It’s the usual Friday night at Población, Makati: neon-lit streets, booze-buzzed air, tipsy yuppies milling about, the odd Caucasian on the prowl, a hint of mischief here and there. A similar vibe wafts from within Pineapple Lab, an art gallery at the edge of town.
“Do you remember your first time?” Chino Carlo Aricaya, a visual artist and Pineapple Lab’s social media manager, teases the gathered crowd. Whoops ring up, but the folks here are buzzed on supporting artists whose works hang publicly for the first time.
First Base in an exhibit featuring works by artists dubbed “gallery virgins” by curators Aricaya and Gabbie Campomanes.
2017 was Aricaya’s first time, debuting in Pineapple Lab’s 30 Under 30 show. Since then, he’s had eight local solo shows plus a solo London show for June – his first international exhibition. Graduating from computer science, he worked for six years in the local branch of a Silicon Valley-headquartered firm.
He remembers savoring the validation of a first exhibit – and all the lessons, some gritty, many nitty, that followed as he learned the ins and outs navigating the world of gallerists, collectors, and artists competing for fame and coin. The paperwork. The pricing. The tendency to compare. Getting over that tendency. Trepidation at a first commission; a lasting friendship with a regular client. The ups, the downs, and the in-betweens.
Aricaya believes artists grow as they put their work out there and under the public eye, side-by-side with other works. One will then see how different or similar one’s expression is to another artists, and “building from that difference,” one makes decisions that create a unique touch in a world “where every subject has been explored.”
Ultimately it’s about paying it all forward. He pitched the idea of a “gallery virgins show” to the directors of Pineapple Lab. Hopefully, Aricaya says, this may not be the last of such shows.
Aricaya discloses a fear shared by many emerging artists: owing to the intimate regard a creator has to their work, many artists choose not to answer galleries’ calls for submissions. Many of those who do, price too high or too low. “It’s teaching artists to let go of their art and to let the world consume it,” he expounds. He also emphasizes the importance of getting over the fear of rejection, “hindi kakatok ang mundo sa bahay mo to see your art.”
Back onstage, Chino closes the floor with another teasing remark: “If you don’t ask …?” He lets the audience finish for him: “The answer is no!” The crowd chimes.
First Base aimed to immerse emerging artists in the nitty-gritty non-art work that goes with making art works – ethical considerations, pricing oneself well, and paperwork were aspects the curators emphasized to the 70 confirmed artists, selected from 300 participants across generations, backgrounds, and professions. “Ang main requirement naman for this show was basta hindi ka pa nakapag-exhibit.”
He reveals a bit about their deliberations: “is this artist still testing kung saan siya comfortable? May mga artists ng clear iyung messaging ng mga works. So we chose those.” Aricaya and Campomanes were wary of jumping the bandwagon on certain subjects.
There were lots of images of Cordillera tattoo artist Apo Whang Od, many stills of chairs, and dozens of poverty porn. Aricaya wonders if the subjects were given release forms.
“Saying no, that’s usually the hard part,” Aricaya admits, First Base being his first curatorial project.
To those rejected, they’d give comments and points for improvement. Which helps, as those of us who’ve experienced rejection following a call for entries rarely get a notice. Some submitted two works, and the curators shared their thoughts on which piece contains the authenticity wordlessly sought and which comes off as contrived. “Nakalagay sa decline email na, if you didn’t make it for this show, stand by kase maraming kasunod,” Aracaya reveals.
Throughout the evening I met various artists, some in person, many through their works: a teenage girl in her first year of college, a man who’s produced music videos for local and international acts, another whose works have been featured in many publications but only grace a gallery tonight, a veteran commercial photographer, a fine arts graduate who for ten years first worked in retail before tonight, a corporate digital artist whose framed works then were mainly gifts for her closest friends.
I brought up the age-old commercial slant with Aricaya, which some are wont to regard cynically: oh, art is just an investment; I’m buying a piece not because I like it, but because I’ll sell it one day. We talked about Elmer Borlongan’s early days, where the famed painter learned not to trust some commissions.
Aricaya reminded me that even then, you won’t buy a work you don’t in some way relate to. That the show is for emerging collectors as much as emerging artists – for the creators and their audience, for the community gathered around art. “The goal [in First Base] was not to create a sale,” Aricaya begins, given that Pineapple Lab gets most revenues from shows featuring established artists, but to foster a “speakeasy for underground artists.”
And what better way to foster it than to help creators get a step closer to making a living off a full-time art practice?
First Base ran until June 2, 2019. For a catalogue of works and contact details of their creators, reach out to Pineapple Lab on social media or email firstname.lastname@example.org