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Art Fair Philippines is back – in a digital, eye-popping way!

By SCOTT GARCEAU, The Philippine STAR Published Apr 19, 2021 5:00 am

While 2020 was all about disruption, ArtFairPH 2021 is ready for even more digital disruption, with an online focus on NFTs, digital art and a totally virtual space, going live this May 6 to 15.

Is your little lockdown world ready for it?

We are still in the Big Lockdown, of course. But did you think Art Fair 2021 was gonna go all low-key and below the radar, in this Year of Recovering From All Things Nasty and Virus-like?

Wrong! Art Fair organizers Trickie Colayco-Lopa, Lisa Ongpin-Periquet and Geraldine “Dindin” Araneta made it plain that art must continue, and Art Fair Philippines will play a major part in its continuing journey.

There’s a sense that people in lockdown are shifting their buying patterns to art. That means more people perusing art online, through gallery sites and interactive exhibits. All this adds to the synergy of a retooled Art Fair Philippines.

Pivoting to an all-digital platform, the three fair ladies said a big focus will be on NFTs (non-fungible tokens) and crypto-art, with several talks scheduled on this emerging pathway to buying and selling art.

  ArtFairPH 2021 offers a virtual spotlight on NFTs, crypto-natives and the metaverse.

“When we first thought about NFTs last year it was like, well, this looks interesting,” says Trickie. “Pinoys would find this easy, so many animators here. Our audience at Art Fair is young, we have 30 percent students, they’re on their gadgets all the time, it wouldn’t be a stretch for them to appreciate art on their gadgets.”

With the $69 million auction sale of an NFT collage by American artist Beeple last month, Pinoy artists understandably are getting very interested.

  “Motels a sept-iles” by Petra Cortright

Art Fair 2021 has scheduled a number of “crypto-natives” for live seminars on the supplier side of this new movement, including crypto-collector Chris Fussner, director of Tropical Futures Institute in Cebu, as well as Gabby Dizon and Colin Goltra, digital owners of Narra Art Gallery, the only Filipino outpost set up in Decentraland, a virtual space where everything is crypto-decentralized, including art and purchasing.

“We’re going to have five panels and talks under the Projects space, really a one-on-one for both the audience and artists who want to learn more about NFTs, crypto art, how to enjoy it, how to collect it,” says Trickie. “We’re calling it ‘Welcome to the Metaverse: NFT 101.’”

Pre-registration online is recommended for the NFT livestreamed talks, as with all forum events at Art Fair Philippines.

  One of the first online proponents of digital art, Daata (above) will present digital films by Petra Cortright, Jeremy Couillard and art collaborative Keiken under the ArtFairPH/ Film section

Also invited are members of Daata, one of the first proponents of digital art, based in the UK.

They’ll be presenting digital films by artists Petra Cortright, anime-friendly Jeremy Couillard and Keiken, an art collaborative co-founded by artists Tanya Cruz, Hana Omori and Isabel Ramos, to be streamed live in the fountain area of Ayala Tower One as part of 10 Days of Art, under the ArtFairPH/Film section produced by Globe Platinum.

  Keiken members Isabel Ramos, Tanya Cruz and Hana Omori

As Lisa noted, even with the market recovering from COVID, Art Fair managed to enlist 43 galleries online from May 6 to 15. That’s down a bit from 50-plus last year, but she notes, “We have still a good proportion of foreign participants, and they’re every interested. Another interesting thing about digital is it’s had the most number of international components. We can say that it’s probably the first time that we’re able to establish a clear international presence.”

There’s a sense that people in lockdown are shifting their buying patterns to art rather than luxury goods, cars and travel since last year. And that means more people perusing art online, through gallery sites and interactive exhibits. All this adds to the synergy of a retooled Art Fair Philippines.

  Some 43 galleries are on board this year, with local galleries (like Art Cube, Silverlens and La Lanta) as well as a bigger international presence.

Lisa lists off some other main attractions for 2021:

Open Studios with talks and tours 

“One interesting one will be an ambrotype (wet plate glass) photography demo, it’s a kind of throwback type of photographic process from the 1920s. There’s a Filipino photographer based in Paris named Ding Panganiban who’ll be demonstrating. They’re very beautiful, black and white, and the subjects have to keep still so they have that element of process.”

The ArtFairPH/Photo section is presented by Swiss private bank Julius Baer, which is also sponsoring a “Next Generation Art Prize” for SEA artists creating digital art. Open to Southeast Asian artists from 18 to 40 years old, submissions were from Nov. 5, 2020 to Feb. 28, 2021 with cash prizes for the top three winners totaling $60,000.

  ArtFairPH/Photo features a live demo of ambrotype photography by Paris-based Ding Panganiban.

Sponsored talks in collaboration with Ateneo Art Gallery and the Museum Foundation of the Philippines

“Someone from Art Review magazine will be doing a panel on NFTs from the financial and critical point of view,” says Lisa. Trickie says the esteemed magazine “reached out” to Art Fair last year to become involved.

Also, “We’ll have an art conservator from London speak about conservation, especially contemporary art, because that’s one thing we need knowledge of in the Philippines,” says Lisa. “Not so many people really input the cost of maintenance and conservation when they collect art.”

Art Tours with artists and collectors

These Art Tours will be virtual, including a visit to Alfredo Esquillo’s studio in Eskinita Art Farm, and a tour with Baguio-based collector Moira Lang.

  Virtual tours with artists and Baguio-based collector Moira Lang will be a draw

Residencies Program

Also new is the Residencies Program. “We partnered with Don Papa Rum to award five residency programs around the country to sponsor artists to spend time in an environment away from home,” says Dindin.

During the fair, judges will evaluate artist applicants (entry period from May 6 to June 15) and later award five winners 3- to 5-week residencies, including:

  • Manila Observatory of Ateneo
  • The Linangan Art Residency with Manny Garibay in Alfonso, Cavite
  • Emerging Islands in San Juan, La Union
  • The Orange Project in Bacolod, Negros Occidental, and
  • Barrio Butanding in Puerto Princesa, Palawan run by Alexis Oshima
  The Residencies program, sponsored by Don Papa Rum, awards five artists away-from-home stays outside Metro Manila. (Yippee!)

“We’re quite excited about this because the idea of travel now is so elusive,” says Lisa. “It’s quite exciting to be able to leave your home and continue your art practice outside.”

Lisa pointed out that revamping the website was challenging (“a lot of bandwidth issues”), but everything should be running smoothly for the 10-day online fair. The menu now will be fully interactive with links to each section.

Two new features are the embedded videos for each participating gallery, produced with help from Globe Studios. (“The videos really give you a lot more information and a bit of the sense of the character of the gallery as well,” says Lisa.)

Last August, while the pandemic still raged, Art in the Park carried on online and first-time visitors actually doubled. It was a good dry run for launching Art Fair in a completely digital setting.


Also new is the messaging service to communicate with each gallery. Since Art Fair strives to be as interactive as possible this year, “We’ll have buttons to message owners on Messenger, Viber and WhatsApp,” so you can get (hopefully) instant responses to your queries about artworks.

Last August, while the pandemic still raged, Art in the Park carried on online and, according to Trickie, first-time visitors actually doubled. It was a good dry run for launching Art Fair in a completely digital setting.

“It was quite a good experience for us, jumping off from that.” And now, with the bigger focus on digital art, interest is peaking – hopefully not at the expense of physical art and galleries in the future. “You can’t believe how rabid these crypto-natives are,” says Trickie.

“They’re like, ‘I’d rather look at art in my gadget, because I live in my gadget, so why can’t I enjoy art in my gadget? It’s more important for me than art that can be in my room.’ That’s their mindset, and you have to respect that. It goes to prove that art will sprout wherever, whatever. I mean, it used to be cave paintings because that’s what people were living with; now art comes out of your gadgets.”

So let the art — and the disruption — begin.

Banner photo: “Tad Mol: Inventor of The Letter G” by Jeremy Couillard (inset)

For more information on this year’s program and schedule of activities, please visit the Art Fair Philippines website and follow @artfairph on Instagram and Facebook. Art Fair Philippines 2021 is co-presented by Ayala Land, Bank of the Philippine Islands, Globe Platinum, Don Papa Rum and Julius Baer. The Philippine STAR is a media partner.