Can Art Fair Philippines 2020 Hold Its Own?

Art Fair Philippines co-founders Trickie Lopa, Dindin Araneta, and Lisa Periquet. Image courtesy of Art Fair Philippines.
Dr. Joven Cuanang and Jellyfish Kisses at Art Fair Philippines 2020. Image courtesy of Art Fair Philippines.
James Clar, Noise Field, 2020, detail shot. Installation view at Art Fair Philippines 2020. Image courtesy of Silverlens.
Installation view of Jojit Solano’s work at the booth of Eskinita Art Gallery during Art Fair Philippines 2020. Image courtesy of Eskinita Art Gallery.
Installation view of Iabadiou Piko’s work at the booth of Nunu Fine Art during Art Fair Philippines 2020. Image courtesy of Nunu Fine Art.
TOP
1959
34
0
 
5
Mar
5
Mar
CoBo Social Market News Reports

The expanded eighth edition of Art Fair Philippines took place in Manila last month amidst travel restrictions and established local galleries splitting off to form a new fair. Reena Devi presents her insights on what made the fair work—and what didn’t.

TEXT: Reena Devi
IMAGES: Courtesy of Art Fair Philippines

 

The most talked about development leading up to the eighth edition of Art Fair Philippines (AFP)—the country’s well-known local visual arts fair held from 21 to 23 February 2020 at The Link, Ayala Center, Makati in Manila—was the sudden splitting off by established local galleries to form another art fair known as ALT Philippines, which ran the week before.

The reasons for this split seemed hard to pin down, with some industry insiders citing The Link carpark—which AFP traditionally occupies as a makeshift space—as the issue, while others observed that the older fair tended to be too heavily focused on collectors or certain big-name local galleries.

However, the departure of the galleries did not seem quite as drastic as it sounded, since fair insiders compared ALT Philippines to a large group show rather than an art fair and at least one gallery participated in both fairs.

Nonetheless, the split compelled organisers of AFP, led by co-founders Dindin B. Araneta, Trickie C. Lopa and Lisa O. Periquet, to make a concerted effort to engage younger and less established stakeholders, from galleries to art spaces and artists. This approach created a noticeably youthful energy in this year’s expanded edition which presented 61 galleries.

Speaking to CoBo Social in an interview on the fairgrounds, Lopa said, “[When] established galleries decided to not join this year, we went towards the younger galleries…inviting other art groups, younger ones, less established ones.”

 

Art Fair Philippines co-founders Trickie Lopa, Dindin Araneta, and Lisa Periquet. Image courtesy of Art Fair Philippines.

 

One of the new additions to the local art fair was the Incubators section where non-traditional art spaces such as Giatay, Limbo and art/n23 could showcase their works. “This is the Philippines, we never run out of creatives, there’s so much happening on the ground, so many art activities and artists on the ground, and they have a place in the art scene so we brought in these incubator spaces,” said Lopa.

At Projects, a curated space on the fifth floor which was intended to set the tone for the rest of the fair, young Filipino artist, Jellyfish Kisses, more formally known as Anton Belardo, created a colorful, kitschy yet haunting installation with soft sculptured figures and objects in a fantastical rendering of a walk-in closet. The artist himself sat at a sewing machine within the installation, making additions to the work. Visitors were quite taken with the artwork, milling around to take selfies, photos and to meet the artist.

 

Dr. Joven Cuanang and Jellyfish Kisses at Art Fair Philippines 2020. Image courtesy of Art Fair Philippines.

 

Lopa noted that the fair seemed to possess a distinctly younger vibe this year. “The rest of the galleries also want to inject the fair with something new because I noticed they brought in less established names, and a different energy to this fair,” she said.

One such artist, presented by renowned Filipino art gallery Silverlens Galleries, was American artist James Clar. He showcased a rather surprising immersive installation involving light and water in a small tent-like space near the entrance of the fair on the fifth floor. More visitors could be found checking out this installation than the special project booth featuring artwork by iconic American conceptual artist Sol LeWitt next to it.

 

James Clar, Noise Field, 2020, detail shot. Installation view at Art Fair Philippines 2020. Image courtesy of Silverlens.

 

Gallery director Isa Lorenzo reported that sales for the gallery were up by 30 per cent for this edition. She also observed that the art scene in the Philippines is “very curious to learn about new artists,” proving the current obsession with young and new in the art world is also true for local-centric fairs in Southeast Asia.

Artist-run Eskinita Art Gallery reported their solo show by 38-year-old artist Jojit Solano at the fair was sold out, with many collectors still on queue for his visually and conceptually macabre, Catholicism inspired artworks. Their group show, “Tuklas,” featuring works by younger artists from a discovery and mentoring program was also 70 per cent sold.

 

Installation view of Jojit Solano’s work at the booth of Eskinita Art Gallery during Art Fair Philippines 2020. Image courtesy of Eskinita Art Gallery.

 

It is worth noting that according to industry insiders, Manila galleries typically pre-sell before the fair itself, tapping on their pre-existing relationships with local collectors. This is also one of the reasons the fair seemed relatively unfazed by the travel restrictions and adverse commercial impact caused by the recent outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus.

“I saw a decline in the number of foreign visitors this year especially from Singapore and Malaysia. Yet somehow the sales were still good or even better than last year—most of our buyers are still Filipinos,” observed Filipino artist Alfredo Esquillo Jr. who runs Eskinita Art Gallery.

Even regional young artists such as Iabadiou Piko, who was presented by Nunu Fine Art, a contemporary art gallery from Taipei, Taiwan, and Mono8 Gallery from Manila, Philippines, sold out his works showcasing an unmistakable graffiti style confined on a canvas yet imbued with an uncanny creative freedom.

 

Installation view of Iabadiou Piko’s work at the booth of Nunu Fine Art during Art Fair Philippines 2020. Image courtesy of Nunu Fine Art.

 

As much new and diverse art and programming AFP included in its expanded edition, and as distinctively local as it was, the signs of an art fair as an exhausted, overdone and dated commercial platform of our times were still visible. Fair attendance for this edition was around the same as the past three years at approximately 29,000 visitors over three days. Given the youthful energy of the fair, the rise in social media engagement was disappointingly marginal, with an increase of 4000 followers on Instagram and 6000 followers on Facebook. A seasoned collector who visited the fair in Manila described it as “good, but not great.”

When did we start settling for good instead of great in the art world? It is sorely time for reinvention, and where better to start than at the local and regional level.

 

 


 

Reena Devi Shanmuga Retnam is a Singaporean arts journalist and critic who writes for regional and international media such as ArtAsiaPacific (HK), Hyperallergic (NY) and Artsy (NY). Previously she was a full-time reporter with Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore and TODAY newspaper (SG), breaking stories and exploring issues such as leadership, race, funding and censorship in the Singapore arts scene.

 

 

 
Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply