ManilART 2021: The National Art Fair—Beyond regional, beyond physical

ManilART is the flagship activity of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA)’s Museums and Galleries Month (MGM), celebrated every October. On its thirteenth year, ManilART observes the theme “Continuing Legacies,” resuming its regular programming from Oct. 13 to 17, 2021 at the SMX Convention Center, SM Aura Premier, Taguig City.

Balai Kalipay houses large murals by Kublai Millan as well as a collection of works by other artists.

Continuing traditions

ManilART was established on the backbone of professional galleries representing world-class Filipino artists on the world stage. Living masters of Philippine art continue to headline the top-caliber roster of the fair. These artists have won both local and international accolades, participated in prestigious programs, exhibited around the globe and built the monuments we see around us today. They are representative of the degree of excellence of the times and give collectors and enthusiasts the unparalleled opportunity to view and meet in person the works and the masters themselves.

Araceli Dans. At 94, multi-awarded Dans, whose previous exhibition was at ManilART 2018, returns this year. Mentored by National Artists Fernando Amorsolo and Guillermo Tolentino, she has built a lifelong legacy of works representing the consummate Filipina artist and educator. Best known for her calado embroidery subject, she continues to paint fine and large-scale works coveted by top collectors over the decades.

Ramon Orlina. Orlina is unparalleled in the field of glass sculpture. Over five decades, he has continued to innovate techniques and push the envelope towards refining the play of light and glass in his pieces as best reviewed at the eponymous Museo Orlina in Tagaytay. This year, his works are brought to a new experiential level as will be unveiled in the first-ever "phygital" exhibition in the Philippines.

Romulo Galicano. A mainstay of ManilART since its inception, Galicano continues to chronicle contemporary history in his romantic realist style. Recipient of many local and international accolades, most recently a three-peat at the American Art awards, he brings his award-winning style to render current events in grand, semi-mural scaled works.

Nemiranda. Nemesio Miranda, Jr. is another chronicler of history through many works of private and public art. From his EDSA Shrine murals, People Power monument to the “Way of Mary” stations stretching from Mandaluyong to Antipolo, Nemiranda contributes his narrative to the Quincentennial celebrations in highlighting the 500 years from the Victory of Mactan to present-day heroes in pandemic times.

Kublai Millan. Representing indigenous and contemporary art of Mindanawons, monument maker Millan brings a Mindanao perspective to the table. Best-known for public sculptures including the “Durian Genesis Lore” at the Davao Airport, he spearheads Mindanao Art Fair as well as a ManilART satellite exhibit of Balai Kalipay, co-presented with the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Sowing for the Future

Legacies are built over time. The younger set today lay the groundwork for their place in our artistic patrimony in the years to come with their consistent excellence and dedication to their craft. Sought-after new generation talents today put their best foot forward in this annual event. These include Francis Nacion, Jonathan Dangue, Melissa Yeung Yap, Wencyl Mallari, Kenneth Montegrande, and Katrina Cuenca, among scores of others.

Extending reach off-site

In past years, as the National Art Fair, aside from physically bringing exhibits to the main fair proper, ManilART has brought art caravans throughout the three island groups. As world events unfolded, this caravan has been innovated to take the form of online virtual exhibitions. While physically set up in situ, 360-degree walkthroughs on ManilART’s portal brings audiences virtually to visit the shows simultaneously happening “Off-site” during the fair. This brings art straight to the homes and screens of audiences while remaining bound in its context and place. Synchronously with the “On-site” fair, the portal brings together a shared experience in the celebration of art and a one-stop-shop for the online visitor to virtually experience art “under one roof.” This year, six satellite shows are offered located in different cities in Luzon and Mindanao.

Balai Kalipay. Balai Kalipay is located in the mountainous Malagos area of Davao City. It was built and spearheaded by renowned Mindanawon sculptor Kublai Millan, whose works and advocacies have been prominently featured in ManilART. Its name translates to “House of Joy,” and its vision is to chronicle both indigenous and contemporary Mindanao art. This is jointly undertaken by ManilART and the Department of Foreign Affairs’ Cultural Diplomacy Unit.

Likhang Silangan. Rizal has also garnered a name for itself in the art scene as the Cradle of Philippine Art, with its municipality of Angono named as the Arts Capital of the Philippines. As such, “Likhang Silangan: The Art EASTory of Rizal,” shall be held from Oct. 10 to 23, 2021 at Angkla Art Gallery in Angono. There is already a decorated list of local visual art legends such as the late National Artists Carlos "Botong" Francisco, and Vicente Manansala, as well as 19th century artist Juan "Tandang Juancho" Senson.

Tarlac Art. The Heart of Luzon shall forge its own legacy in the realm of arts and culture. “Tarlac Art '' will run from Oct. 1 to 22, 2021 at Diwa ng Tarlac. This is to be the first visual arts exhibit exclusively showcasing artists from Tarlac. This is a collaborative effort between ManilART and Tarlac’s Provincial Government.

Casa Carlitos. Philippine sculpture lost one of its most unique and pre-eminent living greats with the sudden passing of Carlitos Ortega. The museum cafe preserves some of his works in brass sculpture and design and will be inaugurated as a satellite exhibit and tribute.

Beyond physical borders - Introducing the Phygital

With the advent of the digital stage, ManilART opened its online portal last year to bring audiences to a better experience of the Fair via 360-degree virtual walkthroughs. But a virtual peek is only the beginning of the journey, soon art will be ushered to a truly digital age with the introduction of virtual galleries and collections where art in digital format will exist alongside physical art. The time will come when entire virtual museums can be uploaded to the cloud and transported globally and beyond.

ManilART 2021 debuts its first “phygital” exhibitor. G9 ONline will mount a phygital show which will showcase a digital work as an NFT, alongside the physical original as painting or sculpture. The Non-fungible Token (NFT) is a digitally encrypted rendition of an original work that can be considered a “digital print or multiple” based on a physical artwork. The NFT is viewable and displayable in a virtual gallery and can be traded on the crypto market similar to crypto art. Its non-fungible character means that the digital rendition is an original and not simply a capture or grab of an image online. It has a traceable provenance and may be considered an enhancement on the physical piece.

For the initial collection, limited edition proofs will be released of the works of Ramon Orlina, Ed Coronel, Bell Sison, Isobel Francisco, among others.

Philippine Quincentennial

ManilART joins in the quincentennial commemorations through activities and exhibits co-presented at the NQC-ManilART Lounge with the National Quincentennial Committee and the National Historical Commission of the Philippines.

ManilART will run from Oct.13 to 17, 2021at the third level of the SMX Convention Center, SM Aura Premier, Taguig City. For more details, visit or follow ManilART’s social media pages on Facebook and Instagram (@manilartfair).