by Kaye O’Yek
Images by Pinggot Zulueta
On April 2, Sunday, Jaime Velasquez Park in Salcedo Village, Makati City was transformed from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. into this year’s Art in the Park with white tents, booths, tables, mats, toys, sculpture pieces, installations, pottery, paintings, photographs, prints, and all things related to art. Collectors and enthusiasts alike arrived way before the gates opened, raring to pounce on their choice pieces.
For the galleries and artists, preparations for Art in the Park started as early as February, right after Art Fair Philippines. It wasn’t unusual to see Facebook posts of artist friends captioned “My piece for AITP 2017” during the weeks leading to the event date, showing how excited they were to take part in one of the most inclusive gatherings of local artists and art lovers. Where else can you ooh and aah at astonishingly inexpensive artworks with the smell of mouthwatering burger patties and lethal alcoholic drinks in the air, while children wave animal-shaped cotton candy and jazz music plays in the background? That has become a common scenario at Art in the Park, year after year.
Art in the Park has been around since 2006, offering a sizeable gathering of galleries, art schools, independent art spaces, and collectives for the Philippines’ most significant affordable art fair. Now on its 11th edition, participants have grown from 12 booths to 56, with the gallery roster boasting of notable local spaces from 1335 MABINI to Ysobel Art Gallery. It is considered significant, because there are no run-of-the-mill artworks to be found. Even the most well-known artists create works specifically for the event. It is called affordable, because there is a price cap of P50,000 for all the artworks, perfectly practical for a budding art collector’s first acquisition.
Art in the Park has raised about R12 million for The Museum Foundation of the Philippines, its main beneficiary, since 2007. These have been used to help fund the foundation’s various projects, which for this year include The Handi Project, an initiative to bring elementary school children from Kiangan, Ifugao to their own museums—Kiangan National Museum Branch, Ifugao Peace Museum and World War II Shrine; encoding and digitizing the works of Julio Nakpil in support of the Bahay Nakpil-Bautista Foundation, Inc.; and MACEDA@100, a modular art and music exhibit to celebrate National Artist for Music Jose Maceda’s 100th birth anniversary. The Museum Foundation booth also offered prints of Kumpas, Mark Justiniani’s digital drawing specially made for this year’s event, and a whimsical installation of the AITP bird from Art in the Park’s distinctive logo in various guises—customized, limited-edition resin versions by artists organized by Secret Fresh Gallery.
A well-rounded representation of artists young and old graced the event, hanging around the booths where their artworks were on display, ready for spontaneous conversations and selfies with buyers and passersby. Agos Kulay Maynila’s booth was one of those that offered quick portrait sketches of guests and patrons en plein air for as low as P100, adding to the art flea market vibe. Jonahmar Salvosa, president of the group, said that: “This is a good opportunity for senior artists to interact with a new generation of art enthusiasts, as well as to serve as an alternative venue from our usual watercolor workshops at the Ayala Museum.” Students from FEATI, FEU, and TUP exhibited their works and mingled with the crowd, some starstruck by the presence of their art idols holding beers and trading studio stories. Nineveh Artspace from Laguna, Gallery Orange from Bacolod and VIVA ExCon from the Visayas showed the best of their collections, not to be outdone by the inventory of galleries based in Manila.
For some Art in the Park enthusiasts, going to the event has become quite the family tradition. Jeni Villaraza, creative soul and supermom of two, makes an annual AITP family day part of her busy schedule: “It’s like one big reunion. You see a lot of familiar faces. Aside from artist friends who have booths, we also have some of our relatives participating. Last year, Tito Allan Cosio did live sketching for Avellana Gallery. It’s a great place to catch up and see friends and family,” while enjoying her yearly tradition of mojito and fishballs from Windows Cafe, no less, and letting her daughter play with other kids at the park’s jungle gym after a tour of the booths.
If this year’s record 14,000 visitors have their way, they’ll probably want Art in the Park held several times a year, displaying the renewed energy now prevailing in the Philippine art scene as demonstrated by huge crowds attending the country’s few substantial art fairs. But as it is, Art in the Park has unofficially become the takeoff point for art lovers of all shapes, bank account sizes, and wall space who would like to take a plunge into the exciting and lucrative world of collecting and appreciating art, furthering the organizers’ goals of contributing toward expanding the audience for Philippine contemporary art. All of this on one Sunday, once a year.