Arts & Culture

Blink, And You Might Miss This Remarkable Gallery Inside an Old Distillery

J Studio's new address in Makati was welcomed by artists, collectors, and art aficionados.

Following a brief absence from the art scene, news of J Studio’s new address was welcomed by artists, collectors, and art aficionados. “We were in VFP2, a warehouse building at Veterans Center, Taguig,” its owner Jia Estrella explains, “and during that time there was a strong art community in that area.” But it was too far for most buyers and enthusiasts. A fire that engulfed an art storage facility in the same building prompted the decision to make the final move.

Jia, together with her good friends, Gabby dela Merced of Vinyl on Vinyl and Martin Magsanoc of ARCHIVO, discovered their galleries’ new home—an old distillery—inside La Fuerza compound. The three share a sprawl at the deep end of the compound, called Pasilyo 18.

Inside J Studio

J Studio’s intimate scale and open façade draw visitors inside where pieces from Marjorelle (Jia’s Moroccan-made lifestyle label) and Jia’s own line of upcycled furniture commingle with the works of young artists. Putting to good use her degree in interior design, Jia anchored the gallery’s spaces with dramatically scaled artworks before adding chairs, poufs, sofas, and décor to create inviting tableaus. The gallery’s straightforward layout draws the eye to the different areas. From the door, two walls with dramatically-scaled paintings and sculptures flank an entryway to an expansive salon also decorated with art and furniture. A stairway leads to a loft used for exhibitions as well as co-partnered events. “I plan to host a wine-tasting here soon; we’re open to pop-ups and other pocket events,” Jia discloses

Rocking batibot chair and painting by Adrian Evangelista

It’s a tight space that’s expertly managed. Jia’s tasteful staging and manner of display give the studio a relaxed and inviting atmosphere. “The main look is very industrial mixed with eclectic charm,” Jia continues. “I wanted the space to be a blank canvas so we can show something different each month. Aside from the exhibitions, we will also offer art workshops and special events.”


Painting by Andres Barrioquinto with accents from Marjorelle

Gallerist Jia Estrella

J Studio’s soft opening in July featured contemporary artists Arnica Acantilado, Butch Payawal, and Marco Banares. It was a raucous event with three live bands—Sleepy Heads, Joee, and Identikit– playing to an overflow crowd that partied until past midnight. At the time of the interview, Jia was in the midst of Pasilyo 18’s grand opening with all three galleries in the alley—Vinyl on Vinyl, Archivo and J Studio—staging their own shows.

Sculpture and painting by Arvi Fetalvero

Apart from that, Jia will be kept busy with J Studio’s special celebration in November with 100 artists participating in the gallery’s fourth anniversary show. Expect another enthusiastic turn-out with music, art, food, and drinks keeping guests partying till the wee hours. With 100 artworks on show, it’s definitely going to be a highlight on every collector’s calendar. Pasillo 18, 2241 La Fuerza Compound, Chino Roces Avenue, Makati.

This story was originally published in the October 2017 issue of Town&Country.

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Devi De Veyra
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