Silverlens Gallery: JAKE VERZOSA, print from his new book The Last Tattooed Women of Kalinga. Photo by Jennifer Baum Lagdameo for ArtAsiaPacific.

Mar 03 2015

Report: Art Fair Philippines 2015

by Jennifer Baum Lagdameo

In early February, Art Fair Philippines took over The Link, a car park in the Ayala Center of Makati, Manila. This was the third edition of the annual contemporary art fair, which proved to be an excellent showcase of the exploding contemporary art scene of the Philippines. In 2014 a record 10,000 people attended, and this year the attendance reached an impressive 16,000 visitors, as interest in the local art market continues to grow. There were 33 exhibiting galleries, including eight from outside of the Philippines. A special curated section, featuring new work from ten artists, was mounted with consultation by Dr. Patrick Flores, who is the curator of the UP Vargas Museum in Manila. Flores has also been selected as curator of the Philippines Pavilion at this year’s Venice Biennale. For the second year in a row, Christie’s Art Forum sponsored art talks at the fair, aimed at collectors and educating the local art market. The layout of the fair, which covered 4,423 square meters and spanned the sixth and seventh floors of the urban carpark, was planned by the internationally renowned Filipino furniture designer Kenneth Cobonpue and his design team and was the largest edition to date.

Silverlens Gallery, one of the leading local contemporary art galleries, had a prominent spot at the entrance of the fair. Silverlens, which also has a presence in Singapore, originally started as a photography gallery and is owned by Isa Lorenzo and Rachel Rillo, both of whom are photographers themselves. In addition to exhibiting much-talked-about local artists, such as Patricia Perez Eustaquio, Gary Ross Pastrana, Maria Taniguchi, Pio Abad and Renato Orara (the only Filipino artist actively collected by New York’s Museum of Modern Art), the gallery also hosted the book launch of two photographers: Jake Verzosa’s The Last Tattooed Women of Kalinga and Wawi Navarroza’s Hunt & Gather, Terreria.

Tin Aw Gallery: A canned work from “Manufacturer’s Advice: Content May Vary,” which reads, “Delete mo Dirty Politicians.” Photo by Jennifer Baum Lagdameo for ArtAsiaPacific.

Elsewhere, Tin-Aw Art Gallery showed “Manufacturer’s Advice: Content May Vary,” a grocery-store-themed exhibit featuring canned goods made by various artists, which comment on the commodification of art. Replete with local political commentary, many of the works played on words and jokes in Tagalog, some of which had viewers giggling. However, the exhibition also had a serious and significant edge. Artist Alwin Reamillo created bamboo segment “cans,” which picture fallen commandos as a tribute to the 44 members of the Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police, who were recently killed in Maguindanao by Islamic radicals.

Other notable participants included the recently opened Artbooks.ph, which literally brought their store to the fair. The artist-owned venture is dedicated to promoting Fillipino art and culture and has a vast collection of related books, including many rare and out-of-print editions.

Highlights of the show included works from the special exhibit section. Mike Adrao’s large-scale Elegant Beasts Beautiful Decay (2014–15), which consist of charcoal drawings on paper and wall relief sculptures in resin, welcomed visitors at the entrance. Adrao, who was the recipient of this year’s Karen H. Montinola Selection grant, explores our fascination with decline and progress.

Special Exhibit: MIKE ADRAO, Elegant Beasts Beautiful Decay, 2014–15, charcoal drawings on paper and wall relief sculptures in resin. Photo by Jennifer Baum Lagdameo for ArtAsiaPacific.

Special Exhibit: ROBERTO FELEOTao-Tao ng Aklasang Basi – Ang Hanay ng Mga Ñ (detail), 2014, lacquer over acrylic on sawdust and eggshell mix over paper on aluminum expander. Photo by Jennifer Baum Lagdameo for ArtAsiaPacific.

Roberto Feleo’s powerful installation of life-sized figures, Tao-Tao ng Aklasang Basi – Ang Hanay ng Mga Ñ (2014), which are made with lacquer applied over acrylic on sawdust, as well as eggshell mix over paper, on aluminum expanders. The artist refers to them not as sculptures, but as “tao-tao” or “people-people.” The work is a commentary on the Basi Revolt of 1807, which took place in the Philippines during Spanish colonial rule and was a pivotal turning point in the country’s history. The revolt saw the native Ilocano people rising up against the colonial government, which had banned them from manufacturing and selling their beloved basi, or sugarcane wine. After several weeks, Spanish-led troops eventually quashed the movement, which resulted in mass casualties among the Ilocanos. At the fair, Tao-Tao ng Aklasang Basi – Ang Hanay ng Mga Ñ was given prominent space in the center of the main exhibition floor. Feleo, who is also an art educator who has served as a mentor to a generation of Filipino artists, has mythologized local historical figures in his signature style.

Also on view was Kawayan de Guia’s installation Remains (2015), a work comprising fiberglass, resin and 35mm celluloid film, features broken pieces of a Statue of Liberty replica covered in film strips. Originally installed in its entirety in the Baguio Public Market, located in the northern Philippines, it is a striking piece that comments on notions of freedom and independence.

Special Exhibit: KAWAYAN DE GUIA, Remains, 2015, fiberglass, resin, 35mm celluloid film. Photo by Jennifer Baum Lagdameo for ArtAsiaPacific.

Anni Cabigtig’s MOMA (2014–15), three oil-on-canvas pieces that recreate the experience of being in New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). At the fair, viewers almost became part of the exhibit itself, for which Cabigtig had installed a replica of one of MoMa’s trademark benches in her display space and combined it with photo-realistic paintings of various scenes from the New York museum’s gallery.

Meanwhile, Geraldine Javier’s Let’s Talk about Art (2014–15), an embroidery, fabric and foam installation, features doll-like versions of prominent figures from the Filipino art scene. Impressively, viewers at the fair were encouraged to contribute their comments on “art” using Sharpie pens on foam shapes that were provided by the artist, which were then added to her work on the wall.

Special Exhibit: MARIA TANIGUCHI, Study for Walden Five, 2015, 5,000 offset print paper copies. Photo by Jennifer Baum Lagdameo for ArtAsiaPacific.

Elsewhere was Maria Taniguchi’s Study for Walden Five (2015), which comprises a stack of 5,000 copies of paper featuring the artist’s handwriting practicing the letter “M” from her signature. Inspired by the civil-disobedience mindset explored in Henry David Thoreau’s seminal book Walden (1854), Taniguchi challenges her viewers to take a sheet of the work when leaving the exhibit.

The fair also included Tad Ermitano’s Uwang (formerly called Eye of the Storm) (2015), an interactive video work curated by Merv Espina and Erwin Romulo, which drew visitors into a room that had earphones playing the sound of beetle larvae eating through kaong wood. A tablet with a stylus also allowed viewers to play with the sound, as well as worm-like images that were on display. On the last day of the fair, the larvae—at times considered a delicacy in the Philippines—were cooked and served to willing visitors.

Lastly, Poklong Anading used recycled tires to create improvised “speed bumps” for his the installation Road to the Mountains (2015). Like speed bumps in the streets of Manila, also made from recycled tires, the piece calls for people to slow down—possibly alluding to the burgeoning Filipino art market itself.

Special Exhibit: POKLONG ANADING, Road to the Mountains, 2015, recycled tires. Photo by Jennifer Baum Lagdameo for ArtAsiaPacific.