By Sara Grace C. Fojas
Video by Jaynus Barbee Olaivar and David Clarence Rivera
Images by Pinggot Zulueta
Known as the country’s premier platform for exhibiting and selling the best in modern and contemporary Philippine visual art, the sixth edition of Art Fair Philippines will not only make you proud of Philippine art but will open your eyes to the glimpse of reality found in the art objects of the featured artist.
The Link Ayala Center car park building was transformed into a multi-level exhibition space with a floor area totaling more than 13,000 sqm over several floors.
“Last year, we welcomed more than 40,000 visitors, and we’ve seen how the interest in Philippine contemporary art has grown. Our move to secure a bigger space and oversee access to the fair will allow us to enhance the viewing experience of our visitors and help ensure that artwork can be properly appreciated,” says Trickie Lopa, fair co-founder.
A total of 51 galleries, 36 of which are local, participated in the prestigious art fair. These include 1335MABINI, Altro Mondo Arte Contemporanea, Archivo 1984, Arndt, Art Cube Gallery, Art Lab: Atelier Cesare & Jean Marie Syjuco, Art Underground, Art Verité Gallery, Artemis Art, Artery Art Space, Artinformal, Asian Cultural Council / Leon Gallery, Avellana Art Gallery, blanc, Boston Art Gallery, Canvas, Cayón, Deck, Edouard Malingue Gallery, Everyday Impunity, Finale Art File, Fost Gallery, Gajah Gallery (Singapore/Yogyakarta), Galerie Anna, Galerie Stephanie, Galleria Duemila, Gallery Kogure Tokyo / NYC, Gallery Orange, J Studio, Kaida Contemporary, Mind Set Art Center, Mo_Space, Nunu Fine Art, Paseo Art Gallery, Pintô Art Museum, Salcedo Private View, Secret Fresh, Silverlens, Soka Art, Stpi, Taksu, The Crucible, The Drawing Room, Tin-Aw Art, Underground, Vinyl On Vinyl, Viva Excon, West Gallery, Yavuz Gallery, Yod + Kogure, and Ysobel Art Gallery.
From sculptures to paintings to installations, the artworks from the various galleries showcased the ingenious creativities of the artist tackling different topics from culture to mental health to government. There were also galleries that will take you beyond your imagination as if transporting you inside a novel you’ve read when you were just a little kid.
ART IN PHOTOGRAPHS
This year’s newest addition to the art fair is the ArtFairPh/Photo presented by Swiss private bank Julius Baer. The bank’s collection specializes in works by contemporary Swiss artists and pursues the concept of promising young talents.
The aim of this latest feature is to increase awareness for photography as a form of contemporary art and to expand its collectability among Filipinos. Photographs featured range from different subjects from the different angles of the society.
Carlo Gabuco, a Filipino painter, chose to put his brushes down for a while and get his camera to document the ongoing war on drugs in the country. In his booth, Everyday Impunity, you will find a wall containing around 600 photographs of the drug war inside a gas chamber. It’s called The Other Side of Town.
“We want to bring attention to the issue because even though it’s still going on, people may have forgotten about it and continue with their lives. We realize that art fair is the perfect venue to bring it back and let people talk about it. Every picture here is real life situations on the war on drugs and we wanted to put faces on the statistics that we see every day on the newspaper,” says co-exhibitor Juan Miguel Sobrepeña.
In the middle of the room is a chair with a bullet hole on it and when you sit on the chair, you will see on the wall the projected face of Christine, sharing how her father was shot while sitting on that very same chair.
Another noteworthy exhibit were the photos of Jake Versoza of The Last Tattooed Women of Kalinga. Versoza is the person behind the famous portrait of the oldest mambabatok (tattooist) Whang-od. His book The Last Tattooed Women of Kalinga is one of the eight books recently recognized by photo book publisher Gerhard Steidl.
“I did this project for five years. I grew up in Tuguegarao so I always see these women since I was child. That prompted to start the project, taking their photos while they are still there, the last generation of the Kalinga tattooed women,” says Versoza. “It’s really nice to have a photography section this year. It about time that photography, as an art, was appreciated here in the Philippines. Photography also has different medium, you can use it for documentary, for art, and many more.”
The fair also featured the works of the iconic 20th century press photographer Arthur Fellig or Weegee which presents a historical art of photojournalism. Weegee, a self-taught photographer, is most known for his stark black and white street photography that capture the sordid aftermath of street crime. He based his work around police headquarters in New York, selling his photos of news events to publications
Featuring exhibition prints from the 1930s to the 1940s, with loans from the collection of New York-based International Center of Photography (ICP), the selection provides a chapter in the historical arc of photojournalism. The works presented include a sampling of images that evidence the iconic photographer’s standard-setting eye for sensational images.
Neal Oshima, on the other hand, presents “Kin,” an exhibit of new works that pay visual tribute to Philippine tribes and indigenous traditions. He also works with curator Angel Velasco Shaw for another exhibit, “Provocations,” which intends to show a range of established and emerging documentary photographers.
ArtFairPH/Photo also features works of Filipino-Catalan photographer Eduardo Masferre, organized by 1335 Mabini. From 1934 to 1956, Masferre recorded in images the way of life of indigenous people of the Cordillera Mountains such as the Bontok, Kankana-ey, Kalinga, Gaddang, and Ifugao.
“With the interesting selection and body of works that will be presented in the inaugural year of ArtFairPH/Photo, we are excited to see how photography will continue to find its place in our local art scene,” said Lisa Periquet, one of the fair’s co-founders.
SPOTLIGHT ON THE SOCIAL REALISTS
Another highlight of the fair, ArtFairPH/Projects, are installation works by filmmaker Kidlat Tahimik, a group of three social-realist artists: Pablo Baen Santos, Antipas Delovato, and Renato Habulan, Cordillera-based artist Leonard Aguinaldo, conceptual artists Nilo Ilarde, Lyra Garcellano, and Alvin Zafra.
Tahimik’s WW3-the Protracted Kultur War is a juxtaposition of goddesses from two cultures: Inhabian, the Ifugao legend, weaving a bahag on her back strap loom as the gods tests her with wind tunnel gusts and Marilyn Monroe, Hollywood’ Goddess of Winds and her iconic windblown pose. The two are locked in World War III to get the focus of the indie filmmaker with his bamboo cam. The installation reopens the issues on how the local and the indigenous are sacrificed in favor of Hollywood myths.
Baen Santos, Delotavo, and Habulan’s Triad depicts the leftovers, the noise, and the waste in today’s society—the aftermath of conflict.
Baen Santos presents a painting deploying foul words and profanities used publicly by politicians, a riot of colorful graffiti and vulgarity. Delotavo constructs a coffin stacked with law books struck with the scale of justice that represents the killings prevalent today. Habulan portrays a panorama of war through pen and ink with an installation called Tira, or the aftermath of war.
“My installation looks like a tent for the refugees, but inside it are leftovers—things that are of no use anymore to carvers, or to the forest, remains from the war. This is initially about the relief-oriented people who only rely on the things given to them. There’s also tira or strike from the authorities. These are the remains of war and conflict,” says Habulan.
Baen-Santos, on the other hand, presents his “Estetiko ng Murahan,” a 35-foot vandalism secured by what seemed like a police tape in front of a crime scene, but if you look closely, you’ll see “crime sining (art)” written on it, instead of “crime scene.”
“My source of inspiration is the profanities or the words our public officials have been uttering even in public. It has contaminated the politicians and the citizens have responded using the same language. This is the first time I played around not minding so much about the figures but only composition colors and tonal values,” says Baen-Santos.
Beside Antipas’ Corpus Delecti or body of evidence, which is a coffin of law books struck by the scale of justice, are various head shots of men and women which he named John Doe or Jane Doe. These images can be the portraits of the criminals or the faceless bodies we see on the news every day.
LET’S TALK ABOUT ART
Supporting the fair’s educational component are ArtFairPH/Talks and ArtFairPH/Tours organized in conjunction with the Ateneo Art Gallery and the Museum Foundation of the Philippines respectively. Art Fair Philippines 2018 offered three talks on each of the four public fair days.
“This year, the opportunity to learn in Art Fair Philippines has also gotten bigger,” shares fair co-founder Dindin Araneta. “We’ve developed our educational thrust over the years to accommodate the growing and eager audience for this aspect of the fair.”
ALL THE FUN AND THE FEELS
But seriousness aside, Art Fair Philippines 2018 also presents artworks that will either give you the feels because of the emotions it portray or the nostalgia from your childhood.
Inside Nilo Ilarde’s booth are 24,124 hot wheels which he calls The Art Fair is Full of Objects, More or Less Interesting: I Wish to Add 24, 124 More. Ilarde indeed turned this parking lot into a playground filled with his precious toy cars.
Daniel dela Cruz, on the other hand, will bring you inside his whimsical mind in his Imaginarium, that contains his Cabinet of Curiosities, the Carnevalle, and the Tales of the Peculiar. It is filled with sculptures that formed in his magical mind.
At Yeo Kaa’s small booth are paintings of depression, peer pressure, or mental illness. One painting entitled Thank You for Understanding,” even says “Iyak ka ng iyak. Ang daming tao sa mundo may mas malaking problema tapos ikaw iiyak ka lang ng walang dahilan! Baliw! (You keep on crying. A lot of people have it worse than and yet you’re there crying for no reason! You’re crazy!)
The Art Fair Philippines is floors of international and local masterpieces you wouldn’t want to miss. The event is not just for collectors and art enthusiasts, but to every individual who deserves a dose of art for a few moments of their lives.
www.artfairphilippines.com; Instagram/@artfairph, and Facebook/artfairph
Tags: All the Art Feels, Angel Velasco Shaw, Art Fair Philippines, Artemis Art, Asian Cultural Council, Atelier Cesare, Baen Santos, Boston Art Gallery, contemporary art, Edouard Malingue Gallery, Eduardo Masferre, filmmaker Kidlat Tahimik, Fost Gallery, Gajah Gallery, International Center of Photography, Jean Marie Syjuco, Kaida Contemporary, León Gallery, Mind Set Art Center, Pablo Baen Santos, Philippine Art, Pintô Art Museum, Renato Habulan, West Gallery