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Art glows at Art Fair Philippines

Daniel dela Cruz’s sculptural installation in this year’s Art Fair Philippines. Photos by WALTER BOLLOZOS

In an art fair, one is invariably seduced by the idea of encountering the artworks hanging on the walls or eking out a space, of moving from one booth to another, of finding something that would alter perception — a splash of color if not a bolt of illumination. In this space, the art is the incontestable king proffering his benediction to the art fair-going public.

In this narrative, a crucial word gets sidestepped: “fair.” An art fair is not just a place for seeing art but for establishing relations, an environment in which people from various backgrounds converge, interact with each other, talk to the gallery owners and artists, make connections.

This web of engagements is no more apparent than in Art Fair Philippines 2016, which concluded its fourth edition a few weeks ago. While it was still very much a market in the sense that financial transactions did take place in the three-level parking lot which was the fair’s venue, it was, more than anything, an instant — albeit a temporary — society where people talked about the works that talked to them, were made to jostle in spaces activated by various forms of installation art and listened to artists explain their practice and chosen medium.

That is why, in my view, the most fascinating works are those that inspire these interactions. Mark Justiniani’s awe-inspiring “Infinity” works in which, through visual tricks of light and mirror, spaces — be it a cathedral or a railroad track — seemed to carve inward endlessly; Raffy Napay’s luminous family portrait titled “Unbroken” plunged in ultraviolet light; and Pam Yan Santos’ artificial Eden called “In Search of Meaning” all offered the space for fair-goers to interrogate how art should be experienced and find tentative connections with those who also shared their experience.

There is more room to think through and discuss about art when a gallery features one — or two — artist. Such as in the case of Galeria Duemila that threw a spotlight on Felix Bacolor’s conceptual porcine perorations, Yavuz Gallery of Singapore with the striking figurative-abstract portraits of Winner Jumalon and Art Cube with the sculptures of Daniel dela Cruz arranged in cathedral-dark space. The booth became Baroque.

 

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“Fair” can also be construed as “equal,” and it’s not an affront that, say, the works of actors Heart Evangelista and Xian Lim shared the same space with those of Geraldine Javier and Rodel Tapaya. They have, presumably, different demographics. And where else can you find that the invited artists can freely think about and problematize the space? The Aquilizan showcased a version of a Mabini art kiosk right in the center of the venue. “Has art become purely market-driven?” the installation art seemed to ask. In a work by Annie Cabigting, a small palette knife was dipped in gold — a subtle comment on how art has become a luxury.

But no worries. In a painting by Dharma Bum for Art Informal, he proclaimed: “Everthing Will be All Right.”

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Art Fair Philippines 2016 is co-presented by Ayala Land, Bank of the Philippine Islands, Globe, Julius Baer, and Bench.  

Major sponsors are Make It Makati, Ayala Land Premiere, and Volkswagen. The Raffles and Fairmont and the Holiday Inn and Suites serve as the fair’s official hotel partners.  

The Philippine STAR is a media partner of Art Fair Philippines 2016.

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