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Art Fair PH 2023

From 3D paintings to toy sculptures, the future of art is trying to look damn bright

In Art Fair Philippines, the strong creative energy charging in the air can turn anything lying around as art — including an unrolled out green carpet at the Baguio-based No Space booth.

"This one?" curator Gail Vicente pensively replied when this writer asked who is the artist it belonged to.

"No one," Vicente lets out a laugh. She explained it was supposed to be used for the booth. But then, someone cleverly wrote in pentel pen on it: "The green, green grass of hope."


Art or not? An unrolled green carpet at the No Space booth. Photo: Francine Y. Medina


It might as well be what Art Fair Philippines 2023 has navigated for artists, gallerists, the public, and poseurs after almost three years since the pandemic. At Thursday's Vernissage, the crowds came in masked — mainly, a cliquish congregation in the booths of their favorite galleries or artists, reconnecting with people they haven't met since the pandemic began.

On its 10th year, the Art Fair Philippines held at The Link in Makati City is a robust mix of old and new forms with a palpable energy that's been reinvigorated after nearly three years of the "big sleep" in physical art events.

Ongoing till Sunday, February 19, here are 10 noteworthy galleries and shows to check out.



Dindin Araneta and Rizome Walls


1. The Zen-like Rizome bamboo walls

What's new at Art Fair this year?

Dindin Araneta, one third of the relentless organizers that include Trickie Lopa and Lisa Periquet, says, "We're back to a full-on physical art event here at the The Link with a space that looks more fluid and easier on the eyes with the addition of curved walls — thanks to Rizome, whom we've partnered with for the bamboo walls you're seeing."

"I guess what's marked is the space where we've diverted from the usual black box," she added. "The challenge has been to create a space where contemporary art can be better appreciated. We've also retained the same sections, which includes the established as well as rising names in the scene. We've also got the art talks to keep the conversation going about art issues, history, and the future."

Adding a Zen feel to the usually jam-packed art fair, the walls will be reused for local communities as part of its sustainability practice.


Galleria Paloma's Georgia Rocha with crypto art works by various Filipino artists


2. Crypto art at Galleria Paloma

NFT art is here and it's a relatively new frontier worthy of appreciation and discovery. With Galleria Paloma, sisters Georgia, Kimberly and Georgia Rocha open the doors for this exciting interactive art form in a show called "para//lel" featuring the works of rising NFT Filipino artists Sky Nicolas, Luis Buenaventura, Jopet Arias, Bjorn Calleja, Sheila Ledesma, AJ Dumarucot, Aswang and so much more.


The late gallerist and art patron Albert Avellana is seen in a print of a photo in which he can be seen standing in front of a painting by Allan Cosio. To the left is a sculpture by Ryan Rubio


3. Tribute space for Albert Avellana

The art community is still grieving over the passing of gallerist and curator Albert Avellana last year. His presence at Art Fair Philippines has always been notable as artists and art lovers would naturally congregate at his booth. Albert was the life of the party who knew everyone and engaged even strangers with his wit and knowledge over glasses of wine.

At the tribute space for him, his older brother Francis and sister-in-law Atty. Teri Avellana warmly welcomed friends, just as Albert would want it. 

"Albert was a very giving person who supported a lot of artists," says Teri. "Moving forward, we'll be continuing his vision as closely as we can, keeping doors open to artists as he has done."

In June, Albert's birth month, the Avellana ArtGallery will hold a group exhibit titled "Sesenta"; Albert would have turned 60 this year.


At Paseo art gallery, National Artist Ramon Orlina's glass sculpture and Romulo Olazo's painting from his "Diaphanous" series


4. The Masters: Ramon Orlina and Romulo Olazo

Like the rock preserving the art firmament, the glass sculptures of Ramon Orlina never fail to mesmerize. Besides the National Artist's gem-like pieces, also on show at the Paseo Art Gallery are Romulo Olazo's iconic Diaphanous paintings.


At Art Underground, "The Key To Vivid Foresight" (2023) by Jeff Bienes. Oil on canvas, 48 x 36 inches.


5. The Beguiling Wanderer series by Jeff Bienes

If you're seeking quiet, thoughtful, whimsical paintings, then come over to the Art Underground booth for his surrealist works portraying Asian women in flights of fancy. A self-taught artist and member of the Neo Angono Artists Collective, Bienes' pretty subjects are afloat in the clouds accompanied by symbols representing the passage of time.


Raena Abella, left, with ambrotype image of artist Tommy Hafalla. Right photo, Abella's 100 images of St. Joseph using the ambrotype process


6. Raena Abella's ambrotype photographs

"This is the antithesis of digital photographs," surmises Raena Abella whose photographs harks back to the early photographic process called ambrotype. The painstaking procedure is delicate balance between applying silver metal salts on a glass plate, placing it in large format camera for the shot, and processing the image with disciplined accuracy.

Abella is among the rare contemporary Filipino artists who are devoted to the process. "I want people to appreciate this process as it's part of where photography came from and as the conversation is now about its future," she says.

Her 100 images of St. Joseph the Worker has been individually shot and processed through the ambrotype method. Imagine doing the same image, the same method 100 times. "It's like a meditation in the dark room," Abella adds.


"Onion Kids" by Harseley Ven Casero. 2020. Size: 41.33 x 61.41 inches


7. "Onion Kids" by Harseley Ven Casero

"People have been teasing me that it's the most expensive photograph here," says documentary photographer Harseley Ven Casero, who's based in Dumaguete City. He recounts the time of the lockdown in his village when truckloads of purple onions where part of food donations to the people as supplies were scarce.

The photograph has gone viral recently because of the so-called onion shortage in the country and its impossibly high price. Casero looks up to the French master Henri Cartier Bresson for his style. More vibrant large-sized stills capturing life in his hometown at the Mugna booth.


Rodel Tapaya's "Balat-Kayo" fiberglass sculpture. 2023.


8. Rodel Tapaya's "Balat-Kayo" army of chickens

At a glance, Rodel Tapaya's fiberglass toy-like sculptures evoke a sense of wit and innocence, but the context of the pieces are also a response to gallery Istorya Studios and the artist's children's education advocacy.

Proceeds of Tapaya's works and book titled "Bayan ng Ginhaw: Ang Pabrika na Maskara," will benefit the program, which aims to bring awareness on child exploitation, abuse, and child predators to the public, especially among children.


Kapitan Kulam artists Eric Melendez (left) and Jay Gapasin, minus Lourd De Veyra and Kaloy Olavides


9. Kapitan Kulam sketches, zines, and wild noise art

Think Kapitan Kulam and you think of the crazy aural experience of Lourd De Veyra doing the lead riffs, Kaloy Olavides on guitar, Eric Melendez on bass, and Jay Gapasin on drums. The band members are also accomplished visual artists among other things. Says Melendez, "We ended up doing other things such as painting and sketching during the lockdowns when there were no gigs."

On the 7th floor, be delightfully possessed by their black-and-red collaborative sketches—from grotesque to witty pop art takes. Enjoy the sound trip, read their zines, or just hang out and talk art and music. 


No Space book Tiw-Tiwong


10. Tiw-Tiwong book launch and the works of Baguio artists at No Space Gallery

Long before it was declared a Creative City, Baguio had always been a hub and home for National Artists Kidlat Tahimik and BenCab, and other important artists Robert Villanueva, Santi Bose, and Rene Acquitania who all formed the Baguio Arts Guild. The pandemic found new creatives who are embracing the city as their residence and spirit place after being stranded by the lockdowns. Among them, curator Gail Vicente, who's one-third of the online gallery called No Space. The team is completed by artists Nona Gacia and Rocky Cajigan.  

On Saturday, February 18,  No Space booth launched a landmark book titled  Tiw-Tiwong: An Encyclopedia to Life, Living, and Art in Baguio, Cordilleras and Beyond, which is said to have been a decade in the making. Book launch at the fair is on Saturday, February 18 at 6 p.m. Baguio book launch is on March 8. View the works of contributors. Linger awhile at their booth and engage in an art chat with the community, including the charming Kidlat Tahimik.  —JCB, GMA Integrated News