By Sam L. Marcelo, Associate Editor High Life

Close encounters of the art kind

Posted on February 22, 2013

THE FIRST edition of Art Fair Philippines (AFP) is over. The crowd was hipper; the space, trendier; the art, cooler. Sculptor Riel Hilario compared the transformation of The Link car park to a Parisian contemporary art fair in held in a garage. For his brain to make the mental leap from Manila to Paris, he said, was in itself "impressive." Those who missed AFP favorites such as Mark Justiniani’s Pillars, an optical illusion extending to the bowels of the earth, can still enjoy Urban Art Makati until Feb. 28. The public art component of the fair extends AFP’s commitment beyond the commercial by "enlivening select spaces" near The Link car park with sculptures and installations by contemporary artists.

MARK JUSTINIANI’s Aiming at Windmills at the Glorietta mall -- SHAIRA LUNA

"It was never simple for any installation," said Geraldine "Dindin" B. Araneta, who spearheaded the project, "but if we can’t manage to move around big works of art then we’ll never progress."

Ronald Ventura’s 14-foot bulul traveled on a boom truck that inched its way to Ayala Center Makati from Vargas Museum in Quezon City. At the sculpture’s final destination in the Glorietta Rotunda, Mr. Ventura’s technical team had to dig a six-foot hole and anchor the one-ton bulul into the ground with metal bars.

Charlie Co’s Blue Men in Black Suits, on the other hand, were shipped via container van from Bacolod. The eight pieces, four of which are installed in the fountain area of Ayala Tower One and the remaining four in the lobby of Deutsche Bank at Fort Bonifacio, weigh 250 pounds each.

"It’s a good opportunity to make art more accessible to the general public," said Ms. Araneta in an e-mail interview, adding that Makati is an ideal venue because it has exhibition spaces for artists who like to take their practice beyond the white cube or black box. There is a pedestrian walkway, onto which Leeroy New’s Entropy, a bulging infestation of orange conduits, cable ties and toys, has attached itself; a park, where Ventura’s granary god sits under a tree; streets and pedestrian underpasses that have welcomed posters and graffiti; and a mall harboring Mr. Justiniani’s giant slingshot, ready to launch a decapitated rubber head into the shops of Glorietta.

LEEROY NEW’s Entropy is draped on the pedestrian overpass between Landmark and Greenbelt 4 in Makati. -- LEEROY NEW

Urban Art Makati also included Glass Feathers II by Pauline and Ivan Despi, a video projected on the Ayala Museum faéade, and Daloy, a live interaction parade by the performers of the Neo-Angono Visual Arts Collective, who dressed up as ants as a tribute to Carlos "Botong" Francisco.

Ms. Araneta, who has worked in a museum for most of her professional life, said that the success of a project such as this depends on having enough time to plan as well as close working relationships with the visual artists and property managers. "There were negotiations on where the works could be installed and for how long," she said, adding that the pedestrian traffic of each area had to be considered vis-a-vis the placement of the works so that no harm would come to either the viewer or the installations.

Fulfillment, for Ms. Araneta, comes in the form of random comments from the mouths of passersby. One evening, as Mr. New was setting up his neon-colored kudzu, someone walked by and said: "I don’t know what it is, but I really like it."

(Urban Art Makati 2013 is on view until Feb. 28. A guide should be available at the information counters of Ayala Malls.)

Where to go, who to see in Makati

• Ayala Triangle Gardens -- Arturo Luz

• Ayala Tower and Exchange Plaza -- Charlie Co

• Glorietta 3 Park -- Ronald Ventura

• Washington Sycip Park -- Impy Pilapil

• Yuchengco Museum -- Eduardo Castrillo

• Pedestrian Underpass -- Posters of graffiti images