Art heart

LOOKING ASKANCE - Joseph T. Gonzales (The Freeman) - May 3, 2020 - 12:00am

What a surprisingly busy period for the art world.

No, there’s none of the usual whirlwind of exhibits and art fairs, speeches, performances, or even the quirky but common occurrence of following Instagram posts of visual artists and knocking on their doors begging for scraps. Instead, during these disruptive coronavirus times, the art community has mobilized and refashioned itself to support the medical profession and those impacted by COVID-19. And perhaps, even indulge in their favorite pastime that is art!

A month ago, I paid tribute to that spectacular effort of the Cebu artist community, Art to the Front. That initiative raised more than three million big bucks to buy PPEs for frontliners. But that was not an isolated phenomenon. All across the islands, art movers have clustered together to supplement the woefully still-inadequate efforts of government to meet this virus head-on.

Across the Visayan sea, for example, Bacolod-based artists collaborated on an initiative called “Art Heals Fundraising.” The indefatigable Charlie Co and his Orange Gallery artist-stable contributed artworks, sold them online, and then used the funds to donate PPEs as well as food and basic necessities for families in Silay, Negros Occidental.

In Quezon City, young artists used to doing their own thing likewise got their act together and dreamed up Project 20. Aside from offering super-inexpensive artworks (most are less than P2,000!) created by emerging artists like Robert Langenegger and Hannah Nantes, they also created original content on their FB page, posting art musings and interviews of art-rockers.

Hardcore La Salle alumni, in turn, formed Raising Green, an online fund-raising exhibit of major artists. Not only meant for PPEs, this endeavor was meant to support 200 adult high school scholars. The selection to be found in this forum is quite extensive, and the page is very active, posting new artworks by desirable artists and selling them pretty quickly. No discounts though - these works are priced at market.

Using Instagram, several Manila-bred lasses married to Cebuanos, or the “Manila Imports”, formed Courage Cebu. The Manileñas put their extensive connections to good use and reined in friends in the fashion and art world. Soon enough, they were marketing artworks, dresses, and fashion accessories so that they could raise funds directed towards Cebu hospitals and Cebuanos in need. So not only PPEs, but also vitamins and food, were their expressed goals.

Dresses by Rajo Laurel and Mia Arcenas, watercolor sketches by Tokwa, JC, and Mayi Penaflorida, coveted accessories by Neil Felipp, and even fashion illustrations by Jun Escario - all these were offered and snapped up by willing donors happy to indulge in guilt-free shopping.

That was what I was feeling after I was roped in to join a Viber group named Art for Life. The group of hardcore art lovers had two schemes to raise money: either a straight sale or an online auction at announced intervals.

Thank goodness I participated early on - I spotted two small Terence Eduarte (TRNZ) sketches in the milieu, and a couple hours later, I was making arrangements to remit funds to the group treasurer. No guilt - this was for a good cause, even though I didn’t need yet another artwork to stick in an envelope until I get the walls to display them on.

That quick decision proved to be a good one, as when the time came for the online auctions of donated artworks, the 15-minute bidding wars became ferocious contests by bigwigs with bottomless purses. Suddenly, market prices for contemporary artists, artist who were still alive and who had prolific careers ahead of them, were breaking records as if there was no tomorrow, and all I could do was gape at the sidelines.

Nothing like tapping into the boredom of wealthy patrons - and if those funds are going to be used to save lives - far be it for me to judge.

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