Get ready for one of the most popular art events in Metro Manila.
WORDS BY JOSEPHINE ROQUE
When I went to Art Fair Philippines last year, my eyes became so dry that one of the contact lenses I was wearing popped out.
I roamed The Link carpark, its longtime venue, in a state of half-blurry, half-clear seeing. Works lost their shapes and were defined in blocks of color and light. To gain focus, I had one hand over my eye like a pirate. I squinted when talking to people which made me look either critical or constipated.
Of course, it could have been worse but there was still a lesson to be learned from the experience: always come prepared. And that’s exactly what I intend to do this year.
For the seventh edition of the fair happening on February 22 to 24, I hope to see it—clear-eyed this time—with an extra pair of eyeglasses tucked inside my bag for good measure. There is, after all, a lot to be seen this year.
Art Fair Philippines, after all, has grown significantly since it started. From an attendance of 6,000 when it began in 2012, the event has earned its place in the regional art fair circuit with its crowd last year reaching about 30,000 people. Every year, people fly in from all over the world to not only look but buy art in the country.
According to one of its organizers, Dindin Araneta, the fair has endured because of growing appreciation as well as continued support for art. More artists now join and there are more spaces to house their works. “The interest has not waned; making it sustainable,” she said.
This year, a total of 55 galleries will be joining; 36 of them are local while 16 will be coming in from Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Vietnam, and Taiwan. That is a lot. No pill can cure dizziness from art overload but the tips below may help you make the most of your visit, be it a meandering whole day or a quick hour or so.
1. Come early; come prepared
As one of the most important art events in the country, Art Fair Philippines can get crowded. It is best to come in early in the day when there are fewer people. It is also best to start the experience by taking advantage of the several conveniences the organizers have put up for this year’s visitors. For example, it is recommended for others to buy their tickets online beforehand. According to my notes about the event, there are also apparently perks to be enjoyed by those who do that. It also saves you time from lining up and bumping into people you want to avoid. If that’s enough of a reason for you, you can buy a ticket for 350php each here.
Students are also encouraged to bring their IDs for discounted rates. And then there’s the issue of footwear. It’s best to wear comfortable shoes. In the past, I’ve seen people wear stiletto heels and they mostly just stood around. I felt sorry for them.
2. Know your way in and know how to get around
You can now enter the fair from a new Landmark Bridgeway that connects it to The Link. Yes, you read that right: there is a link to The Link. And when it comes to exploring the area, try using the stairs. It’s good for your health if you are able bodied and could stand some exercise and it helps free up the elevators for people who actually need them. The stairs are often overlooked and they can be a faster way of navigating the fair.
3. Head for the ARTFAIRPH/PROJECTS
The highlight of the fair called the ARTFAIRPH/PROJECTS will showcase critically lauded artists, some showing their work in the country for the first time. One of the most internationally known Filipino artists, David Medalla, will stage a new iteration of “A Stitch in Time.” It was last exhibited at the 2017 Venice Biennale. The celebrated participatory work will allow visitors a chance to join in the art-making by sewing a trace of themselves on a massive swathe of canvas.
Also on display will be the works from influential CCP curator, Ray Albano (1947-1985) called “Step on the Sand and Make Footprints” and a collection of works from Columbian artist, Fernando Botero, famous for his use of exaggerated proportions. Fans of Mauro Malang Santos (1928-2017) can look forward to prints and drawings from the private family collection. Other artists also part of the showcase include Ryan Villamael, Oca Villamiel, Ian Fabro, Christine Quisumbing Ramilo, Olivia d’ Aboville and MM Yu.
4. The fair continues outside.
There will be art displayed in public spaces near the fair that may be worth checking out. Among these include “Plastics in Our Ocean” by Neil Oshima and Olivia d’Aboville at the Landmark Bridgeway. Last year, I walked all the way to Makati Stock Exchange to see Martha Atienza’s video called “Our Islands 11°16’58.4”N 123°45’07.0”E”. Moreover, beyond the confines of the fair space, one can join the 10 Days of Art Initiative (www.10daysofart.com), a series of events around Makati that takes visitors to galleries, museums, bars, and shops.
5. Mind your manners
No need to be hoity-toity when attending art events but it is always good advice to mind your manners. This means you shouldn’t touch the artworks no matter how fascinating they may be. It should be of note, however, that some do allow visitors to handle the works. To be sure, it won’t hurt to ask when in doubt.
Also, looking is better a few steps away from the work not a few inches from your face. And here’s another tip: very few can pull off looking good when photographed with the flash hitting them square on the face; the same thing goes with the art. Most importantly, pointed objects like umbrellas and selfie sticks are called “pointy” for a reason: they can accidentally poke holes on canvas and paper works. You can leave these along with bulky bags at counters found at The Link.
6. Walk for the art, stay for the talk
For those wanting to learn more about contemporary art, there is the ArtPH/Talk with daily talks open to visitors of the fair. This year, the event, in partnership with National Bookstore will be bringing in Kathy Galitz from the Metropolitan Museum. Recently, Galitz, who is a specialist on late eighteenth- and nineteenth-century French art, launched her book entitled “Masterpiece Paintings at The Metropolitan Museum of Art” which will be available at the fair. For her talk, she will be sharing her knowledge and insight to art enthusiasts.
7. You’re human; you have limits
Accept that you can’t see everything; not on the first visit, at least. I wish I had an extra pair of eyes attached to the back of my head when I went last year so that I could’ve seen more but I don’t. Besides, that would’ve looked creepy.
To be efficient at seeing as many of the fair as you can, it’s best to check Art Fair Philippines’ website to see which exhibits might interest you the most so that you can plan your visit. It’s also a good idea to follow the fair on social media to keep yourself updated on its developments. Yes, you only have two eyes. That doesn’t change the fact that it pays off to use them right.