ManilArt 11: Art In The Dark

Tatong Recheta Torres, "Untitled" at Art Informal

The invitation said be there at six, and I thought I’d be fashionably late.  I arrived close to seven pm, wondering if I could get away with not strictly following the Filipiniana dress code.  I need not have stressed.  I got there to find the venue in darkness, tons of people jostling about in the sidelines, trying to get past usherettes standing guard, preventing guests from crossing the red cordon that ringed the venue.  Apparently, the ribbon had yet to be cut.  Music blared from a stage at the far end where song and dance numbers were going on.  Was this an art fair?  The crowds could but peer at the pieces on display as tempers flared.  Incredibly, this state of affairs continued for an hour and a half, until the last politician had given what sounded like filibuster from a privilege speech.  Only then did the lights come on.  A surreal, truly chaotic, Only in da Pilipins, tableau unfolded on the vernissage of our city’s sole art fair.

Dex Fernandez, "Suspend" series at Pablo

This opening night debacle definitely cast a pall on ManilArt 11.  On paper, this fair seemed to have everything going for it.  The organizers scaled it down to 24 galleries but set aside bigger spaces for each participant.  They chose to mount it at the highly accessible NBC Tent at the Bonifacio Global City in Taguig.  And once the lights turned on, I could tell that my favorite galleries prepared new pieces especially for the event.  The physical arrangements, though, seemed to diminish their efforts.

Leeroy New's solo exhibit "Terrorium" at Manila Contemporary

Manila Contemporary, for instance, opted for a solo show by Leeroy New.  He brought in freestanding hybrid creatures, lit from within hallowed out bellies filled with multi-colored plastic toys.  The gallery, however, could not get permission to paint the walls of their booth.  Why?  Leeroy’s work deserved a proper setting.

Leeroy New, "Terrarium IX" at Manila Contemporary

Pablo got around this restriction by bringing their own panels to the fair.  A wise choice as, once again, they had the best booth.  But why would they have to resort to that?  They carried works by Dex Fernandez, Jason Moss, and the fantastic duo of Ivan Despi and Pauline Vicencio.  The booth’s layout managed to squeeze in a room where Ivan and Pauline’s video, Babel, played.  I’d love to see what else these two come up with. Exciting things seem to be in store for this talented twosome.

Ivan Despi and Pauline Vicencio, "Babel", video still at Pablo

Dex exhibited his Suspend series, a variation on his manipulated photographs.  This time he altered his photos with cut outs—patterns he painted and illustrated then cut and pasted onto his images.

Maria Jeona Zoleta at Finale

Maria Jeona Zoleta lorded it at Finale’s booth.  She made the gallery stand out in neon pink glory.  Blanc brought out new pieces by Art Sanchez, an impressive Lao Lianbien, and various Louie Cordero paintings on canvas and on paper.  I just love Louie’s kitschy, Pinoy komiks, over the top, slasher aesthetic.

Art Informal had a wonderful new Tatong Recheta Torres.  We must really welcome Tatong back into his first life— and never allow him to leave again!  Silverlens, the art fair pros, simply knew how to work their booth.  Patty Eustaquio’s Diving Bell (Cloud Country) took center stage, a teaser for her upcoming show.  They also had pieces by Leslie de Chavez, Ryan Villamael, Chati Coronel, Isa Lorenzo, and pyrographs on wood by Mariano Ching.  As always, Nano rocks!

Mariano Ching, "Pillars Series 3" at Silverlens

New discoveries:  Jacob Lindo at Silverlens with his small graphite works, and Carina Santos at West Gallery.  She exhibited Joseph Cornell-like boxed assemblages using sliced books.  Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of those.

Lee Amante, Rachel Rillo, and Isa Lorenzo beside Elaine Navas, "Polidori's Sofa" at Silverlens

By Jacob Lindo, "Avoid Rivers, Strivers, and Voyeurs" at Silverlens

Speaking of West Gallery, they seem to have been the only ones who came prepared with a handout that detailed their available pieces.  It also outlined a schedule of their upcoming shows.

Over at Duemila, a very tame, almost pretty, Mideo Cruz painting hung on one wall.

CANVAS debuted a novel initiative utilizing the iPad.  Rizalpabeto borrows from the tradition of Letras Y Figuras, a 19thcentury art form whereby artists rendered letters of the alphabet, usually to spell out a patron’s name, in stylized forms.

Jay Pacena and Marika Constantino, curators of Rizalpabeto project

This project celebrates Jose Rizal’s 150th birth anniversary.  Vim Nadera composed a poem on the National Hero, one verse for each letter of the alphabet.  Elmer Borlongan executed a letra for each of the verses, but did this completely on his iPad.  A colonial genre has been taken to the 21st century.

My verdict on ManilArt 11?  A handful of galleries spent time and effort to bring out new works for collectors to acquire.  I found pieces that I did want to take home, more this time than in the last two fairs.  Nothing groundbreaking, as the galleries played it safe.  They predominantly kept to the two-dimensional and wall-bound.  A good number of the participants, though, as in the past, seemed to have simply emptied their backrooms.

Elmer Borlongan's "K" from the "Rizalpabeto" project

Dr. Joven Cuanang at Boston Gallery. He sits on a piece by Plet Bolipata

The flimsy fixtures gave the fair a shabby air.  Unfortunately, the galleries who worked to spruce up their spaces could not overcome this overall impression.  It felt like a bazaar.  And as much as I preferred the NBC Tent’s accessibility, it probably isn’t suited to this event.

Did the fair mirror our dynamic art scene?  Unfortunately not. Neither did it seek to educate and elevate standards.  A pity, and a missed opportunity, as judging by the number of people that took the time to drop by, ManilArt 11 captured quite an audience.

ManilArt 11 runs from 24 to 27 August 2011 at the NBC Tent, Fort Bonifacio Global City, Taguig.  Visit

Secret Fresh


Elmer Borlongan, "Duyan Sa Kwarto" at Boston Gallery

Jason Moss at Pablo

Pablo's installation

Pancho Francisco, Marina Cruz, and Rodel Tapaya at Art Informal

Patty Eustaquio, "Diving Bell (Cloud Country)" at Silverlens

Leslie de Chavez, "Hungry Gods" at Silverlens

Kaloy Sanchez, "Untitled" at Paseo Gallery

Gabby Barredo at Art Verite

Lynyrd Paras, "Huwag Mong Sirain Ang Isang Bagay Na Totoo" at Art Verite

Pow Martinez and Soler Santos by West Gallery space

Jigger Cruz, "Plinth for the Psychedelics" at West Gallery

West Gallery installation

Art Sanchez, "Impermanence 1" at Blanc

Janet Balbarona and her painting at Blanc

Louie Cordero with Eric Encinares of The Sleepyheads

Louie Cordero, "Space Is The Haze" at Blanc

Louie Cordero, " Magnovelzum", "Arvidzwarn", and "Masangoturp"at Blanc

Blanc installation

Photos by Rudolf Schwarkogler at Galerie Zimmerman Krachtowill

Pieces by Robert Langenegger at the Galerie Zimmerman Krachtowill

At Galleria Duemila, paintings by Romina Diaz and Mideo Cruz

Rodel Tapaya, "Camp Scene No. 1", oil on acrylic with chrome frame at Blueline

In the neighborhood: Sonny Angara, Louie Bate, Jia and Gabby Estrella

Andres Barrioquinto, "Twin Shadow" at Blueline

Winner Jumalon, "Pause" at Blueline


5 Responses to ManilArt 11: Art In The Dark

  1. Sorrystory says:

    I’m assuming that what you mean by Tatong’s “first life” is his return to painting. Correct me if I’m wrong. Having said that, wouldn’t it be then contradictory to laud an artist’s return to 2d then go on to proclaim that the fair did not do so well because it choose to predominantly showcase wall bound works, when in fact it was merely catering to this former trend of thinking?

  2. manilaartblogger says:

    (Note: This comment has been reproduced by the Manila Art Blogger with permission from the person who made this comment on Facebook.)

    I got to agree with you (Manila Art Blogger). If this art fair’s mission is to showcase the best of Philippine Art and in a platform that we truly can be proud of then it failed. Maybe commerce was what was intended. But selling superstar-artists’ works should …not be the only goal. At the end of the day, it should be the uplifting of our visual arts into something that can be locally and internationally recognized and respected. For sure the galleries earned but in the guise of “Wowowee” culture meets the arts. It is one way to expose the art fair to the masses and be more accessible, it is also one way to be somehow cheap. We have to be able to draw the line.

  3. hans says:

    Isn’t it “back to painting” even in the West? Damien Hirst is and now with his own hands. The Leipzig painters are. What’s bad is trying to paint like the Leipzig painters…although it is a good thing they were not represented at this fair. What’s bad is following a trend – to make art that has the same look and feel as those enjoying commercial success.

    The challenge should be to create good art in whatever medium the artist chooses. The medium is secondary. Nothing wrong with good wall- bound art even if it is oil on canvass. Nothing wrong with good installation, video art or performance art.

    I agree that Pablo had the best installation. For the first time, I actually went through video art more than once. For once, I was tempted to buy video art. Nice works by Dex Fernandez too.

  4. Sorrystory says:

    Yes, If it was about commerce than it could be considered a success. Other than that, I don’t think it did too well.

    Hans, you’re right there is nothing wrong if an artists decides to return to painting or not (or whatever medium he chooses to work with for that matter). What’s amiss is if a market economy influences an artist and not the other way around. It doesn’t allow growth for both parties.

  5. Hans says:

    That’s the sorry state of art, Sorrystory! But those who buy based on hype and auction records can also be burned financially. As for the artists, it’s their choice: enjoy the money (but be stuck to their sellable style) OR enjoy their creative freedom as real artists.

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