Arts and Culture

The sun rises for Philippine art

SUBLIMINAL - Carlomar Arcangel Daoana - The Philippine Star
The sun rises for Philippine art
An installation view of the “Pintôkyo” exhibition at the Hillside Forum in Shibuya, Tokyo. Photos courtesy of the Philippine Embassy in Japan, Elmer Borlongan, Jim Orencio, Avee Tan and Angelika Leaño

Very happy and very satisfied.”This is how Dr. Joven Cuanang characterized the recently concluded “Pintôkyo: Contemporary Philippine Art Exhibition” held at the Hillside Forum in the trendy district of Shibuya in Tokyo, Japan. The neurologist-turned-art patron had many things to be happy about. Aside from the opening night on June 19 being well attended (cultural officials, dignitaries, art aficionados, collectors, and artists composed most of the audience), the show shone a spotlight on Philippine art to a degree never before seen. “Apparently,” said Dr. Cuanang, “this is the first if not the only show (in Japan) in which a whole body of Philippine contemporary artists presented their works in such a very beautiful space, in such a variety of motifs.”

Dr. Joven Cuanang, chair of Pintô International, posing against the bust of Dr. Jose Rizal in Hibiya Park. “Pintôkyo” was dedicated to the memory of the National Hero, whose 157th birth anniversary coincided with the opening of the exhibition.
Pintô NYC director Luca Parolari and artistcurator Tony Leaño

Fulfilling its vision of promoting cultural diplomacy between the Philippines and Japan, the exhibition featuring the works of 56 artists was graced not only by the Philippine Ambassador to Japan, H.E. Jose Laurel V, but also by the Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines, H.E. Koji Haneda. In a dinner he hosted at his residence back in the Philippines after the event, Ambassador Haneda articulated his appreciation for Pintôkyo and the desire for staging similar pursuits in the future. Dr. Cuanang said, “I told him, ‘Let’s cook up some art activity the Japanese Embassy can help facilitate.’ Ambassador Haneda and his wife are very much into arts. That’s a connection that happened.”

Gracing Pintôkyo are Philippine Ambassador to Japan H.E. Jose Laurel V and ACC board member and fashion designer Rajo Laurel.
Stephanie Chong of Peninsula Tokyo, BenCab, Annie Sarthou, Susan Joven, Elmer Borlongan, Consul Agnes Huibonhoa, and Japanese TV presenter Kyoko Spector

Showing their full support for the five-day exhibit were the officials of the Asian Cultural Council (ACC), which co-organized the show with Pintô International, from the different parts of the Asia-Pacific region — from Japan, Philippines, Taiwan, Singapore, and the United States. A day before the exhibit opening, ACC Japan, headed by its president, Yuji Tsutsumi, hosted a welcome lunch for the Philippine delegation.

ACC board member Ching Cruz
Photographed against their respective works are artists Elmer Borlongan and Igan D’Bayan during the opening of the exhibit.

Leading the pack from the Philippines were Dr. Cuanang, the board of trustees of El Refugio Arts and Sciences Foundation (which supports Pintô International), National Artist Benedicto “BenCab” Cabrera, and Filipino artists whose works were represented in Pintôkyo such as curator Antonio Leaño, Elmer Borlongan, Igan D’Bayan, Cris Villanueva, Annie Cabigting, Romeo Lee, Jim Orencio, Shannah Orencio, Candice Arellano, Ninel Constantino, Eleanor Giron, Erwin Leaño, Miles Villanueva, Jay Viriña, and John Paul Duray. Dr. Luca Parolari, who co-chairs Pintô International with Dr. Cuanang and directs Pintô NYC, flew all the way to New York to preside over the opening ceremonies.

Participating artists Jim Orencio, Ninel Constantino, Shannah Orencio, Romeo Lee, Candice Arellano, and Cris Villanueva

For the succeeding days of the exhibition, many Japanese and tourists were introduced to a wide range of Filipino works as the venue is part of a network of art spaces in Shibuya, Tokyo’s frenetic cultural center. Some of them visiting for the first time, Filipino artists, on the other hand, got exposed to the unique visual language of Japanese art. Working with the Japanese in mounting this exhibition also opened their eyes to the discipline, precision, and professionalism the country is known for. “We’ve got a lot to learn from the Japanese,” Dr. Cuanang said.

Romeo Lee and Caloy Diaz

While the show did well financially (almost all the works got sold), what Dr. Cuanang hopes is for the succeeding pop-up shows (in Milan, San Sebastian, and New York City) to generate an international audience alongside our own. “I know that it’s just a starting point,” said Dr. Cuanang, “but I think what we need to do now is to go ahead and develop an audience that is not Filipino, because the buyers are still mostly Filipino.”

Avee Tan and Igan D’Bayan

The role of expanding the base for Philippine art chiefly rests on Pintô NYC, the permanent face of Pintô International to the world. Based in the East Village in New York, it will soon have a regular program showcasing Filipino artists as well as talents from the different parts of Asia. Should Pintô NYC prove to be successful, the pop-up shows may be downscaled. But for now, Pintô International is gearing up for its next one on Oct. 4, at the residence of the Philippine Ambassador to the United Nations, Teddy Boy Locsin, in Manhattan. Fueled with “pride for what our artists can do,” Dr. Cuanang is poised to repeat the success he has had in promoting Philippine art, this time on the world stage.



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