PHILIPPINE INDEPENDENT ART SPACES FUNDING
In a recent Philippine Star article, Clarissa Chikiamco, a Manila-based art writer and independent curator, discussed the current difficult funding situation affecting Filipino independent art spaces, which parallels similar issues that arose in the Philippines fifty years ago.
Squeezed between “commercial gallery apparatus” and the “supposed behemoths of institutions”, independent art spaces, also called “artists-run or alternative”, are crucial for contemporary art as they “provide a more accessible environment ripe of the speculative”. However, as Chikiamco points out, three areas contribute to the inevitable fate of closure for independent art spaces.
Day-to-day expenses a struggle
First, lack of stable funding means that day-to-day expenses for these spaces are the most difficult to find.
Operational costs are the basic necessities which funding institutions nearly always shy away from, preferring instead to back output-type undertakings such as events or publications. Without stable funding time tick-tocks on the expiration date of these spaces, just like the legendary Philippine Art Gallery 50 years ago, need money ‘to pay for the light’.
Funding structure of NCCA needs a revamp
Second, Clarissa Chikiamco explains that the funding structure of the National Commission of Culture and the Arts (NCCA) needs to be re-examined. The strong case in point is Green Papaya Art Projects, an art space invited to attend the 2010 edition of “No Soul for Sale” at the Tate Modern, which aimed to showcase the “most exciting non-for-profit centres, alternative institutions and underground enterprises”. Each invited group had to secure their own funding to participate. Green Papaya’s request for funding to the NCCA was denied, strangely because the event wasn’t in the “list of prestigious international event”. Chikiomco notes that incidents like this reflect a deeper problem:
The schism between the NCCA and the community seems to have gotten wider in recent years, the government having an increasingly notorious reputation as a consistently unreliable source of support for the arts. Support in tangible materials is obviously in short supply but it goes beyond that to demonstrate a demoralizing lack of appreciation and understanding of the government of its country’s art scene.
Private support not an alternative
Third, Chikiamco states that private support, as a strong alternative to government funding in countries where the latter is declining, cannot be depended on in the Philippines. The few businesses that support the arts are more concerned with name branding; company-sponsored art competitions are the major form of participation these businesses take.
She then explores ways to improve the Philippine art funding challenge. There is a need to channel funds and good intentions for the arts to meet the basic needs of the art scene. A spirit of philanthropy is needed, while the sponsorship practice must be professionally branded so that corporations are properly recognised. Private support can come in many forms: bequests given to museums, travel grants, residencies for local artists to exhibit abroad, or simply covering the overhead expenses for independent art spaces.
Clarissa Chikiamco ends the article on an inspiring note:
Grounded in concrete resources and a healthy sense of reality, an art scene can — and will — only progress as far as our vision can take us.
Philippine independent art spaces profiled
Founded in 2000 by Norberto Roldan and Donna Miranda, Green Papaya Art Projects is the longest running independently run creative multidisciplinary platform in the Philippines. Its mission is to support and organise actions and propositions that explore tactical approaches to the production, dissemination, research and presentation of contemporary practices in varied artistic fields. It was the only Filipino group invited to “No Soul for Sale“ in 2010, billed by The New York Times as “the Olympics of nonprofit groups”.
Aiming to be at the forefront of Filipino contemporary art, mag:net has been a café, magazine/book/music/film store, exhibition space and a performance hub for many emerging local artists since the early 2000s. mag:net has eleven offshoots in Manila today, hosting exhibitions, film screenings, music and poetry readings and artist talks.
Over the years, their nicely run café business enables the gallery to stay independent and sustainable. Along with their carefully curated weekly changing events, this explains mag:net GALLERY’s successful management compared to other artist run spaces in the Phillipines and elsewhere.
Established in 2006 in Manila, Silverlens Foundation is a grant-awarding body for photography artists. It provides professional and financial support for these artists through completion, acquisition, and exhibition. The Foundation is currently establishing a lending collection of contemporary photography and reference library relevant to the Philippines. It also regularly organises art talks, film screenings, lectures and slide shows.
Surrounded by Water and Big Sky Mind
The two pioneering artist run independent spaces in the Philippines were Surrounded by Water and Big Sky Mind, founded in 1998 and 1999 respectively by Wire Tuazon and Ringo Bunoan.
They both formed a close-knit artists’ community and invited their artist friends to exhibit and congregate. The goal of these spaces was to promote contemporary art by engaging in dialogues, encouraging innovation and diversity in art and supporting young and less established artists. Artists who passed through these two doors often became noteworthy characters in the Manila art scene.
Both spaces are defunct now, as both artists’ agenda deviated after they moved into the “mainstream”. Bunoan works with Asia Art Archive while still working on her art. Tuazon is working on his paintings for important art centres in Asia, organising festivals, and curating exhibits.
- Leading non-profit institutions gathered by Tate Modern for art event: Art Radar Asia lists Asian participants – July 2010
- Sa Sa Gallery and Art Project, new artist-run initiatives in Cambodia – July 2010
- Curator Valerie Doran on ‘Hope and Glory’ and challenges for Hong Kong art world – interview – May 2010
- Will Vietnamese non-profit art space Sàn Art shift the art scene from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh city? – interview Dinh Q Le – December 2009
- Property companies splurge on art in Hong Kong, recent trend – June 2009
- Chinese artist-run spaces rise up again? – May 2009