Existential ping-pong: The smash that was Art Fair Philippines

Igan D’Bayan (The Philippine Star) - February 24, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Okay, okay. You had the bare-chested Jun Sabayton in one corner; the members of the Philippine Table Tennis Team watching John Lloyd Cruz serve; and Manuel Ocampo’s mascots of doom gallivanting in the car park-turned-art space that is The Link. While Swatch (led by Virgie Ramos) supplied swatches of luscious pastels in its metal-and-pastry installation. Never knew an art fair gala could turn into a mad tea party circus of sorts, as the organizers of Art Fair Philippines 2014 injected much-needed shots of coolness and the dreaded “F” word (“fun”) into the Philippine contemporary art scene.

 â€œWe want to promote the accessibility of contemporary art,” explained one of the Art Fair Philippines (AFP) organizers, Trickie Lopa. “It shouldn’t just be the domain of intellectuals, of the cognoscenti. It should also belong to students, professionals — for everybody who’s interested. We want to make sure that the fair reflects how accessible art should be.”

Trickie, 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. 

Prior to the opening, Periquet shared, “Our supporters and sponsors must have been impressed with our showing last year because this year, with their support, we’ve increased the floor space of the fair by 50 percent. What is most remarkable is the unmistakable anticipation, the excitement about Art Fair Philippines that’s in the air.”

The allocated space (designed in conjunction with architects Leandro V. Locsin Partners and designer Kenneth Cobonpue) exuded some sort of space-age industrial chic. Aside from the sixth floor, the fair extended to a portion of the seventh floor of The Link.

In its second incarnation, Art Fair Philippines featured 28 galleries — three of them not based in Manila but from other parts of Southeast Asia. Seven solo exhibits were mounted. The fair also had an urban art component, a public art project done in collaboration with Ayala Land.

Participating galleries included 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.

Christie’s auction house ran the fair’s lecture series, Christie’s Art Forum, which focused on broadening knowledge for Southeast Asian contemporary art and art historical movements.

“And we encouraged the galleries to have special curated exhibitions for the fair,” said Periquet.

On-site installations featured works by Rodel Tapaya, a reception area piece by Jose John Santos III, an interactive fibreglass ping-pong table artwork by Louie Cordero, and silk-screened scarves and graphic wallpaper from UK-trained artist Pio Abad. The Ayala Art Annex at the second level had the artistically designed Ayala Lounge.

“This space was set up for guests to relax and for them to appreciate the pieces on display and to discuss the interaction between the pieces themselves,” said Ayala’s Tenten Mina about the lounge punctuated with works by Fernando Amorsolo and Justiniano Asuncion from the art collections of Ayala Corporation, Ayala Museum, and Bank of the Philippine Islands. The homey area, dubbed Art & Dialogue, was designed by interior designer Junie Rodriguez.   

“The (people from the) Ayala Group of Companies were generous enough in showing me their paintings, and I selected a few pieces (to show to the public),” explained Rodriguez. The idea was for the pieces to “interact” with each other. “These pieces here are about light and form, and as you go along, they become more and more about lines, colors or themes and motifs. It’s all about finding connections. Hopefully there is a dialogue between the paintings and a dialogue among the visitors themselves.” 

The upstairs area also featured solo exhibitions by Marina Cruz, Geraldine Javier, and Ronald Ventura, alongside new sculptural works by National Artist BenCab.

The artist’s inspiration for the pieces was a series of early drawings and studies from the ’80s and ’90s.

“I decided to make them three-dimensional,” explained BenCab about his sculptures in metal, bronze and in resin (to be cast later on in bronze also) in the space curated by The Crucible run by Sari Ortiga and Randy Young. Some sculptures were metal cutouts masterfully painted on with acrylic. BenCab called them “drawings on metal.”

“It’s really all about relying on my drawing skill to make them three-dimensional,” he said. “Sculpture is drawing in the round, anyway. So as you turn, you see new things. I am excited with the possibilities of sculpture.” You ain’t seen nothin’ yet, concluded the prolific National Artist.

That’s the story of this year’s Art Fair Philippines: it’s about artists finding new ground, getting high on artistic epiphanies, and — in most cases — creating art of the cool, contemporary variety. And playing existential table tennis along the way.

To paraphrase the words of the man from Arkham, “Wait till you get a load of next time.”

* * *

Art Fair Philippines 2014 was 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.    

 For information, visit www.artfairphilippines.com and www.facebook.com/artfairph.

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