The Philippines’ national art fair, ManilaArt opened its doors once again for the 10th consecutive year in October. The fair was the highlight of the Museums & Galleries Month organized by the National Commission on culture and the Arts.
This year’s theme “Ang Arte ng Pilipinas” (The Philippines is artsy) highlighted the varied creative talents of the Filipinos. The fair was buzzing with activity, from poetic readings, to art talks, to musical performances, dance and lessons from the art masters.
A teaser on the weeks leading to the opening was launched in partnership with the Manila Bulletin titled the “Hatch” where participating artists were asked to paint a giant egg which were strategically placed around the mall where people can view and enjoy them. This served as preview on what to expect at this year’s fair.
Stepping in to the venue hall I thought I was in the wrong place. Compared to my first visit last year, this year I was impressed at the improvements the organization had made. The galleries were carefully vetted and selected by the committee and the works of each artist were thoughtfully curated which made a big impact on the fair. It was professionally organized and managed giving it an ambiance well suited to compete with other international art fairs.
Walking around there was an exciting vibe…it was fresh…it was cool…it was hip! The place was wall to wall full of people admiring the art and scooping up works that spoke to them. At the opening night several galleries had already sold out of their art long before cocktails were over.
Artists Kublai Milan, Danny Rayos del Sol and Agi Pagkatipunan from Mindanao (the southern Philippine region) were chosen to represent the regional art section of the fair.
In every corner I turned, I was greeted by stunning artworks like the abstract glass sculptures of Marge Organo created with optical glass with pieces of gold leaf. Striking huge acrylic paintings by Reen Barera do evoke the same basic forms that he created in three dimensions; moving figures made of resin, wood, metal and cloth was pretty much a continuation of the sculpture series he presented last year. Hermes Alegre’s imposing large scale oil on canvas “Foliage” series featuring the essence of the Filipina as a woman of the earth and nature, mystery and beauty were just grand! The opulent canvases are a hybrid of genres, encompassing portraiture, surrealism and still life, amongst others.
I was surprised to see an art performance that was part of “The Memory Maker’s Boudoir” where Janella Marie Ibay is seen representing the Goddess of Memory, Mnemosyne and her retinue. The Memory Maker’s Boudoir was curated by surrealist Gromyko Semper. Paintings, sculptures and installations abound by Isobel Francisco, Cozy Cozythrias, Kat Malazarte, Ben John Lincod, Rachel Anne Lacaba, Ginoe Ojoy, JC Peñaflorida, Roman Padilla, Herminio Tan, Angelo Padilla and Maria Magdamit. Video installation by Ali Alejandro.
Most of all I was blown away by the artist Wilfredo N. Offemaria Jr. and his “Visita” series, a thought provoking work in a secular way…he uses old school religious mediums incorporated with hipster type branding and innuendo creating a dialogue that millennials can understand. It was like walking in a religious bookstore with icons who know they’re being watched and they look back at you. A particular installation called my attention, Offemaria’s “What is your why?”, a quasi-tabernacle that had a little contraption blowing out floral scented fragrance to create a church-like atmosphere thus making the whole space appeal to your sense of sight and smell, and makes you linger just a little while longer….it was brilliant!
It was refreshing to see works of masters and emerging artists together in a mix of contemporary, modern paintings and even installation in one place and in a way that makes sense.
Judging by the number if art pieces missing from the walls on the last day and the number of sticker dots that covered some of the booths, I’d say the art market in the Philippines is booming. The collectors are finding great works to add to their collections and the buyers are definitely buying up a storm.
Although ManilaArt is a proud supporter of Filipino artists and Filipino collectors proudly stand and support their countrymen, it would be a big boost for global exposure to invite international galleries and artists to participate in future editions. Opening up the fair to the international art scene would help bring awareness at how exceptionally talented Filipino artists are. – Nestlie Hermes