Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Art so Fair

The local visual arts scene has recently garnered attention because of Mideo Cruz’s controversial works in the “Kulo” exhibit at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, sparking discussions and debates on the nature of art and the freedom of expression. This attention to art is a good thing in a country that can be negligent of its arts and culture. It is something hoped for by the organizers of ManilArt 2011: The Third Philippine International Art Fair, but this time more celebratory and perhaps unifying.

The National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the Bonafide Art Galleries Organization (Bago) is presenting the third mounting of what is deemed the largest gathering of visual arts in the country from Aug. 25 to 27 at the NBC Tent, Bonifacio Global City, in Taguig City.

According to Imelda Loste, head of the NCCA’s National Committee on Art Galleries, ManilArt primarily aims to raise awareness on the country’s visual arts, to put it in the mainstream consciousness of the Filipino. Although it is also trade fair, the sale of art is only secondary to the intention of showcasing of Filipino artistic talent and making it known to a wider public.

NCCA executive director Malou Jacob affirmed that the country has a wealth of talent in the visual arts that we need to recognize and celebrate. She also said that the creative industry is something to be taken seriously and tapped for its economic potential.

According to the organizers, ManilArt has become a “vessel to open more possibilities for [the Filipino contemporary artists]. It has also served the public as another horizon that promotes art and encourages appreciation for the local art scene.”

The NCCA is the government’s agency for the arts and culture, primarily giving grants and funding assistance to projects and endeavors. It has been supporting ManilArt from the start, making it a collaboration between the government and the private sector.

Loste said when ManilArt started in 2009, it was conceptualized to be like the art fairs of Hong Kong and Singapore, a major event which people anticipate and attend. Thus, ManilArt not only features large gathering of artworks; it also includes other activities aimed to engage the public.

This year, ManilArt has 24 exhibitors, fewer than the previous years’. This is because of the smaller venue, said Jonathan Siy, Bago president.

The participating galleries include Art Circle, Art Informal, Art Verite, Artes Orientes, Blanc Art Space, Blue Line Gallery, Boston Gallery, Finale Art File, Galerie Francesca, Galerie Joaquin, Galerie Zimmermann Kratochwill, Galleria Duemila, Galleria Quattrocento, Gallery Big, Leon Gallery, Gallery Nine, Looking For Juan, Manila Contemporary, Pablo Gallery, Paseo Gallery, Renaissance Art Gallery, Silverlens, Village Art Gallery and West Gallery.

Despite the number, ManilArt 2011 is promised to be more interesting, a sign that organizers is taking more consideration on quality than quantity.

“We promise a more diverse and vibrant art exposition, and viewers shall witness a groundbreaking launch — the simultaneous opening of various art exhibitions during gala night,” said Delan Lopez Robillos, ManilArt 2011 project director. “Exhibitors will not simply be showcasing the works of artists they represent but each gallery shall be presenting a conceptualized art exhibit.”

Robillos singled out Elmer Borlongan’s digital works. They will be viewed though the iPad in an interactive booth.

There will also be a host of lectures and other activities, starting with the gala opening.

The by-invitation gala opening on Aug. 24 will show the organizers’ desire to link visual arts with other disciplines. Elmer Borlongan’s work Batang Edsa, which is the featured painting in ManilArt 2011’s poster, will be interpreted in modern dance by premier contemporary dance artist and Dance Forum founder Myra Beltran. It is interesting to note that Batang Edsa is inspired by another work, this time in music — Dong Abay’s song “God Bless Our Trip,”

The Filipiniana-themed opening will have writer, magazine editor and TV personality RJ Ledesma as host, and Banda Malaya and Fatima University Chorale performing.

After the opening, people will get the chance to see a program featuring visual artists and performers from the University of Santo Tomas, through The Varsitarian, the official student publication of UST, on Aug. 26. This is in participation in the celebration of the university’s 400th anniversary.

The ManilArt lecture series this year includes “How we Turn Paintings into Bicycles: Lessons in Art, Law and the Internet,” by Gigo Alampay, the executive director of Canvas, a non-stock, non-profit organization that promotes Philippine art, culture and the environment and who teaches contemporary legal and policy issues in information and communications technology at the University of the Philippines’ College of Law; and “Semiotics in Visual Art” by Dr. Oscar V. Campomanes, a permanent panelist at the annual Jerry Elizalde Navarro Workshop on Arts Criticism in Baguio City and who teaches critical theory and cultural studies at the Ateneo de Manila University, and semiotics, media criticism, and culture theory at the UST Graduate School.

National Hero Jose Rizal’s 150th birth anniversary will also be celebrated with a talk by poet and performance artist Vim Nadera titled “Visuals on Rizal Today.”

Artists in Residence (AIR) founders Jojo Ballo, Cathy Lasam and Jill Arwen Posadas will also give a lecture on basic sketching and drawing for kids.

There will also be storytelling sessions for children. RepubLikha executive director and former preschool teacher Carisse Escueta will read the book The Rocking Horse which features paintings by Elmer Borlongan. VJ Chino Lui Pio of Myx and Ramon Bautista have also been invited to read Message in the Sand, with artworks by Roel Obemio, and Sol: A Legend about the Sun, with images by Farley Del Rosario, respectively.

From the start, ManilArt has live sketching sessions, serving as one of the highlights of the art fair. The event not only aims to foster fellowship among the artists, but gives the audience the chance to witness how they are able to render the same subject through different styles from scratch. The live sketching session also serve as an interactive experience between the artists, the subjects, and the spectators, allowing art enthusiasts a glimpse at how artworks are brought to life.

This year, the live sketching sessions serve as preliminary activity for ManilArt 2011. It started on July 9 and is held every Saturday after that at Mercato Centrale at Bonifacio Global City.

Every year, ManilArt chooses one artwork to be the face of the fair. In 2009, Onib Olmedo’s iconic jeepney painting served as the image of the first ManilArt while Andres Barrioquinto’s Crystal Gazer was the face of last year’s art fair. This year, ManilArt has Elmer Borlongan’s Batang Edsa, which shows a boy selling cigarettes and candies and a girl selling leis of jasmine.

Art is not just an issue that we talk about from time to time. With ManilArt, it is hoped that people will see art as part of everyday.

ManilArt 2011 is co-presented by Allied Bank and Contemporary Art Philippines with the support of Bellarocca Island Resort and Spa, The BusinessMirror, BusinessWorld, Colleen and Derwent Art Supplies, Crown Fine Arts, La Creperie, Las Casas Filipinas de Azucar Heritage Resort, The Manila Bulletin, Mercato Centrale, Midas Hotel, Oakwood Premiere Suites, Pebeo Art Supplies, Ronac Art Center, Secret Fresh, Sustain Pro Complex, Uno magazine and Uratex Premium.

ManilArt 2011 is open to the public from Aug. 25 to 27. For lecture series registration, call 531-6231 or 0917-8511333 or e-mail info@manilart.com. Visit www.manilart.com.

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