How art fights back

Published April 1, 2022, 12:05 AM

by Anna Mae Lamentillo

NIGHT OWL

Anna Mae Lamentillo

When the world came into a standstill because of the Covid-19 crisis, one of the most affected sectors was the art industry. Live performances, exhibitions, workshops and seminars were cancelled or postponed. Museums and galleries were closed. Artists took a pause, some workers were laid off.

But an industry comprised of the most creative minds will not be idle for long. Art will always find a space to thrive, artists will always find a way to breathe life to their creativity.

As if providing a cue, the pandemic has actually compelled the art industry to go digital. It was, after all, inevitable in this digital age. And even if there is no equal to having a physical space, there was a need to adapt.

In the months following the hard lockdown, everything went virtual — the live performances, art workshops and talks, exhibitions were done online. Museums had virtual tours. Galleries and auction houses used digital tools to reach out to their clients.

The evolving Art Fair PH

Just before the lockdown, Art Fair Philippines was able to stage its 2020 edition at its usual location of The Link carpark in Makati City from Feb. 21-23.

In 2021, it went virtual, focusing on the digital arts, introducing the metaverse and non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

This year, Art Fair Philippines is back in physical form, but maintains an online presence as it chose a hybrid format. The in-person exhibits are at the Ayala Triangle Gardens in Makati City, as well as in different gallery venues in Metro Manila, around the country, and even abroad. The online shows and other activities can be accessed at www.artfairphilippines.com.

Dindin Araneta, co-founder of Art Fair Philippines along with Trickie Lopa and Lisa Ongpin-Periquet, explained that they are really encouraging people to do live gallery visits and attend activities in person, “We thought it was ideal to give everyone a chance to go out and see more things.”

It’s for the best that the art community is adapting to the new normal way of doing things, especially maintaining a digital platform because art, which is ever evolving, has already crossed the virtual world (e.g. NFTs).

However, certain forms of art just need in-person appreciation. There is no substitute to the experience of seeing an artwork, appreciating its details, being immersed in the space it occupies, and being able to converse with it. It’s actually amazing how curators put together masterpieces and create an environment that commands respect, how they turn an empty space into a sacred place.

This year’s ArtFairPH/Projects at the Ayala Tower One Fountain Area was curated by Norman Crisologo, in collaboration with exhibition designer Ed Lacson. Mr. Crisologo put together the masterpieces of the late Arô Soriano and noted social realist Nune Alvarado, as well as newly commissioned works from both internationally established and rising Filipino visual artists such as Melvin Guirhem, Bjorn Calleja, Johanna Helmuth, Ryan Jara, Doktor Karayom, Tyang Karyel, Aze Ong, and Wyndelle Remonde.

Mr. Crisologo said he specifically requested for a space where he can put up the exhibition and position the works in conversation with each other. He explained that these works showcase Philippine art’s baroque quality, which is “the deliberately ugly, the seemingly spontaneous, the recklessly experimental with a unique Filipino sensibility.”

Art Fair Philippines 2022 gathered 46 exhibitors from the Philippines and abroad. The Gallery Hop section of the website guides the public in plotting out routes for visiting the gallery shows. Out of the 46 exhibitors, 33 are located across Metro Manila. There are also exhibitors in Baguio, Davao, Cebu, Bacolod, and in other countries such as Singapore, Indonesia, Japan, Australia, Spain, and France.

There’s also the “10 Days of Art” initiative, a series of events around the Makati Central Business District that celebrates art beyond the venue of the fair; the exhibit titled “Tattoos, Ternos and Couture, A Celebration of Philippine Fashion Photography” that honors the country’s long and colorful history in fashion photography; an art installation by James Clar called “I Can’t Tell You What I Don’t Know, Only That I Don’t Know”; and works by Juanito Torres and Norman Dreo, two solo exhibits in conversation under the title “Perspectives.”

Art Fair PH also introduced an interactive augmented reality (AR) art trail titled “Aparisyon” curated by Daata. It examines the timeless nature of storytelling through words and imagery, inspired by the Philippines’ thriving speculative fiction scene. This digital-meets-physical exposition features ground-breaking artists and newly commissioned artworks including by artist Leeroy New and author Eliza Victoria. Each work serves as a portal to a different realm, inviting audiences to open their minds and imagination to alternative future realities.

With the successful staging of Art Fair Philippines 2022, we can only hope for a better scenario for the art industry in the days to come. But one thing is for sure, this year’s ArtFairPH sends a strong message that art will always resist forces that suppress it. Art will fight for the space it deserves.

 
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