Seeing art in the virtual park

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DUE to the pandemic, “Art in the Park,” the popular art fair held annually in the Jaime Velasquez Park in Salcedo Village, Makati, will be held online for the second time. The fair, known for having excellent artworks with a P50,000 price ceiling, celebrates its 15th anniversary in this virtual setting. The fair will be held via www.artinthepark.ph starting 10 a.m. on Feb. 21. New pieces will be uploaded on the site daily until Feb. 28.

The fair is held as a benefit for the Museum Foundation of the Philippines, Inc. (MFPI), and, according to a statement, it has allocated P15 million to the National Museum for various initiatives such as infrastructure projects, staff development grants, and exhibition programs, among others. Trickie Lopa, one of Art in the Park’s co-founders, said in an e-mail to BusinessWorld, “Every Art in the Park benefits the Museum Foundations of the Philippines. The funds raised go partially towards the overhead of the foundation plus contribute to a grants program that the foundation disburses after an application process. Yes, the museums are closed, but grants have already been approved from the previous year.”

This year’s “Art in the Park” will have 60 exhibitors and more than 6,000 artworks (compared to the 2,000 or so at last year’s virtual installment). The lineup of participants includes Altro Mondo Gallery, Ang I.n.K., Archivo 1984, Arnold Art Collection, ART LAB: Atelier Cesare & Jean Marie Syjuco, Art Underground, Art Verite Gallery, ART for Space Gallery, Artery Art Space, Artepintura Gallery, Association of Pinoyprintmakers, Avellana Art Gallery, Blanc, Boston Art Gallery, Cevio Art Haus, College Of St. Benilde, Cornerstone (EJ Espiritu), District Gallery, Famous Artists , FEATI University School of Fine Arts, FEU, Galeria de las Islas, Galerie Anna, Galerie Artes, Galerie Stephanie, Limbo, Los Nuevos Conquistadores, J Studio, KASIBULAN—Kababaihan sa Sining at Bagong Sibol na Kamalayan, Kulay Art Group, M A G, Manila Collage Collective, Mia Casal Ceramics, Modeka Art, Mono8 Gallery, the Museum Foundation of the Philippines, Nineveh Artspace, Nord Anglia International School, Orange Project, Parokyano ng Malabon, Qube Gallery, Resurrection Furniture, Sagada Pottery, Sheerjoy, Silverlens, Space Encounters, T.U.P. Fine Arts Manila, The Authenticity Zero, The Mighty Bhutens, The Photography Zone, The Thursday Group, Tin-Aw Art Gallery, UP College of Fine Arts, Village Art Gallery, Vinyl on Vinyl, vMeme Contemporary Art Gallery (Young Artists’ Studio), Ysobel Art Gallery, and White Walls Gallery.

“Art in the Park” continues to partner with Globe Platinum for several events that will run throughout the week during Globe Platinum Hour at 5:30 p.m. daily. This includes a special tutorial for kids by award-winning comic artist, illustrator, architect, and children’s art show host Jomike Tejido. “Jomike, who has also worked as a children’s book illustrator, has had his work at every single Art in the Park for the past 15 years. We have seen his work progress and transform throughout all this time. We will highlight his latest work,” said Ms. Lopa.

Globe Platinum will also present special video features on the art-making process of Filipina artists Henrielle Pagkaliwangan and Yvonne Quisumbing.

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“In her mid-20s, she works primarily with drawings, but has lately branched out into printmaking,” said Ms. Lopa of Ms. Pagkaliwangan. “She will be showing both types of work for Art in the Park. Her pieces are usually small in scale, but full of wonderful detail. She has been shortlisted for the Ateneo Art Awards and is a grand prize winner for Don Papa Rum’s art competition.” As for Ms. Quisimbing, she noted that “Yvonne first made her name in fashion, but her art, which draws from her diverse background in design and even film, has struck a chord with art aficionados. She is continuing to develop a following, and has just finished a solo show at Silverlens.”

There will also be music on Saturday night care of 1980s band Overdrive.

For the fair’s special collaboration with the Bank of the Philippine Islands, BPI Art Clips will feature specially produced videos from various artists. This year, the BPI Art Clips shine the spotlight on pottery, one of the best-selling categories of Art in the Park, through a series of mini-documentaries that will highlight the works of pottery pioneers in the Philippines Jon and Tessy Pettyjohn, and Joey de Castro.

“With the support of BPI, we’ve decided to focus on pottery, and will feature two exhibitions for this section, one from Jon and Tessy Pettyjohn, and another by Joey de Castro,” said Ms. Lopa. “We’ve seen this section of the fair amass quite a devoted following through the years. I think I can rightly claim that we were one of the first art events to include works on clay. Art in the Park has provided a venue for artists who work in this medium to grow their audience and collectors. At the same time, the potters, as we call them, have enhanced the fair through the range of pieces they offer every year, from functional tableware to sculptural forms,” she said.

“We try to vary the artists we select each year to allow us to present a mélange of art practices,” Ms. Lopa explained. “We’ve had more established names do something special within our price range. Or we take pleasure in introducing younger artists who have gained critical recognition and a solid base of collectors to the Art in the Park audience, which tends to be quite broad,” she said.

Commenting on the sheer volume of exhibitors and collaborators, Ms. Lopa said, “Over the years, we’ve consciously made an effort to keep Art in the Park true to what is: a day to enjoy art in a casual, unintimidating atmosphere. It’s a great way for enthusiasts to discover artists, and also provide an opportunity for the artists to show their pieces without any pressures of a formal exhibit. Obviously, people like that.”

If not for the pandemic, perhaps the fair’s 15th anniversary would have been celebrated in style.

“It really is disappointing not to be able to hold a physical celebration of our 15 years of existence, which I believe is an achievement for any event!” said co-founder Lisa Periquet in an e-mail.  “Art in the Park has always been an event many look forward to because of the great atmosphere in the park: outdoors, relaxed, lots of art, food and music, and meeting old and new friends,” she said. “Many artists and visitors to the event will miss it too. But, we have to soldier on and be creative in these unusual times, so that artists can sell and lovers of art can have the opportunity to indulge.”

To mark the special anniversary, “Art in the Park” is going to be held twice. “We’ve decided to celebrate this special landmark for Art in the Park by having two online editions in 2021. This February is the first one,” said Ms. Periquet.

In addition, Art in the Park’s more formal sibling, the Art Fair Philippines, will also be undergoing changes with the times.

In the years past, Art Fair Philippines was usually held in February in a parking garage at the Ayala Center complex, taking up more and more floors of the complex with the passing years. But this year will be different. “We are launching a digital edition of Art Fair Philippines in the month of April, specifically April 21-30, 2021,” said Ms. Periquet. “You could consider this edition of Art in the Park as your art fix for February in place of the usual Art Fair Philippines.”

Art in the Park had already gone online — for the very first time — last August. BusinessWorld asked its organizers what it feels like to do it again, but this time without the birthing pains. Ms. Periquet said, “There are many more artworks for sale, because we realized after the last edition, that there was more time to surf the website and go over the art available — eight days instead of just one day. We probably have double the amount of artworks available compared to the last online edition in August 2020.”

Ms. Lopa said, “The advantages of a virtual event don’t hold true just for Art in the Park. Throughout this pandemic, the accelerated shift to digital platforms has been widely discussed. We probably mentioned this already before: our online edition allows us to stretch the event to several days, we can accommodate more pieces per participant, and, most importantly, we’ve expanded our audience numbers. Online art events will not go away, but will be part and parcel of our new future, going hand in hand with live events — once these make a comeback.”

She added, however, “Obviously, nothing will replace the energy and satisfaction gained from interacting with art and people in the flesh! Would I rather be in the park?” With emphasis, she said, “Yes! Even with the heat? Yes!”

A lot of things have happened since the last time most of us have walked through an art fair, a gallery, or a museum. The value of the things we used to take for granted and those that we used to hold dear have been shuffled. Talking about both the enduring role of Art in the Park and also what art still means in times like these, Ms. Periquet said, “The main takeaway from the last Art in the Park online edition is that artists still want and need to sell their work; and art lovers still want to access affordable art. It’s actually heartening that this is still the case, despite the drastic changes to our everyday lives. I believe Art will never change in its ability to make us see and experience the world in so many ways. It enriches life, and feeds the soul. I think it is relevant at any time, whether they are better days or more difficult ones for the world.”

Art in the Park starts on Feb. 21 an runs until Feb. 28. For information about exhibits, visit www.artinthepark.ph and follow www.facebook/artinthepark and @artintheparkph on Instagram. — Joseph L. Garcia

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