The global art scene is well aware of the talent and craftsmanship of Filipinos, and no art fair has been as consistent as ManilArt in driving this point home. This year was the international art fair’s 9th run, which kicked off last October 12#x2011;15 at SM Aura Premier’s SMX Convention Center with the theme, “Philippines as ASEAN’s cultural powerhouse.” The credit goes to National Committee on Art Galleries head Delan Robillos, Bonafide Art Galleries Organization head Amy Loste, fair director Tess Rayos del Sol, and executive committee members Danny Rayos del Sol and Rio Ambrosio.
Our historical background makes us distinct from our ASEAN neighbors, but Philippine visual art has no singular aesthetic—it is as rich and varied as the different regions on our archipelago. The standout for this year was Mindanao, with artists like Romulo Galicano and Kublai Millan (the latter from Mindanao himself) depicting the island group in entirely different ways.
Kublai Millan’s artistic breadth was showcased in his sculptures and paintings, with the subject matter focusing mainly on the culture and faith of Mindanao, and how it coexists with the different cultures and religions present in the country—a fitting sentiment for ManilArt 2017. Galicano’s mural, “The Modern Holocaust,” on the other hand, is a social realist depiction of the Maguindanao massacre that follows the classical style of Amorsolo with the graphic idiom of Luna.
Among the several eye‑catching works were:
Gromyko Semper’s depictions of a world where plants are a scarce resource
His art is known for its magical quality, with images reminiscent of a long tradition of fully detailed illustrations following Gustave Dore and Roy Lichtenstein, among others.
Isobel Francisco’s inquiries into a series of chaos and mutilations, inflicted to human form
As Francisco’s works hang aimlessly with its constant anxiety, so does its message: are we still shocked or have we accepted it?
Demi Padua’s work of layered, mixed media
It pares away what lurks beneath the surface, using different materials and techniques to add dimensions or layer for his discourse. What one sees is not what it seems.
Pacinek’s glass pieces
They are modern and fresh, showcasing his mastery in glassmaking, and bringing to the fore a tradition that could be further developed in the Philippines.
Artist and ManilArt event organizer Danny Rayos Del Sol’s ostrich egg carving work
It is a representational sculpture of Philippine culture, embarking upon a journey—presumably, in this context, an odyssey to the rest of the world. The images carved on each egg represents a lifetime, from birth to death, contextualized to the Philippine setting.
ManilArt 2017 drew in a diverse crowd, from artists and collectors, to families and groups of friends joining workshops and taking in the art. This year’s run had 37 galleries under its wing, hundreds of featured artists across a diverse range of media, and a calendar full of demonstrations, workshops and lectures. Apart from pioneering the search for a uniquely Filipino artistic niche, ManilArt is also an avenue for arts education across all ages. Roberto Lolong’s free watercolor workshop was geared towards the youth, and the art appreciation walking tours focused mainly on groups of students.
The event was also an avenue for world‑class art to reach the general public. The other workshops were headed by international artists: Figurative Painting of Live Dance was headed by Italian artist Vivianna Ricelli, in which participants drew dancers with charcoal. Guest artists from the Taverne Gutenberg International Residency also painted a mural, and subsequently auctioned the end product.
The yearly Art Band Live Performance featured a multitalented roster of artists, including Eghai Roxas, whose works were exhibited at vMEME Contemporary Art Gallery. Apart from being this year’s Art Band percussionist, Eghai Roxas exhibited a series of freely executed surreal transformations a human head, each with its own unbounded conclusions and trains of thought.