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The Headliners of ManilART2021

The art fair is “Continuing Legacies” by featuring a number of heavyweights.

I f you Google “Ramon Orlina” and go through the results, you’re bound to encounter several articles saying the same thing: that his name is synonymous to “glass sculpture.”

This is an apt measure of his success. For over five decades now, he has done such a fine and consistent job that people have come to link his name with his medium. Through his work—a collection of numerous glass abstracts that toy with light and the imagination—he has sculpted a legacy arguably unparalleled in his field.

That said, Orlina isn’t the only living master in the Philippines. And ManilART will be stressing that this year.

As the flagship event celebrating the Museums and Galleries Month of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA,) ManilART will return this October at the SMX Convention Center of SM Aura Premier. It will happen from the 20th to the 24th. In lieu of the ongoing pandemic caused by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19,) the art fair will once again utilize its virtual gallery to share the show with people who will not be physically attending. It will also be putting up satellite shows across the country while employing strict health protocols to keep its guests safe.

Now on its 13th year, ManilART will continue to do what it has done in the past. It will once again feature celebrated Filipino artists and the galleries that support their work. The theme for this year is “Continuing Legacies” and in line with this, its organizers have formed a roster of headliners with formidable legacies to continue. Orlina will be there, of course. And he won’t be alone.

Araceli Dans

Araceli Dans is a survivor.

She got through the liberation of Manila which saw bombs being dropped on the capital; she endured the separation of her parents and the financial woes that tailed it and she has seen trends in the art world come and go. Nevertheless she remains—a painter in the midst of a long, ongoing career.

This isn’t the unlikely coming to pass, however. Even at a young age, Dans already had immense potential. She started painting at the age of eight and has since then used her talents to advance in life. She made propaganda comics during the Japanese occupation, she drew commissioned portraits of American soldiers, and she breezed through college at the University of the Philippines’ College of Fine Arts (graduating only after three years with the blessing of the institution’s then director Fernando Amorsolo.)

In an interview she did with Lifestyle Asia, Dans said that this happened because the national artist—also her mentor—wanted her to get started on working early. And indeed, she worked.

Best known for her depictions of calado and Filipino life, Dans has created a legacy that has spanned generations. With her works being coveted by top collectors, she has earned the title of a living master. And this year, at ManilART, she will share the secrets of her long-celebrated career through her work.

She may have started painting at a young age and she may have gone through a lot. But at 94 years of age, she is still not done.

Romulo Galicano

Romulo Galicano is known for bisecting his dramatic portraits with a severe and intrusive vertical line.

But this is just a fact among many that account for his fame. The man is, first and foremost, widely recognized for his talents. His successes in competitions both here and abroad—including a three-peat at the American Art Awards—attest to this. He is also known for his popularity in certain circles; this is certified by a body of work including portraits of many high-profile figures. The man is also very proactive in his community. He is often involved in collectives, contests and events, lending his wisdom, experience and time to a younger generation of artists. This year, he will continue to do just that.

A mainstay of ManilART, Galicano will return this year to share his legacy with the public. In the press release written by the event’s organizers, it is mentioned that Galicano will be bringing his award-winning style “to render current events in grand, semi-mural scaled works.” And with his involvement, he will continue to draw the line which distinguishes him from other artists.


If you examine the body of work done by Nemesio Miranda Jr., what you might find—other than vibrancy and playful renditions of the human form—is a story of a nation’s transformation.

Such is the result of a man who has dedicated his life to being a documentarist. For a large chunk of his tenure as an artist, Nemiranda has chosen to document pivotal moments of our country’s history and identity. He has depicted our relationship to the Catholic faith, he has highlighted the triumphs and tragedies of our people and he has immortalized our heroes—from the fighters that defined the early days of our country to the modern day heroes of the pandemic. If Nemiranda’s body of work is rich, then it is partly because the history of our country is rich.

For this year’s ManilART, he will continue to tell the story of our people and, as a consequence, he will further his legacy as a storyteller.

Kublai Millan

One thing that people need to know about ManilART is that it’s not just for artists in Metro Manila. And come this year’s version of the art fair, one may also realize that it’s not just an event in the capital region.

With the desire to further its mandate of celebrating local art, the organizers of this year’s fair have decided to expand beyond borders and put up satellite shows in various parts of the country. One of them will be done at Balai Kalipay which is in the Malagos area of Davao. It will feature Mindanawan art and it will be headed by none other than Kublai Millan.

Best known as a monument maker, the man also known as Ray Mudjahid Ponce Millan, is a multidisciplinary artist who would use his works to celebrate his heritage. One can see this at the Davao International Airport where Millan’s striking rendition of the durian shows the richness of his culture and his homeland. He aims to do that again in this year’s ManilART and while doing so, he will also lead a contingent of creators in the south.

Ramon Orlina

Ramon Orlina is known for breaking glass ceilings.

Because of him, Filipinos have come to realize the vast aesthetic potential of residue glass—the result of his numerous experimentations with the material. He is used to such adventures. And now, as ManilART enters its 13th iteration, Orlina is part of yet another experiment.

“ManilART2021 debuts its first ‘phygital’ exhibitor,” a release from the fair’s organizers said. “G9 ONline will mount a phygital show.” And this, according to the release, will showcase digital works as non-fungible tokens (NFTs) next to their physical originals. For those unfamiliar, an NFT is a digitally-encrypted rendition of an original physical artwork that can be considered a “digital print or multiple.” It is viewable and displayable in a virtual gallery and can be traded on the crypto market similar to crypto art. “Its non-fungible character means that the digital rendition is an original and not simply a capture or grab of an image online,” the release explained. “It has a traceable provenance and may be considered an enhancement on the physical piece.”

For the initial collection, limited edition proofs will be released of the works of various artists. Among said artists include Ed Coronel, Bell Sison, Isobel Francisco, and of course, Orlina.

This is a testament to the event’s confidence in Orlina’s art. And once it comes to pass, it will give its organizers yet another reason to call him a pioneer.

Budding Talents

ManilART2021 isn’t just for artists who have legacies to uphold; they are also for those who have legacies to build. This is why the group will be highlighting a number of young artist who have shown much promise in recent years.  

For starters, there’s Francis Nacion, the Aklan born painter who is known for figurative, textured paintings of people with only half of their faces drawn. He has, for years, been celebrating his culture through his works and in ManilART2021, he will be continuing his contributions to it.

Then there’s Jonathan Dangue. A trained architect, he has used his knowledge to create abstract sculptures using various materials: from toothpicks to brass. A recipient of several awards, he is well on his way to shaping a formidable legacy as a creator.

Joining them is Melissa Yeung Yap. More than just an artist, she is a social entrepreneur involved with various causes. Inspired by the need for further social development, she has used her works to try and foster better appreciation for indigenous culture, the environment and our heritage as Filipinos.

Another participant this year is Wencyl Mallari, who is known for combining realism and symbolism in her works. A cursory Google search will reveal this. Online, people can find under her name the highly detailed paintings of women decorated with whimsical trappings. It is this duality that may very well define her works in this year’s art fair.

With that in mind, however, one can expect something different from the works of Kenneth Montegrande. If Mallari is known for the controlled details of her paintings, Montegrande is known for the seemingly unrestrained characteristics of his works as an abstract expressionist. His works will also be present in the fair this year as well.

Alongside him is Katrina Cuenca, another artist who has done work as an abstractionist. Just last year, she created figures that sought to capture what she has dubbed the “divine feminine” and with brushes reportedly swaying to music, she has created cloth-like figures that take the shape of butterflies, fish tails and flowers among others.

“Legacies are built over time,” a press release from ManilART says. “The younger set today lay the groundwork for their place in our artistic patrimony in the years to come with their consistent excellence and dedication to their craft.” Which is precisely why the art fair is giving them the stage they need to shine.

Since its inception 13 years ago, ManilART has made it its mission to celebrate world-class Filipino talents. Through its yearly iterations, it has helped a great number of artists who are seeking to cement their place in the world while putting into focus those who have managed to make a lasting mark. That is the fair’s legacy and as it returns this year, it seeks to continue it.

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