An encounter with contemporary cool
ARTMAGEDDON - Igan D’Bayan (The Philippine Star) - February 10, 2014 - 12:00am

Instead of cadmium yellow SUVs or shiny madder rose sedans, you got paintings with their electric freeway strokes and art installations that cut through the smog of everyday dread. If you build an alternative art space in a car park, people will come and wheel themselves in — to look at the best in Philippine contemporary art. So far, so rad.

Thus, here be the samples of contemporary art and they’re going to park inside the national psyche.

The second incarnation of Art Fair Philippines (AFP) returns — on opening night, Feb. 20 — to the scene of enthrallment: The Link car park building located between the Makati Shangri-La Hotel and the Landmark Department Store in Makati City.

“Why do we organize Art Fair Philippines?” Trickie Lopa, AFP organizer, asks rhetorically. “It is because we’re crazy undoubtedly (laughs).” She says the three of them — Trickie with Lisa Periquet and Dindin Araneta — have been working together for 10 years on community events and cultural projects. Filipino contemporary art, they believe, should have a place in the collective mindset. 

“We have derived so much enjoyment from Philippine visual arts, learned so much from artists and galleries, we felt it’s time to share that,” Trickie explains. “Time to build appreciation for our local contemporary art scene. We want to promote the accessibility of contemporary arts. It shouldn’t just be the domain of intellectuals, of the cognoscenti. It should also belong to students, professionals — to everybody who’s interested. We want to make sure that the fair reflects how accessible art should be.” 

Another goal of theirs is to expand the market for local artists. Trickie adds, “As a people we have very creative genes, and there’s no reason why this shouldn’t give us opportunities to earn.”

The fair is also an educational tool, a way of exposing young artists to current art practices, a way of inspiring them in carrying on with their work. 

Dig the stats of last year’s fair: 6,000 visitors, 25 galleries, and three solo exhibitions — all in 2,468 square meters of space. This year, everything is bigger, better and bolder.

The allocated space (designed in conjunction with architects Leandro V. Locsin Partners and designer Kenneth Cobonpue) is much more, er, spacious. Aside from the sixth floor, the fair extends to a portion of the seventh floor of The Link. This year, Art Fair Philippines features 28 galleries — three of them not based in Manila but from other parts of Southeast Asia. Seven solo exhibits are to be mounted. The fair also has an urban art component, a public art project done in collaboration with Ayala Land.

Participating galleries include Altro Mondo, Archivo, Art Cube, Art Informal, Avellana Art Gallery, Blanc, Boston Gallery, Canvas, Crucible, Equator Art Projects, Finale, Galleria Duemila, Light and Space Contemporary, Liongoren Gallery, Manila Contemporary, Mo_Space, Nova, Now Gallery, Pablo, Paseo Art Gallery, Secret Fresh, Richard Koh Fine Art, Silverlens, TAKSU, The Drawing Room, Tin-Aw, West Gallery, and 1335 Mabini.

“We’ve encouraged the galleries to have special curated exhibitions for the fair,” shares Lisa Periquet.

On-site installations include works by Rodel Tapaya, a reception area piece by Jose John Santos III, an interactive ping-pong table artwork by Louie Cordero, and silk-screened scarves and graphic wallpaper from UK-trained artist Pio Abad. The second level area known as the Ayala Art Annex will feature new sculptural works by National Artist BenCab alongside solo exhibitions by Marina Cruz, Geraldine Javier, and Ronald Ventura together with the artistically-designed Ayala Lounge. Christie’s auction house will run the fair’s lecture series, Christie’s Art Forum, which will focus on broadening knowledge for Southeast Asian contemporary art and art historical movements. Lectures will run on Feb. 20 at 4 p.m. and on Feb. 21 and 22 at 3 p.m.

“The special exhibits are what give added value to the fair,” she points out. “We’ve chosen seven artists who represent the most exciting parts of the Philippine contemporary art scene. We’ve asked them to do works especially for this fair.”

Four of the exhibitions — Cordero, Tapaya, Cruz and Santos — are under the “Swatch Presents” program. Periquet adds that Swatch has a long tradition of linkages with the arts.  Swatch runs an art hotel in Shanghai, China that gives residencies to artists. The brand was also one of the major sponsors of the Venice Biennale.

Art Fair Philippines is again teaming up with Ayala Land for The Urban Art Project: to put up large-scale artworks at the heart of the Makati commercial center (and taking them out temporarily out of their natural habitat of museums and galleries).

“This is also a part of the mission of the art fair of promoting the accessibility of contemporary art,” Periquet explains. “We hope that as people go on their way to the office or go around doing their errands in the malls and walkways, they will enjoy their daily encounters with art.”

Yeah, instead of being a pit stop for humdrum cars, a car park in Makati becomes the crib for contemporary art.

Let’s honk to that. 

* * *

Art Fair Philippines 2014 is organized by Philippine Art Events Inc., and co-presented by Ayala Corporation, Ayala Land Premier, Alveo, BPI, Globe and Swatch. Two of the major sponsors are Make It Happen, Make It Makati and Christie’s. Official hotel partner is Raffles Makati. Exhibition partners are Leandro V. Locsin Partners, GBA Events Asia, Kenneth Cobonpue and Silva Design Studio. Furniture partner is Living Innovations. Food & beverage partners are Kai and The Straits Wine Company.    

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