What to see at the Art Fair

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In an extreme example of the “I can do that/Yeah, but you didn’t” dichotomy of contemporary art, Nilo Ilarde filled one booth at the ongoing Art Fair Philippines with 24,124 diecast toy cars with a little help from Hot Wheels.

[Watch a clip of Art Fair Philippines: Scenes from the vernissage of Art Fair Philippines 2018]

Called The Art Fair is Full of Objects, More or Less Interesting; I Wish to Add 24,124 More, Mr. Ilarde’s installation riffs on a statement written by American conceptual artist Douglas Huebler: “The world is full of objects, more or less interesting. I do not wish to add any more.” Mr. Ilarde’s 24,124 toy cars do add a considerable number of objects to the many others in the art fair — now on its 6th year — which are often less interesting, and occasionally interesting enough to make the time spent at The Link car park at the Ayala Center worth it.

A new section allocated to photography, ArtFairPH/Photo, deserves a visit. Presented by Swiss private banking group Julius Baer, ArtFairPH/Photo includes an exhibition of archival photographs of Luzon’s mountain tribes taken by Eduardo Masferré organized by 1335Mabini, a harrowing exhibition on extrajudicial killings called Everyday Impunity: Ang Walang Pangalan, and a group show curated by Neal Oshima and Angel Velasco Shaw titled Provocations: Philippine Documentary Photography. The latter gathers emerging and established photographers who show a wide and wild range of images — from Nana Buxani’s prison images to Geloy Concepcion’s portraits of elderly transgender women, Jose Enrique Soriano’s scenes from a mental hospital to Kawayan de Guia’s dreamlike images of Baguio. Read High Life’s story on Neal Oshima’s exhibit: Translucent, transcendent


The images are intriguing, and demand a lingering look, time spent to ponder both subject and style, but during the vernissage on Tuesday, the crowd often just glanced at them then hurried on to the next booth.

Can’t really blame the visitors though — after all, there are 51 galleries filled with artworks arranged throughout several floors totaling 13,000 square meters of space.

That makes for an awful lot of objects.

Here are some of the galleries and their works that will catch your eye. — NFPDM and AAH

Leon Gallery

Paying homage to “110 years of the Filipino artists elsewhere,” the gallery highlights Philippine artists who made it big here and abroad including National Artist Benedicto “Bencab” Cabrera who is represented by a 1973 work called A Manila Gentleman.

Salcedo Private View

It is not surprising that one of the country’s top auction houses focuses on one of the country’s top artists, Arturo Luz. What is surprising is that it chose to show a series of large-scale drawings by the master done in the 1960s, rather than the paintings that he is best known for (those are found at the Crucible Gallery’s booth). Filled with erasures and often featuring lines so deeply etched into the butcher paper that it is torn, the drawings seem like the early versions of later works done with paint on canvas.

Avellana Art Gallery

Among the various examples of works by the artists that the gallery represents are those of Ryan Rubio — deceptively tough stone sculptures that are in their way oddly delicate like his Stone and metal Family Tree (below).

Art Lab

The entire Syjuco family — six members — turned their corner of the car park into an album of their own works. The Syjucos’ Art Lab is full to bursting with installations by father Cesare, and pretty paintings of fallen angels in pastel colors by daughter Maxine (below right). The family’s children dabble in video installation, performance art, accessory design so it is not surprising to find tucked away in an alcove a music booth lab that features music and its accompanying video by siblings Julian and Maxine (below left).


One of several ArtFairPH/Projects, this exhibition features the social realist triumvirate of Pablo Baen Santos, Renato Habulan, and Antipas Delotavo who dwell on the current state of affairs. Mr. Santos’s Estetiko ng Murahan (Aesthetic of Profanity) is a brightly colored 35-foot-long canvas laced with profanity (below right). The vulgar utterances should be familiar thanks to a president who likes to swear and make promises he cannot keep. The highlight of the exhibition is easily Mr. Delotavo’s Corpus Delecti, tomb-like installation made of law books stabbed by a giant sword-cum-scales of justice which, as is often the case in this benighted country, are rigged (below left and center).

Art Cube Gallery

Sculptor Daniel dela Cruz is always an Art Fair favorite since he guarantees to present a spectacle. This year he welcomes art lovers to his Imaginarium, where the assigned spot in the car park has been turned into a magical space reminiscent of the movie The Greatest Showman. The immersive exhibit (below) — a black and white floor, multiple mirrors, shelves and tables filled with hippopotami and rhinoceri, candelabras, supersized insects, octopus light fixtures, a giant revolving ferris wheel with mystical, almost hypnotic background music — is another example of the curious and playful imagination of this artist who has in the past presented wild takes on the Catholic Church and Alice in Wonderland.

Art Verite

Emmanuel Garibay’s Lansangan (below) plays on the Filipino word for “street,” with overstuffed paintings juxtaposing mundane street scenes with references to the EDSA Revolution.

Galerie Anna

The gallery presents Anatomies of Struggle, a curated collection of paintings and sculptures illustrating the yin and yang found in man, tackling the questions “Are we good or bad?” Among the most striking works is Gerry Joquico’s Homage to Luna: La Conclusion de Asunto, which includes an image of that epitome of human evil, Adolf Hitler (below).

Paseo Art Gallery

Giant bald men in chiaroscuro loom over viewers at Paseo Art Gallery which opted to focus on Rey Aurelio’s large format oil paintings on paper.