It was great to be at an exhibit again

ManilArt 2020 has an online component, but nothing beats an onsite experience of art

It felt great to visit an actual, physical exhibit again. 

Sure, during the pandemic I had been able to visit more than a couple of galleries here and there, thanks to personal invites and very carefully scheduled time slots. But it was different to be in a place where multiple galleries have gathered. There are, according to an earlier conversation I had with this year’s ManilArt fair director Tess Rayos del Sol, 27 of them. That these galleries were arranged in a manner well thought out, following procedures that ensure health and safety protocols are observed, made it even more interesting. 

Life Must Go On by Roger San Miguel

Anton del Castillo's My Possession I and My Possession II

ManilArt 2020 is unlike those that came before it. Yet it is also quite familiar, for artists and art enthusiasts alike, particularly since you bump into the same people you probably met at last year’s fair albeit this time their faces are all covered up. 

It was also familiar because it made what most have been missing during these several months of prolonged community quarantines “normal” again. Normal in the sense of normal, of what those of us who frequent galleries and exhibits are used to. You come in, you walk around, you look at art from a (social) distance, you admire what is beautiful, question what seems incomprehensible, with the hope that, in the process, you reaffirm or redefine what you deem beautiful. This year, though, you have to do all of these within the time slot you chose for your ticket and guided by arrows pointing to where you should go next. 

Free-spirited exploring spoiled, there was nevertheless no shortage of greats at this year’s fair. Familiar names litter the put-up walls inside the SMX Convention Center at SM Aura.

Paindemic by Jerry Morada

Frontliners by Mark Belicarpio

Most have heard of Ramon Orlina, Toti Cerda, Ferdie Cacnio, Kublai Millan, Hermes Alegre, Rene Robles, Roger San Miguel, and Erwin Mallari, who are all masters in their own right, or of favorites like Agi Pagkatipunan, Ricky Ambagan, Danny Rayos del Sol, Alain Hablo, and Rax Bautista, just to name a few. There is no shortage of notables at this year’s ManilArt fair. 

Naturally, a cloud that hovers over most of the artworks on display is the ongoing pandemic. This explains why a good number of the pieces have this as themes, from Mark Belicarpio’s Frontliners and Migs Villanueva’s Weekend at Grandma’s 2, to Anton del Castillo’s mask-wearing figures (both in his paintings and sculptures) and Jerry Morada’s Paindemic

Because art often mirrors reality, or at least an artist’s corner of it, there really isn’t much of a surprise why many of the pieces on display at ManilArt 2020 have themes that revolve around the pandemic, like quarantine and survival and, at times, even depression.

Some of Erwin Mallari’s works on display

Some, however, like Erwin Mallari’s artworks simply mirror reality, as best as his watercolors could. Several of my personal favorites from this year’s fair are, in fact, his pieces on display for his solo exhibit “Traversing the City” that depict the normal-normal life along EDSA, in Binondo, or in some familiar market somewhere in the city. 

Needless to say, there is something for everyone at ManilArt 2020. So if you’re interested to see the artworks featured at the fair, you can get visit or book a ticket through TickeNet for any of the days until Dec. 13.