No traffic or parking issues, but difficult backend operations

ART IN THE PARK, held annually on a summer Sunday at the Jaime Velasquez Park in Salcedo Village, Makati, had to take a new route by going virtual this year because of the coronavirus disease 2019  (COVID-19) pandemic. The fair — known for its relatively affordable pieces with a P50,000 ceiling — was first postponed then held over a whole week in August online via the website Despite the limitations of the virtual sphere, 2,600 works from over 50 galleries went up for sale and display. The fair also boasted special online exhibits by Richard Quebral, Dex Fernandez, and with a collaboration with Globe and BPI, exhibits by Robert Alejandro, Reena Gabriel, Jackie Lozano, and dance group Fifth Wall Fest.

The fair donates a portion of all sales to the Museum Foundation for its projects and programs with the National Museum of the Philippines and its network.

“To our pleasant surprise, we logged the same number of visitors on our opening day as we would average for the fair’s physical edition,” Art in the Park co-founder Trickie Lopa told BusinessWorld in an e-mail.

Assessing the staging the virtual art fair, Ms. Lopa noted that “We had to request galleries to replenish the number of pieces available on their shopfronts,” a sign that sales were good. Asked what they learned from the experience, notably the difference between setting up an art fair live versus one online, Ms. Lopa quipped, “The backend operations are definitely more difficult and time-consuming!”

For her part, Art in the Park co-founder Lisa Periquet said, “The transition to online was not as simple as we thought it would be. The digital space brought its own set of operational and logistical issues so it felt like we were creating a completely new type of fair. But of course the spirit of the Art in the Park we all love — its accessibility, variety, and easygoing nature — was always the inspiration. Going online is definitely an option we would consider again in the future, if a physical event is still not viable.”

The new format did have some advantages: connoisseurs and customers didn’t have to worry about the tedium of traffic, parking, and everything else that comes with being outdoors. “Some of our visitors have told us that they enjoyed taking their time purviewing the pieces online over eight days, so that’s a plus for the online event,” said Ms. Lopa. “There is room in a post-COVID world for both physical and online events.”

She added, however, that “Nothing will replace seeing and experiencing art in the flesh, exchanging insights with artists and fellow art lovers.”

Art Fair Philippines, another event staged by Ms. Lopa, Ms. Periquet,and their partner Geraldine Araneta), has attracted thousands of people to the Link carpark in Makati since 2013 — the most recent one was held in the penultimate week of February. Asked about plans for Art Fair Philippines for 2021, Ms. Lopa said, “Those are still under discussion.” — Joseph L. Garcia