Back for a second year running, is Art Fair Philippines proof that the Filipino contemporary art market is finally maturing?
The 2014 edition of Art Fair Philippines, taking place from 20 to 23 February 2014, is the country’s second contemporary art fair launched in recent years. But is there truly a need for a second fair? Trickie Lopa, one-third of Art Events Inc organisers of Art Fair Philippines, makes the case for one of the country’s youngest art events.
Following a successful inaugural run, Art Fair Philippines is back at the Link Carpark in Makati, the country’s financial district, from 20 to 23 February 2014. This year, the fair is even bigger, taking over another floor of its makeshift art venue and adding more galleries, including international Southeast Asian galleries. The fair will also feature seven solo exhibitions in comparison to last year’s three. To top it all off, international auction house Christie’s will be hosting art lectures as part of their Art Forum series.
Artists featured in the special exhibitions are:
- Louie Cordero
- Jose Santos III
- Rodel Tapaya
- Pio Abad
- Marina Cruz
- Benedicto “BenCab” Cabrera
- Ronald Ventura
The Filipino art market
The past decade has been an exciting period for Filipino art, as support structures and opportunities for artists have grown steadily. A number of Filipino artists have also been making noise on the Southeast Asian art market.
The growing interest has led to general enthusiasm for contemporary art, giving birth to the country’s first international art fair in 2008, ManilART. Last year, Art Fair Philippines followed suit.
Trickie Lopa, Co-founder of Art Fair Philippines, spoke to Art Radar about the developing taste for the arts in the Southeast Asian archipelago and why the young market needs a second fair.
The story so far
What motivated you and your partners to start Art Fair Philippines?
Because of my involvement with the arts and the artists, I’ve always had this dream and I think I share this with my two partners, to make the local art more visible, to make it more top-of-mind in terms of mainstream audience here in the Philippines.
We are very creative people, I should say, but our visual art hardly gets any recognition in the mainstream. It’s funny, because Filipino artists are making in-roads throughout Southeast Asia, but to the local Filipino professional names like Ronald Ventura or Geraldine Javier don’t really resonate, and they should because they are doing great things.
As you know, every city basically has an art fair at the moment. Of course, we are never going to be as sleek as Art Basel Hong Kong or Art Stage Singapore. But our art scene isn’t like that anyway. Our art scene is ‘make-do’, a bit edgy. That is why we thought about having it in the middle of the city, in the middle of a commercial centre, in an unconventional venue which is a carpark.
Would you say the inaugural Art Fair Philippines 2013 was successful?
Last year was our first and it was really geared towards local audiences. [Our mission] was two-pronged: we wanted local audiences to develop their eye or their affinity for the local contemporary art scene. We also wanted the fair to serve as the venue where those interested in Filipino art can come to every year to see what is happening.
We had very good feedback from the fair last year. It was small, but it had a lot of energy and the venue worked; that was really three-fourths of our problem last year, trying to get an accessible venue ready.
How would you describe last year’s commercial results?
[The results] for the galleries were tremendous. They underestimated the response. The people were willing to buy. In fact, a typical complaint of people who went was: “But… there’s nothing left.” We have some galleries this year that are going to be changing their hangings in the middle of the fair, because they are already foreseeing that people are going to be coming not just once but twice there.
Of course, it’s a commercial venture for the galleries. For them, to continue participating in the fair, definitely there is a commercial aspect to the fair. But what we are [also] trying to say is that, because it is a very young fair and also because in general it is only in the last two or three years that contemporary art is entering into the consciousness of the typical Filipino professional, we also see this as a way to educate and to expose.
An art scene comes of age
Why has the Filipino contemporary art market taken a long while to develop?
Perhaps in more developed countries, going to museums seeing art, going to galleries is very normal. It’s not something extraordinary. Here in a country like ours, art has not taken priority in the community. Because we are involved in third world problems, I suppose, art is not a priority. But maybe it’s about time that it enters the national psyche – that people see that it has a place in our cultural life. That it should not be so extraordinary to look at art or to be moved by art, to see art that you like or you don’t like.
Could you talk about the recent rise in interest in Filipino contemporary art? Are international or local collectors buying? What genre of art or which artists are popular?
I think it’s recent, because when things started to become more organised, when structures started getting built, that’s when you could see that people became more interested and more immersed in the local art scene. Things were happening simultaneously in maybe the last ten years.
We started Art in the Park 2006, Christie’s started doing Southeast Asian auctions in Hong Kong in 2005. We had young names doing well in the Southeast Asian auction scene, names like Ronald Ventura and Geraldine Javier. Names like that started to make waves in the auction scene. This was typical of the last decade.
Before, we only saw galleries limited to a strip in the mall. Then you had galleries popping up all over the city. Galleries that were really putting together programmes, not just spaces to sell art. They represent artists and organise shows around these artists. They join art fairs aboard. So, it sort of all came together.
Something like the Ateneo Art Awards, which is ten years old this year, it started in 2004. That also brought attention to young artists, rather than the old established names. All these things contributed to focusing attention to young artists and helped the local art scene to flourish.
So, would you say that there is more interest in the young emerging names rather than the classic, already established artists?
You know what, yes and no. There’s more interest in the young emerging artists, but at the same time you could see in the auction results that big names still command top prizes, names like [Vicente Manansala], Fernando Zobel or Ang Kiukuk, these names still resonate with collectors.
That’s why we talk of a bit of a boom, because it cuts across all names.
In an interview with Interaksyon magazine, you were quoted as saying: “I think the more art fairs there are, the better it will be for the art community“. A year after the launch of the fair, could you already talk about the impact of Art Fair Philippines in the country’s art market?
I don’t know, because I don’t think there’s anybody keeping track in terms of statistics or any art figures or anything like that. But this much I can say, last year, I guess the art year started with AFP in February, then you had the auctions. The local auction houses had record results in March. And that was consistent throughout the year.
After that we had Art in the Park, which runs in March, and we had our most attended Art in the Park ever. I would like to think that we help contribute in making people more open to collecting art.
I would like to think that having the fair kick off the year had something to do with people taking more of an interest in contemporary art and collecting art. Of course, I don’t know for sure if we did, as I said we don’t have any facts to back that up.
AFP 2014: What sets it apart?
It’s difficult not to compare: how does Art Fair Philippines differ from ManilART, the country’s other fair, which launched in 2008?
We invite galleries ourselves. We invite those who we believe have regular programmes that support artists. We make sure that the galleries that we invite have regular programmes that we believe in. That’s one.
ManilART gets some government support from the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCAA). We don’t. This is entirely a private initiative which we do with the help from private corporations. The biggest one being, of course, the Ayala Group and Swatch for this year.
The other thing, we require our galleries to hire the service of a curator to put together exhibitions. And, I think that they [ManilART] don’t have special exhibits, which we have.
The fair takes place at the Link Carpark building located at the financial district of Makati. Why in a carpark?
We couldn’t find a venue. We were sure we wanted a fair in Makati, because this is the business and commercial district. It is highly accessible. It is easy for people to go there during their weekend. Unfortunately, we don’t have any venues in Makati – no convention cetnres, no exhibition halls. The most flexible building that we could convert was the carpark. So, it was born out of necessity.
It worked very well. It does mirror the art scene: it has an edgy, urban vibe, a little bit make-do, not so sleek.
How does this year’s fair differ from the previous one in terms of how it is organised and in terms of participating galleries and exhibitors?
This year, it’s a little bit bigger. Last year, we took over the sixth floor of the carpark and this year we’re taking over half of the seventh floor as well.
We have three more galleries that are regional galleries (Richard Koh Fine Art, Art Cube and TAKSU) not based in Manila. They are from around Southeast Asia although they will be exhibiting Filipino artists.
We’re very lucky, we also have Christie’s coming in with a lecture series under Christie’s Art Forum. The lecture series in house will go on during the fair hours.
Last year, we had three special exhibits. Meaning, we selected three artists to make work specifically for the fair. This year we have seven very exciting names.
Which gallery or exhibits are you most excited about, personally? Why?
I am especially looking forward to seeing the special exhibitors. [Recently], I did the rounds of the studios to see what the solo artists are coming up with. They were not quite finished yet, but I am very excited to see what the finished works will look like.
The solo exhibitions will focus on visual artists who present Philippine contemporary art to international audiences. Could you talk a bit about how these artists were chosen and what made their work stand out?
We wanted to choose artists we liked but who have also achieved critical and commercial recognition in the region. The artists that we invited all had experience doing shows outside the Philippines and have done very well in those shows.
BenCab is the most well-known of the lot and then there’s of course Ronald Ventura who is an auction superstar.
Could you talk about the presence of an institution like Christie’s and what they will add to the fair’s exploration of contemporary Filipino art practice?
Last year, Christie’s [representatives] came to take a look at the fair. I think that, because Filipino art does very well in their auctions, they realised that it would be to their advantage to get more involved in the scene here. Of course, we welcomed their participation because of the experts that they can fly in. It also supports our mission of educating people. They will be doing talks for people interested in art history and collecting.
Our goal is to make it an international standard fair and if an institution like this lends its support to a fair like ours, then we are on the road towards achieving that goal.
What topics will the Christie’s lecture series cover?
They will be doing two panel discussions. First, they will be sharing the stories of Filipino artists and then they will be doing another panel on the place of Filipino art in the international scene. They will also give an overview of twentieth century and contemporary Asian art, the collecting field and potential areas of growth in the years ahead, and they will also be doing an Andy Warhol lecture.
Will there be an Art Fair Philippines 2015, 2016 and more?
Of course, we are definitely talking of continuing on in the next years but, to be very honest, with all the work that we still have to do for 2014, I am not thinking about that yet.
There’s also Art in the Park that will happen on 23 March. That’s also getting bigger this year and we are working on that simultaneously. That’s a little more inclusive; we have local galleries, art schools, independent art groups coming in. Every work is worth PHP30,000 (USD670) and below, and that’s also getting bigger and bigger every year.
We started in 2006 with 12 galleries, we now have 57. It’s a very relaxed atmosphere and it’s a great place for people to learn about art. It’s like a treasure hunt and you never know what you’re going to find, which big name you’re going to find for under PHP30,000.
About Trickie Lopa
Trickie Lopa along with Lisa O. Periquet and Dindin B. Araneta make up Art Events Inc, which organises Art Fair Philippines and Art in the Park. Trickie is also an art writer, launching and running Manila Art Blogger from 2008 up until 2012. Her involvement in the arts has been motivated by the desire to make the local art scene more visible and make the arts more mainstream in Manila.
- 6 Southeast Asian artists to watch in 2014 – curator Louis Ho’s predictions – January 2014 – Louis Ho picks six emerging Southeast Asian artists
- Christie’s “The Era of Asia” evening sale: Hong Kong gallerists predict trends – November 2013 – Christie’s Hong Kong evening sale totalled HKD934.9 million (USD121.2 million), the highest ever total for the house’s Hong Kong operations
- Filipino artists you need to know now – The Spot – July 1013 – March Chavez of Spot.ph stirs debate with his list of top up and coming Filipino artists
- Future Philippine artscape: Shifting direction for Manila art museum – Philstar interview – March 2013 – the Metropolitan Museum of Manila’s president Tina Colayco and curator Dr Patrick Flores talk about the future of Filipino contemporary art
- Sotheby’s success with contemporary Philippine artists at autumn 2012 auctions – October 2012 – Filipino artists prove popular at Sotheby’s fall 2012 Modern & Contemporary Southeast Asian Paintings sale in Hong Kong
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