MenagerieWriter’s Recap: Art Fair Philippines 2017
Writer’s Recap: Art Fair Philippines 2017

Now on its fifth year, Art Fair Philippines sets its sights on some of the country’s busiest locations, opting for countless extensive multi-media installations, exhibits, and talks around multiple spots in the metro rather than the much more insular and distilled hubs that housed a few paintings and sculptures in its previous iterations. Homes to Art Fair Philippines this year are The Link Carpark and the Ayala Museum in Makati, and the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design in Manila, among others.
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10 Days of Art

The bustling streets of Makati were turned into a cultural playground with the launch of “10 Days of Art”, a series of visual and cultural events held in different galleries, museums, and public spaces around the metropolis. From busker performances to mixed-media installations sprawled across the vicinity, art made its way beyond the confined walls of a museum, transforming the city’s gray facade into a vibrant, urban wonderland.

One of the highlights of this year’s 10 Days of Art was the Southeast Asian premiere of James Nares’ highly anticipated video installation, Street, which was featured on an installed video screen at the Ayala Triangle Gardens. Street is a 61-minute film that takes you into the concrete landscape of New York as it captures people from all walks of life going about their daily lives. Shot at a slow motion frame rate of 780 fps, the film is able to vividly capture every gesture and facial expression of the passers-by, creating a mesmerizing experience that makes one stop and appreciate the beauty of humanity in all its complexity.

Allison Wong David’s mixed-media installation, Refuge, set up in the Jamie Velasquez Park in Salcedo, was another crowd favorite that piqued visitors’ curiosity. The portable installation consisted of two stainless steel boxes connected to each other by a narrow passage. By creating an interesting exterior but leaving the space within the box empty, the artist invites people to stop, take a pause from the daily rush, and be in the moment.

Pete Jimenez’s sculptures Bumper-to-Bumper and Sampaguita, which were sprawled along the Legazpi patio, made several passers-by stop in their tracks either to take a quick selfie or appreciate the sculptures and their whimsical designs. Made from everyday, ubiquitous materials, Jimenez defies the conventional by deconstructing functional objects into art pieces that complement the landscaped space. Meanwhile Charlie Co’s Bombarded, which was displayed in the fashion walk in Greenbelt 5, is a surreal interpretation of war and the state it leaves society in. From the mangled doll beneath the rubble to the balloons with cartoon-like sinister faces on them, it’s the minor details and the symbolism behind them that make the installment so compelling.

 

Exhibits

There were three floors filled with galleries in every nook and cranny of The Link’s parking space. The view was almost overwhelming; there were hundreds of viewers staring at artworks hung in blank walls. Some were merely looking at the art with fixed gazes and examining faces. Some were taking picture of and with the art, making people wonder–did they go for the art or for the hype? Regardless, the value of the artwork was never lost. Art Fair Philippines featured some notable exhibits that have become favorites of art lovers.

Perhaps one of the most interesting exhibits that captured everyone’s attention upon entering the sixth floor was WSK’s exhibit.  The sonic artists put together Wall of Sound, an interactive installation that involved the use of static electricity to create sounds through touching metal sheets. Aside from that, WSK made political installations such as wireframe illustrations recreating the scandal of Marcos and his mistress, Dovie Beams.

Other crowd favorites include YOD projects, which featured Japanese artists such as Yoshitomo Nara and Yayoi Kusama, and Tin-aw Art Gallery’s A Wall Project, which included Lyna Garcellano’s artwork that has nothing but empty square borders. This amusing piece mocks how some audiences see art.

Art Fair Philippines also introduced artists such as Agnes Arellano, exhibiting her female celestial sculptures modeled from her own body, and Maria Zoleta, whose exhibit resembled a teenager’s room with bright neon lights and pink walls—incorporating pop culture and sexual themes. Other featured artists included Dex Fernandez who flashed his artworks with a projector.

 

Talks

Held at the Roofdeck at The Link Carpark were some of the talks, which allowed for much needed meaningful discourse on the broad, almost ineffable subject that is art. Notable among these talks was one entitled A conversation with art sociologist Sarah Thornton held last January 17. Hosted by the art critic Alexandra Seno, the conversation revolved around Dr. Thornton’s books, Seven Days in the Art World and 33 Artists in 3 Acts, but ended up serving as a kind of gateway into the esoteric world of art and its intersections with commerce, sociology, and politics, among others.

The art world in relation to the art market and globalization was the central theme in the back-and-forth between the two women, who were both hopeful about and critical of the role of art in society. Seno asked Thornton at one point, “Why do you believe in art?” to which the latter opted for a relatively indirect response: “The art world is a bubble of beliefs. When we go to a museum, we choose what to believe in.”

Thornton, who was hailed by the Washington Post as the “Jane Goodall of the art world” is frank about both the practical purpose and the pretensions of art. She laments the lack of belief in contemporary art, while also acknowledging that it is, in some ways, part of arcane, elitist cultures. The enduring relevance of art, she argued, could be traced to something as personal as the need for individual recognition, or to something as wide-ranging and communal as the desire for justice and equality.

The candid and illuminating conversation was closed off with an open forum with Thornton, wherein, among other things, the future of contemporary art became the subject of debate, leaving the audience with much to ponder and talk about as the forum ended.

Held later that same day was Timeshift: Three Perspectives, presented by Lost Frames in Art Fair Philippines 2017, which included a screening of the works of the artists Roxlee, Kaloy Olivades, and Pauline/Ivan Despi. Other notable talks included Prof. Ambeth Ocampo’s discussion of the works of Philippine National Artist for Visual Arts Arturo Luz, and Singapore Art Museum’s Joyce Toh on how Philippine art is presented internationally.

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Ayala Museum Special

Not to be left out in all the fun and festivities was the breathtaking and eye-opening display of renowned Thai artist, Natee Utarit. Entitled The AltarPieces, Natee invokes the spiritual prowess of believers from two of the biggest religions in the world, Christianity and Buddhism. Despite associating himself with the latter, the Thai paint-slinger believed that art in itself transcends and cuts across socially constructed barriers such as religion. The certainty of the diffusion of the core tenets between the two religions was the inspiration behind masterpieces that involved universal issues such as death, injustice, and human suffering.

A somber and serious, yet harm-warming atmosphere greeted all those who entered the museum. With paintings that look awfully similar to those found in Catholic Churches, the artist thought of offering his interpretation of the world and its melting pot of diverse beliefs vividly displayed in his kaleidoscopic limelight of paint. Natee develops an abstract lens of Western religious assortment that is seen through an Asian perspective. The visual idioms tell the uniqueness embedded not just in the varied religious beliefs, but also in the contemporary events and the world itself filtered through the artist’s Buddhist views. According to Natee, the wide range of differing subject matters squeezed into different paintings are all works intended to examine and expose the nature of human identity, its rich distinctiveness, and its similarities.

 

An avant-garde spectacle

Once again, Art Fair Philippines set another show of magnificence, successfully putting into the light the broad sphere of whimsical impulse and variety that is art. The four-day art exhibition in Makati continually drew in hundreds and hundreds of visitors each day with lines almost clogging up the vicinity.

Lounging in a vast array of innovativeness and an avant-garde spectacle, the different stories of the world is set into spotlight through the use of paint and graphical figures sculpted by the hands of great innovators—with the hopes of showing and communicating the world’s vibrancy and color: That there is something more to life than just the usual and mundane seen in every day.