2017 has been another successful year for the Philippine Art Events, Inc. A project of theirs that started in 2013, Art Fair Philippines has grown exponentially since the first year. This event that began as a way for galleries and artists to gather together to showcase their work has not only attracted potential buyers, but also art enthusiasts, curious people, as well as social media-addicted teenagers.
The event was held on the 5th, 6th, and 7th floors of The Link in Makati. The 5th floor was used mainly for sponsors whereas the 6th floor was where the galleries were. Talks were held on the 7th floor. Each of the galleries curated the best work from their inventory to showcase in their exhibits. Often you would find either the owner or the manager of the gallery there to assist you, and if you were lucky, you would even find some artists in the area.
The exhibit hall was also used for installations, not necessarily owned by galleries. Some spaces were used by the artists themselves to showcase their work.
What was also notable about the Art Fair was the presence of international galleries, most of them from Asia. Osaka-based gallery YOD x Kogure displayed some of the finest works from acclaimed Japanese artists such as Yayoi Kusama and Nobuyoshi Araki, while also showcasing the work of more contemporary Japanese artists like Takuro Sugiyama. Some of the pieces they were selling were only prints, yet they still carried a hefty price tag.
The highlight from this gallery were the rare pieces of artworks by Yayoi Kusama from the 90s and 80s. A few were priced at around 1.5 million Php while others went as far as 10 million Php.
Another foreign gallery displaying their works in the Art Fair was the Michael Janssen Gallery from Berlin. Despite being a German gallery, none of the work they showcased during the Art Fair were created by European artists; all of the artworks were made by Asian artists, a majority being Filipino artists.
The gallery’s manager, Nikolai Kleist Burkal, said that they made sure to choose the pieces made by Asian artists for the Art Fair. He said that Filipino art still lacks exposure in the international market and not a lot of galleries outside of the country carry the works of Filipino artists. What characterizes the Philippine art scene, he said, is the “more informal and relaxed” environment, something that appealed to the foreign galleries.
Practically all of the artworks displayed were Asian, but hidden amongst all the paintings and installations were two photographs by one of the most iconic American photographers in history. One gallery displayed a few prints of vintage photographs, two of which were prints of Man Ray’s most famous portraits of French model Kiki de Montparnasse, Le Violon d’Ingres and Noire et Blanche (the original photograph is currently on display in The Museum of Modern Art in New York).
The popularity of the Art Fair (especially among the youth) showed that art in the Philippines is no longer something that is exclusive and elitist. The Art Fair is becoming more popular each year with attendance increasing each year. Are more people slowly opening up to appreciating the arts? Or is the Art Fair becoming more popular because people want to get more likes on social media?
A significant amount of onlookers were there to pose for pictures rather than appreciate the art being displayed. You couldn’t miss those millennials who posed “candidly” against an “Instagrammable” backdrop, asking friends to photograph them, and be preoccupied by their photos rather than the artwork. One can argue that it’s not the “proper” way to view art, but one can also say that this is a start that can lead to a greater appreciation for culture.
At least art is more accessible to the public now. Maybe not everybody can appreciate it as well as the experts can, but the popularity of the Art Fair clearly shows that people are valuing the arts now more than ever. Regardless of whether people consume art the “proper” way or not, at least the arts are being acknowledged, and that in itself is a very good thing.
Photos 3, 4, and the last two were taken by Almira Tenioso, Let it B’s artiste extraordinaire. All the rest were taken by Kai Lauridsen.