All is fair in Art Fair PH

Published May 12, 2021, 3:44 PM

by Rom Mallick

Plagued by connectivity issues, Art Fair’s virtual vernissage was a reminder that online art shows just don’t cut it

It was an exciting evening, receiving a VIP pass to the online vernissage for this year’s Art Fair. One of the country’s largest gathering of art galleries, the event used to be a social feast where art enthusiasts and collectors gather to meet artists and curators to simply admire art—with hopes that a few would bring home some of the works on display. Every who’s who in society, or who fancy themselves to be one, was delighted to be invited to the preview night for Art Fair.


This was, at least, before things became virtual because of the still ongoing pandemic.

Understandable, of course. Enjoying art from a virtual distance seems to be the only way possible given the circumstances. But over a year into this era of COVID, and virtual art shows just don’t cut it anymore. Gone is the initial awe from seeing our favorite galleries recreated for a WASD or cursor tour. Technology is no longer able to keep up with the demand for a quality time and experience with beautiful art. This definitely was the case, quite literally, during Art Fair 2021’s vernissage.

The irony, of course, of being invited as VIP and not being able to access the whole event was not lost to me nor to my friends. One of them commented: “Just join the rest of us, don’t be a VIP.” All is fair, indeed, in this year’s Art Fair.

But, perhaps, the entire experience isn’t quite fair for the participating galleries. Sure, some of this year’s events are more attuned to an online experience—ArtFairPH/Film, ArtFairPH/Projects and the attempt at introducing non-fungible tokens (NFTs) into the local market, and ArtFairPH/Talks, just to name a few—but it just isn’t the same as being physically present to admire the beautiful.

While it wasn’t so much the fault of the organizers as it was that of the horrible state of Philippine internet, the entire vernissage experience—or lack thereof—was a testament to just how ineffective virtual events are. It just isn’t the same. Of course, there isn’t much that can be done given the situation our country is still in, but perhaps the question is should events like the Art Fair still happen while the pandemic persists? Wouldn’t it better to just not have these events at the moment and, perhaps, come up with alternatives?

In any case, Art Fair Philippines 2021 is in full swing, with participating galleries and their respective exhibits up until May 15, 2021. Do try to join the events that you can, and keep your fingers crossed that Philippine internet will be as appreciative of art as you are.