Arts & Culture

Art Fair Philippines Proves That It's Really More Fun Here at Home

Curators and gallerists compare notes on the local art fair and the ones abroad.
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When asked to compare the many art fairs he’s visited, Art Stage Singapore’s founder and director Lorenzo Rudolf says the most interesting ones are those with their own identity.

“There are too many art fairs which are similar and they try to copy each other,” he says. To be successful, you have to build your own image and your own identity.” This is why he’s come to love Art Fair Philippines, he says, because “it’s a mirror of a vibrant, young art scene.”

From a single floor at The Link car park in Makati, to this year's fair with four stories, Art Fair Philippines has grown exponentially since 2013 and is a champion of the local art scene.


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Finale Art Gallery's section at the Art Fair

The biggest plus is the huge amount of support the local galleries receive from local collectors. According to Leon Gallery curator Lizza Guerrero-Nakpil, the main difference between Art Fair Philippines and its Asian counterparts is that Filipinos like to buy Filipino art, as compared to their Asian neighbors—Singaporeans, Indonesians, Taiwanese—who look beyond their local artists. "In this particular case, Filipinos are resolutely patriotic. They dabble, but they never anchor their collections on non-Filipinos,” says Guerrero-Nakpil.

Half of the foreign gallerists at Art Fair Philippines represent Filipino artists.


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A Jose Joya painting carried by Leon Gallery.


A work by Marina Cruz, represented by ARNDT

It’s an event many foreign galleries look forward to joining and for good reason, too. Matthias Arndt, who carries works by Marina Cruz, Rodel Tapaya, and WASAK!, has been to 160 art fairs in the past. He’s been in the business for 30 years, but says Art Fair Philippines is the only fair his agency, ARNDT joins and has been a part of for four years. He claims he’s captivated by the energizing feeling he gets from the disorderly setup, adding, “I love Art Basel, but I love coming here because it is improvised and business is very good.

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Silverlens co-gallery director, Isa Lorenzo shares similar sentiments to Guerrero-Nakpil but explains the relationship between collector and artist differently. “People will only buy if they know [the artist]. But there’s always the first contact. They may not be familiar with [the artist and his work] but they see it and the next time around, they’ll be familiar with it, and then the next time they buy it.” This is one of the main events for Silverlens, undoubtedly one of the busiest galleries in Manila. Lorenzo admits, “It may not be the most chichi but it’s kind of like Manila—it’s sort of chaotic but it works in the end.” The local art fair allows them to showcase all their artists’ works since they only ever bring four or five of their artists’ works abroad.

Still, she remains grateful for the chance to be part of regional art fairs, “It’s a big world out there. You grow your artists, your market, your network—your artists are seen by more eyes. That’s the whole point of art fairs—to get seen by as many people as possible.”

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Sylvia Gascon of Finale Art Gallery says that this year, they’re cutting down on joining art fairs outside the country because it has become too expensive. She says Art Fair Philippines “is always better because all the clients are here and logistically, it’s easier. We don’t have to think of expensive air freight or the international customs regulations.” Through the years, she’s noticed the improvements the organizers have made, after learning from past mistakes. 

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Rudolf says with the explosion of world-changing events in the past year, he would like to see artists reflect the world around them and draw out more emotion from those events. “They’re still reflecting much of the market [rather] than the reality around us. But I think it will happen more and more.”

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Hannah Lazatin
Features Editor
Hannah is originally from Pampanga and from a big, close-knit family who likes to find a reason to get together at the dinner table. Experiences inspire her. “Once, at a restaurant, I received an interpretation of my second name ‘Celina,’ and it meant 'someone who tries everything once' and that is me through and through,” she says. As for the job, she wants her “readers to be inspired by the stories of the people we feature and to move them to reach for greater things.”
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