Trying to work out the best way to get around Metro Manila’s spread out art scene? Rock Drilon, artist, owner of Mag:net Gallery in Quezon City and an avid biker, had the idea of bringing together two of his loves in 2011 in a four part series of city gallery tours called ARTBike.

Rock Drilon addresses participants of the second ARTBike leg at Bonifacio High Street, Taguig City, Philippines. Photo by Carmela Lapena. Image courtesy GMA News Online.

“ARTBike is a Mag:net initiative to promote biking and bike facilities like bike lanes [on public roads] and to integrate it with art,” Drilon told Art Radar in an email interview. Despite a recent bill to mandate bicycle lanes which is being filed in the Philippine Congress, Manila remains a bike unfriendly metropolis almost devoid of these special lanes and with the added issue of poor air quality.

Map of the ARTBike tour series, 2011. Image courtesy Rock Drilon.

ARTBike participants along Katipunan Avenue, Quezon City, Philippines. Photo by Raven Cycles. Image courtesy Rock Drilon.

At the same time, Drilon wanted to promote awareness of the burgeoning art scene in Manila, and he organised these tours with the participation of gallery owners. “Gallery owners are informed in advance,” he says. “In most cases, [they] provide refreshments, and sometimes exhibiting artists are asked to take part in a question-and-answer session.”

Artist Peewee Roldan meets ARTBike participants at Green Papaya Art Projects, Quezon City, Philippines. Photo by Philip William Mendoza. Image courtesy Rock Drilon.

While ARTBike draws between 70 and 100 participants each time, Drilon wants bikers to make this a monthly habit on their own. He says, “We encourage small groups to [take bicycle tours] on their own by using suggested routes. This can be done on a regular basis because exhibits change every three to four weeks.” The number of participants of the main tours, though, grows every time by 20 to 30 percent. “[We draw] artists, art lovers, bikers, expats and foreigners (the number grows every time), media people, and bike advocates,” he adds. In addition, Drilon tells us that the bike tours can include other attractions like historic sites and parks.

ARTBike participants at the National Museum, Manila, Philippines, in front of 'Spoliarium' by Juan Luna, circa 1884. Photo by Nitya Saulo. Image courtesy Rock Drilon.

One the media people mentioned above was writer Carmela Lapena, who joined the second ARTBike tour that covered the prominent Pasong Tamo cluster of galleries. In her article for the site GMA News Online, she recounted the experience of travelling from gallery to gallery. She was also delighted to speak with a fellow biker with whom she could share her experience. Jean Paul Zialcita, an artist and drummer who, with his wife Nina Terol, took part in the tour, is quoted as praising the experience: “Whether it’s biking or drumming, there’s a groovy aspect to it. There are alternatives.”

Jean Paul Zialcita performs a water bottle jam at Gallery NOW. Photo by Lumac Manlapaz. Courtesy of Rock Drilon.

The fourth leg of ARTBike was the last for 2011 due to late year rains; Drilon plans to resume the tour series with a visit to the Pinto Gallery in Antipolo and other out-of-town art spaces. He promotes the tours through Facebook event pages for ARTBike, and word gets out quickly through other online channels.

ARTBike participants at Manuel Ocampo's Department of Avant-Garde Cliches, Makati City, Philippines. Photo by Romeo Lee. Image courtesy Rock Drilon.

Of course, this is not a new concept. For Art Month Sydney 2011, for example, event organisers put together a series of bike tours, called ARTCycle. Each week, a different cluster of art spaces in Sydney is explored with a tour guide and, as the blog [Art]iculate notes, “each [tour] is flavoured by the individual personality of the ARTcycle leader“.

In other Asian cities with an art scene and friendlier spaces for bicycles, what would a bike tour be like? Have you ever been on one? Share your stories with us in the comments section below.


Related Topics: Filipino artists, art in Manila, art tourism

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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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