It was not difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff, the men from the boys, the galleries that thought about what they would
show for Manilart 10 from those that did not. You could tell which ones regularly mount exhibits as opposed to those who simply maintain spaces to sell paintings. I suppose, in the end, the commercial aspects of the fair outweighed all other considerations. And with 55 galleries joining this year, you had enough paintings to satisfy all sorts of sensibilities (and I do mean ALL sorts!).
I loved that Pablo treated their space as a venue to showcase an exciting, new collaboration. I thought they had the best booth; they stood out because they dared to be different. They would not be out of place in any international art fair. You could sense that showing good art superseded sales concerns. For Pablo’s booth, Poklong Anading created a video installation that worked with a piece by Manila-based Australian artist David Griggs. For How’s My Politics, Tel 666, David used a man-sized glass vitrine to simulate a taxicab’s windshield. The vitrine, pierced randomly with bullet holes, stood at the center of the space. It housed the projector from which Poklong’s film played. In Furry Tongue, Poklong took off from David’s portrayal of the glass vitrine as part of a vehicle. Cars that ply the streets of Manila encounter streetchildren that offer to clean their windshields as they wait for the traffic lights to change. Poklong experimented with using chocolate to soil his
windows, both as a treat for these kids and to give them something new to work with. He propped his camera atop his car’s dashboard. The five-minute video captured the process of wiping, rubbing, and cleaning up the chocolate. Poklong squirted the booth’s walls with the same powdered chocolate mixture that he used on his dashboard. The drips created textured patterns for the video’s backdrop.
I also enjoyed how Manila Contemporary used their four spaces to give us Women Only, in effect, four exhibits. Valeria Cavestany mounted an eye catching installation. In And Out Of The Booz resembled a psychedelic honeycomb. She filled her entire booth with small palochina wine crates to contain brightly-colored and heavily-embellished wooden crosses. It was so attractive, you couldn’t help but take a closer look. The gallery’s other offerings included paintings by Amy Aragon, works by Brenda Fajardo, photos by Ringo Buonoan and MM Yu.
Other standouts: The Drawing Room, Silverlens/SLab, Galleria Duemila, Art Informal. Art fair veterans, Silverlens/SLab and the The Drawing Room knew exactly how to highlight their stable of artists. The Drawing Room went back to their roots and exhibited works on paper plus a reprised Alfredo and Isabel Aquilizan. I loved Jojo Legaspi’s dark, bleak pastel landscapes and Kawayan de Guia’s reworked letter from 1943. At Silverlens, Rachel Rillo showed elegant photo
transfers printed on Bhutanese handmade paper. These pieces were a preview of sorts for her upcoming show. Duemila brought out masterpieces from their treasure trove. Among them, an old favorite, Julie Lluch’s Maranao (Nanampiling). Art Informal borrowed newly- commissioned works by John Santos, Tatong Recheta Torres, and Joel Alonday and interspersed these with new pieces from Riel Hilario, Cos Zicarelli, and Pam Yan Santos.
West Gallery and Blanc selected their pieces well. Although perhaps they could have hanged more dramatically (painted walls?). Blanc debuted a pair of Louie Cordero’s works to mark the start of a series. It will be exciting to see how Louie expands this new look. I thought the Lao Lianben and Art Sanchez pieces were both very good too. At West, a collage by Roberto Chabet, The Erection Of The Obelisk caught my eye. Geraldine Javier sprung another surprise with her assemblage Happy Go Ducky (Happiness Is A Resting Ground). Exhibited at Finale, she ensconced a stuffed duckling acquired from a taxidermy shop in Paris amidst her embroidered flora.
The art fair actually attracted one foreign gallery: Galerie Zimmermann Kratochwill from Austria, run by Rudolf Kratochwill, a former Manila resident. Rudolf did not expect any sales from his participation. Because his gallery carries Manuel Ocampo, he thought the fair would be a good venue to show Manuel’s works alongside that of Austrian artist Hermann Nitsch. I’m not sure how many people
cared to stop by this booth. But Nitsch’s recorded performance piece, with its ritual of poured blood and mock cruxifixion, would have given Manila audiences something to talk about.
MM Yu manned another busy booth— selling bags and pins and shirts to raise funds for Bastards of Misrepresentation: Doing Time On Filipino Time. This is an upcoming exhibit by a group of
Filipino artists at the Freies Museum in Germany set for October this year. Unfortunately, these opportunities do not get any government or institutional funding in the Philippines. The artists need to fend for themselves. They priced their items very reasonably, most at the P2,500.00 range. I would think that
Overall, I thought that Manilart 10 felt like a huge bazaar of paintings, more paintings, and copies of paintings. Apparently, just as they do in Greenhills, the art superstars get knocked off too! Going by the variations of naked torsos wrapped in plastic, Ronald Ventura must be a favorite.
Because the fair already attracts a huge crowd, it would be great if the succeeding ones also become a venue to make artistic statements, to expose the audience to other visual art forms. The galleries that organize the fair should use its success to push for more experimental pieces. I would think that the fair should spearhead elevating standards— not just extend the galleries’ backrooms. As the NCCA spends for this fair, shouldn’t the funds be made to work harder? Think of what Cinemalaya has done for Filipino independent film makers.
Perhaps for the next one?
Manilart 10 runs from 29 July to 1 August 2010 at Hall 4, SMX Convention Center, Mall of Asia, Pasay City. For more information, visit http://www.manilart.com