Art Fair Philippines 2018 ran from 1 to 4 March at the Link Ayala Centre, Makati.
In its 6th year, the prestigious commercial fair highlighted photography as a forefront medium in a new segment titled ArtFairPH/Photo. Art Radar has a look at how this year’s event fared.
Founded in 2013, Art Fair Philippines (AFP) is the premier platform for exhibiting and selling the best in modern and contemporary Philippine visual art. The fair aims to mirror the vibrant local art scene and to generate support for Filipino art practitioners. Set in an “alternative urban venue” in Makati, AFP strives to make art accessible to enthusiasts and to those who want to discover one of Southeast Asia’s most exciting art landscapes. Co-founders Lisa Periquet, Trickie Lopa and Dindin Araneta have expanded AFP’s commercial arena in 2018, focusing more on locational pedagogy and politically-engaging narratives over purely decorative or collection-worthy aesthetics.
As such, the sixth rendition saw a total of 51 galleries and institutions, 36 of which were based in the Philippines, and included the renowned Singaporean art space DECK, Altro Mondo Arte Contemporanea, YOD Gallery, ART LAB, Kaida Contemporary, the Asian Cultural Council, Artinformal and many others. Trickie Lopa elaborates in the AFP 2018 press release:
Last year, we welcomed more than 40,000 visitors, and we’ve seen how the interest in Philippine contemporary art has grown. Our move to secure a bigger space and oversee access to the fair [allowed] us to enhance the viewing experience of our visitors and help ensure that artwork can be properly appreciated.
In addition to its esteemed presentation in years past and to increase awareness of photography as a form of contemporary art, AFP 2018 introduced a new section titled ArtFairPH/Photo, presented by Swiss private bank Julius Baer. The segment not only expanded local artists’ collectability among Filipino audiences, but also opened up dialogues about the propagation and distribution of Filipino art on a global scale – a reality officiated by wildly successful sales in both local and international markets.
ArtFairPH/Photo was headlined by a selection of photographs by 20th century press photographer Arthur Fellig, more popularly known as Weegee. Featuring his prints from the 1930s and 1940s on loan from New York’s International Centre of Photography (ICP), AFP elected to exhibit a grandiose chapter of historical photojournalism, namely the artist’s photographic research on the “sordid aftermath of street crime”. Weegee’s notorious black and white images led Philippine photojournalists Ezra Acayan and Raffy Lerma to capture distinct moments in the Philippine drug war. In conversation with ICP manager James Kopp, the artists contributed a critical introduction to the prominence and importance of photojournalism at the fair.
ArtFairPH/Photo also featured the work of Filipino-Catalan photographer Eduardo Masferre presented by the gallery 1335 Mabibi. Between 1934 and 1956, Masferre recorded in images the way of life of indigenous people of the Cordillera Mountains – Bontok, Gaddang, Ifugao Kalinga and Kankana-ey – thereby narrating landscapes and those histories with which the artist and his ancestors associate.
With the rise of television and digital technology, the photographers suggest a historical decline in the demand for published photography, a trend which has since found a new audience in art museums and commercial fairs. Putting these images into an exhibitionary setting places the work at the centre of a debate surrounding the power of photography and the photographer’s motivations. Their work raises questions of the journalistic role of the photograph today and offers alternative ways of seeing, recording and understanding the events and situations that shape the world in which we live. Lisa Periquet notes:
With the interesting selection and body of works that were presented in the inaugural year of ArtFairPH/Photo, we are excited to see how photography will continue to find its place in our local art scene.
The fair’s co-founders and curatorial team returned in 2018 with ArtFairPH/Projects, a comprehensive and intimate look at nine contemporary practitioners and collectives who are re-imagining a local Philippine art scene. One project executed by filmmaker Kidlat Tahimik sought to establish a distinct cinematic language straddling the personal and the political, thereby “essaying narratives that are uniquely his people’s own”.
Tahimik’s installations are a bid to project how cinema, as well as any other art form, carries the weight of borrowed myths, and simultaneously, how it becomes a “potent site for reclamation and self-invention”. This profound examination aligns itself with the Fair’s mission: to exemplify Filipino artists and their South Asian neighbours as more than just visual artists; they are researchers, activists and crusaders for self-improvement.
Among the impressive array of projects and galleries present at the 2018 fair, great interest was shown in YOD Gallery (Osaka) and Kaida Contemporary (Quezon City), both having exhibited multimedia work. Between Nobuo Sekine’s minimal painted sculptures, Hidehito Matsubara‘s metallic tapestries and stark portrayals of gun violence by PHILIPP INES, visitors of the fair were met with a diverse compendium of work that challenged political ideology and traditional gallery display simultaneously. It is evident that the inclusion of such work continues to lead the fair and its attendees towards an innovative rendezvous with visual culture, engaging with and addressing contemporary issues pertinent to world affairs today.
Lectures and conversations
With this in mind, AFP 2018 hosted a series of lectures and conversations among leading curators, collectors, artists and scholars about the fair’s role in maintaining intrigue in multimedia art and interest in multitudinous ideology.
The programmes included a conversation between curators Clara Kim of TATE Modern and Aaron Seeto of MACAN Contemporary titled “Institutions Collecting Contemporary Southeast Asian Art”, an artist talk about Social Realism in Philippine contemporary art between Renato Baen Santos and Antipas Delotavo and a ‘Collector’s Perspectives’ evening with Louie Bate, Rico Quimbo and Kim Atienza. On the fair’s selection of didactic programming, Dindin Araneta states:
This year, the opportunity to learn in Art Fair Philippines has gotten bigger… we’ve developed our educational thrust over the years to accommodate the growing and eager audience for this aspect of the fair.
By highlighting the research and opinions of such a diverse crowd of arts professionals, AFP accordingly highlights its commitment to the educational scope that an art fair is capable of – and perhaps responsible for – providing.
A catalyst for Southeast Asian contemporary art
The 2018 edition emphasises the importance of developing a comprehensive Philippine art market by bringing together local artists and neighbouring countries’ markets into a single bloc. This marks the country as an increasingly competitive one on par with other more developed global art markets in China and the West, making it a catalyst in driving international interest in and understandings of Southeast Asian contemporary art.
- The global cross-roads of Southeast Asian art: ART STAGE Singapore – fair round-up – February 2018 – the 8th edition of ART STAGE Singapore ran a series of programmes from 25 to 28 January 2018 designed to promote Asian art to a global audience
- The “gold standard” for art in South Asia: Dhaka Art Summit 2018 – February 2018 – Art Radar explores some of the highlights of the programme of Dhaka Art Summit 2018
- A Subconscious Effort to Form a Community: Filipino artist Lena Cobangbang on curating – interview – August 2017 – Lena Cobangbang shares her stories on being an artist and curator
- Art Fair Philippines 2017 expands its reach – round-up – March 2017 – with an extended programme of talks and commissions for installations, the 5th AFP saw visitor numbers double from the previous year
- Making the case for year another fair: 2nd Art Fair Philippines – interview – February 2014 – Art Radar talks about the Filipino art scene and market with Trickie Lopa, Co-founder of Art Fair Philippines
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