Words by Alain Zedrick Camiling; Photos from Art Fair Philippines
Art Fair Philippines ushered everyone into the Metaverse highlighting digital art in this year’s iteration. Art Plus Magazine had an opportune moment with two of the three founders, Trickie Colayco-Lopa and Lisa Ongpin-Periquet, discussing the fair that was. Their website is live until June 15, 2021 allowing audiences to experience some of their tours, workshops, and talks, among others.
Since its inception in 2013, Art Fair Philippines has been continually serving as a platform for “discovering why Philippine art is among the most exciting in Southeast Asia”. Through the years with Geraldine “Dindin” de Borja-Araneta, the three founders not only have been mounting modern and contemporary art exhibitions but also at the forefront in promoting Philippine art to the international arts ecosystem through varied activities and initiatives such as workshops, partnerships, and collaborations with individuals, groups, and institutions across the arts, culture, and creative industries. With 43 exhibitors from diverse localities this year, the team shifts its focus to digital art as they introduce new programs, competitions, residencies, special exhibits, educational initiatives, tours, and continuation of 10 Days of Art which was launched in 2018.
“The most important adjustment to the digital space was to think of our audience and how to make them comfortable with an online shift”, shares Ongpin-Periquet considering the nature of their audience being wide and not all are technologically able. What was paramount to their first digital iteration is ensuring that the transition is smooth, particularly site navigation and transaction processing. “In the digital world, the quality of the information is so important”, she reckons as she discusses how Art in the Park online, held months ago, was implemented as they made sure that administrative, customer-related, and back-end concerns were addressed. “Let’s just say that taking Art in the Park online for eight days for that first run meant no one in the team slept for eight nights”, Colayco-Lopa adds.
“[It’s] always a great experience crafting a section for the fair with contributions from great minds. The best thing about putting together AFP every year is that I learn something new with each edition”, Colayco-Lopa discusses as they share their productive discussions with Neal Oshima, who served as their consultant for this year’s Residencies component. Their team sought out program hosts and partners whom they have personal or professional links with. “We also sought out different types of settings and residency conditions: art in a city setting—Orange Project Art Residency in Bacolod; a science-oriented institution—Manila Observatory; a well-established, structured program in a rural setting—Linangan Art Residency in Cavite; a residency specifically geared towards community engagement—Emerging Islands in La Union; and an environment-focused program—Butanding Barrio in Palawan”, Ongpin-Periquet adds. With the program envisioned as free-flowing, participating artists would have freedom to maximise, interpret, and experience the program in their own ways which the founders see as the beauty of it. The resulting outputs are something to look forward to in their 2022 iteration.
Art Fair Philippines has also initiated discussions on non-fungible tokens or NFTs as a digital artform. Ongpin-Periquet and Colayco-Lopa shared that they really wanted to do more than provide an online platform to sell art when they were conceiving the fair’s components. The latter discussed how she geeked out on anything art during the pandemic which served as one of their inspirations– she attended a conference on Art+Fintech in 2020 which ran for 5 weekends in June and July where blockchain and its repercussions on authenticity, provenance, and cryptoart were discussed.
“Obviously, the NFT craze is in its early, heady days. But I really think that we’ve crossed a threshold for digital art—there’s no turning back now. The hype will settle down, but the work will just get better. The pandemic may have accelerated the shift to digital, but it’s here to stay”, Colayco-Lopa adds. Ongpin-Periquet shares that this year’s fair has become a timely platform for discussing NFTs as developments in that space have been ramping up, “NFTs are currently a big disruptor in the art ecosystem and it remains to be seen how big a foothold it can establish for itself there. Our commitment this year to exploring digital art in the form of NFTs and other digital artwork such as film and video will likely carry on in future editions of the fair”.
When we asked the two about how the pandemic has changed their perception on art, market, and culture, perhaps rethinking accessibility, experiences, audiences, and collaborations, they shared:
Ongpin-Periquet: “As I always say, art is all about experiences and new ways of seeing the world. The pandemic has changed our perceptions of the world and forced us to adapt to new situations. I now see there are many ways of appreciating art, including through digital means. Our online shift for both Art in the Park and now Art Fair Philippines has been part of that change in perception and an exercise in adaptation. Boundaries of time and distance have somewhat melted away in the digital world, offering new opportunities for engagements. It’s been a challenge, and frankly, it’s been quite exciting and has opened up so many possibilities for new types of audiences, collaborations and experiences”.
Colayco-Lopa: “[It’s] quite ironic that while we couldn’t experience art in the flesh, the discussions and viewing of art become more inclusive and accessible. The one upside of this pandemic is that it made it easier for those of us who live in this part of the world to participate in conversations and events from the other side of the globe through online and social media platforms. This time last year, when the whole world was stuck at home, there would be something going on every evening on Instagram, for instance. Major collectors of global contemporary art would do virtual tours of their collections, or curators would have conversations with artists. A particularly memorable one was a conversation between the curator Hans Ulrich Obrist and the artist Christian Boltansky. I still read the notes that I made of their conversation”.
As models and platforms are constantly being tested, Art Fair Philippines stays true to their commitment to lay out the local art scene through innovative, interdisciplinary, and inspiring projects and activities as they attempt to expand audiences for the visual arts, whether in a parking-lot-transformed-into-an-art-space or online.
Art Fair Philippines’ website is live until 15 June 2021. There may be new artwork in the coming days as well as recordings of some of their tours, talks, and workshops.