Curator Ricky Francisco on the difference between virtual galleries and physical exhibits

Published March 18, 2022, 1:52 PM

by John Legaspi

The museum director details how he brought the ‘Brave New World’ exhibit from URL to IRL

It was during the pandemic that everyone saw how vital the internet was in our lives. During that time when we were pushed to distance ourselves from others, it created a bridge that connected us to the world. Loved ones could easily check on each other with a push of a button, entrepreneurs thrived as they build their brands online, and, for the art scene, new ways of celebrating local talents have been made through virtual galleries. But, as we now go back to the way we were—almost—during our pre-pandemic times, is there still a place for digital exhibitions? Perhaps the greater question is, are virtual galleries better than physical ones?

For curator and museum director Ricky Francisco, art is best experienced up close and personal. While there is convenience in seeing masterpieces at home through devices, according to him, there is nothing like having a visual dialogue between the art and its viewers in a curated space. “There is something that gets lost when a work of art is translated from the real thing into digital photographs,” the Fundacion Sansó director tells Manila Bulletin Lifestyle.

Ricky Francisco (middle) at the launch of ‘Brave New World’ book at Art Lounge Manila

Through his current work, the “Brave New World” exhibit, Francisco helps bring to life an art showcase that was first established online in July 2020. After two years, the exhibit initiated by the Brave New World Project comes full circle with a physical exhibit and a coffee table book of the same name that documents how Filipino artists view life in the middle of a pandemic.

In a conversation with Manila Bulletin Lifestyle, Francisco shares behind-the-scenes stories about mounting the “Brave New World” exhibit, and how it pays tribute and celebrates Filipino artists’ efforts in the past two years in the pandemic.

What were the challenges in building and mounting the ‘Brave New World’ exhibit?

This is the tail-end of the project. The Brave New World Project started in July 2020 and the challenge then was getting people, with the strict lockdown, to participate in the project. Later on, when we were doing the book.

Having the sheer volume of art in this exhibit—over 400 pieces—and curating them cohesively in a manner that could be understood was quite difficult. Viewing them [online] was also hard. You have to have the patience and the time, which, luckily, we all had back then.

This one, even though this is a small exhibition of what the project was, we are still happy about it because, for the first time after a long time, we get to appreciate art in person and appreciate it with the artists and the people who comprised this great project.

‘Brave New World’ book

What did you consider in selecting the pieces that will be featured in this physical gallery?

One of the main considerations was the logistics. We are all transitioning back to normal. One of the factors, sad to say, was how easily we can get the artists and their work here on such short notice. But we chose people who we want to work with based on our past working experience with them and the quality of their works.

Would you describe this exhibit as a tribute or a celebration?

Both. We lost a lot of people during the pandemic. Good artists, writers, curators—you name it, we lost some of them. They are in our memory. Also, it is a celebration of our resiliency and generosity. We were able to pull each other and help. Artists are very solitary people. During the pandemic, when everyone was asked to go and be at home, these artists were the ones giving their artworks to support the frontliners. It is very unusual and we want to celebrate it.

“Brave New World” exhibit runs until March 26 at Art Lounge Manila, The Podium. To know more about its coffee table book, click here.

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