworks, and an estimated value of $270M in sales.
Google itself has also made efforts towards online art spaces with Google Arts & Culture, which has been operational since 2011. The platform provides high-resolution images and videos of artworks and cultural artifacts from partner cultural organizations throughout the world. Over 100 museums have partnered specifically with their Street View feature, where you can wander the hallowed halls of Acropolis Museum in Greece, Musée d’Orsay in France, and the MoMA in the United States–-all from the comfort of your couch.
From Filipiniana to “Freelipiniana”
Our very own museums, galleries, and artists have also moved online—this holds the potential for wider audiences and diverse options for their presentation. The Museo de Intramuros, Filipinas Heritage Library, Presidential Museum and Library, and Filipino Street Art Project are on Google’s aforementioned platform: you can remotely browse through historical artifacts and revel in Metro Manila’s murals.
Many established local museums have taken to virtual tours and online resources. Their physical exhibitions may be closed, but in the online sphere, they remain open 24/7 and free for all. The National Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Manila, Ayala Museum, and Yuchengco Museum have uploaded walkthroughs of their exhibitions with additional content for the public’s online viewing pleasure. The online mode has also been a boon to art sellers such as Filipino Art and Cartellino, bridging physical distances especially for artists outside of Manila—selling art and their merchandise has been simplified with the “add to cart” option.
Many long-standing online cultural initiatives have gained traction due to the global situation’s rise in online activity. The Martial Law Museum, for instance, has put together a digital museum, library, and online modules for education about Marcos’s regime. Likhaan has also curated a Freelipiniana Online Library, making submissions from artists and writers openly available to the public.
ManilART’s future reimagined
ManilART2020’s theme focuses on envisioning a future reimagined: this alludes not just to our current public health concerns, but also to the preparations necessary to ensure a better future.
The website will provide full virtual walkthroughs that will bring the audience to the fair itself via 360 degree photographic panorama. This differs from a virtual exhibition wherein works are mounted and visualized only in a virtual space or setting. Walkthrough visitors will be able to experience the fair as it is onsite; much like the Google Street View function. In addition, the portal will serve as a link to engage with the individual participating exhibitors through their own websites, social media or collateral materials like electronic catalogs.
Aside from this “almost-there” experience, various online activities, both synchronous and asynchronous are lined up including tours, webinars and demonstrations. This broadens the reach to the global stage, overcoming distances and time zones.
ManilART onsite and online
There will still be a physical component to ManilART2020; this will strictly adhere to safety protocols. Pre-registration for the physical fair will occur primarily online, while online ticket sales will be completely contactless. The physical fair schedule will follow two days of VIP previews and three days open to the general public, with timed entrances to ensure the safety of the exhibitors, artists, and audiences.
ManilART2020 extends the fair’s territory online, ensuring the safety of artists and art lovers while making the fair even more accessible. It is a clear and certain transition to what is expected to be the future of art fairs, art markets, and cultural exhibitions. Everyone is invited to contribute to this ongoing cultural conversation whether online, onsite or both by visiting www.manilartfair.org.