By Camille Anne M. Arcilla
Who says there’s no money in art?
Not the artists, their fans, and supporters in the Philippines’ art scene.
After all, experts and observers alike say that the local art market is “more vibrant than ever,” but not yet close to being saturated.
With the rise of social media connectivity and with more artist-entrepreneurs jumping into the bandwagon, the art scene continues to flourish, earning profits for establishments and — most importantly — delivering the creative industry’s rightful share in economic growth.
But just how much exactly has the creative industry contributed to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP)?
Former Cultural Center of the Philippines President Nestor O. Jardin has the answer, enumerating several pieces of data during in his talk, “Arts Management Speak,” held at the College of Saint Benilde in Malate, Manila on June 30.
According to Mr. Jardin, in 2008, the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines, together with World Intellectual Property Office, commissioned a study to measure the contribution of the creative industry to the Philippine economy, specifically in terms of gross domestic product contribution. Overall, in 2008, the creative industry contributed 4.82% to the GDP while providing 11.1% of employment to the country’s total work force.
The same two organizations conducted another survey in 2014 and the economic contribution in terms of GDP has increased to over 7.34% and the employment rose to 14.4%.
The cultural creative industry (CCI), according to the International Confederation of the Societies of Authors and Composers, marked $2.25 billion or 3% of the world’s GDP in 2015. It produced 29.5 million jobs or 1% of the world’s population.
The Asia and Pacific region topped the world’s CCI contributors, the report said, having $743 billion in revenues or 33% out of total, and generated 12.7 million jobs or 43% of the overall.
“It just shows us that the creative industry has been contributing more in the Philippine economy,” he said. “In 2016, it would [possibly] shot up higher.”
Flourishing visual arts scene
Of all creative fields, the Philippines’ visual arts scene may emerge as one of the biggest contributors to the economy since it is experiencing an upward trend, according to Mr. Jardin.
That scene is flourishing due to “the number of galleries being established, artworks being sold, and Filipino visual artists’ [recognized] in international auction houses,” he said in an interview. Other “support mechanisms” favorable to Filipino visual artists include art fairs such as Art Fair Philippines in Ayala, Art in the Park in Salcedo, and art fairs in SM Aura, which is organized by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).
Art Fair Philippines and Art in the Park cofounder Trickie Lopa said both events are progressing fairly well.
“Art in the Park turned 10 this year and Art Fair Philippines will be celebrating its fifth edition in February 2017. I suppose it would it would not be irresponsible to say that both events are moving along nicely — progressing fairly well,” she said in an e-mailed interview.
Last February, Art Fair Philippines was participated in by 40 galleries, 11 of which are foreign, and was attended by 22,000 visitors. Art in the Park, on the other hand, was joined in by 60 exhibitors in April and was attended by 16,000 people.
“Certainly there is a marked increase from a decade ago — I’m only speaking of what I’ve observed for the visual arts. You have more people attending gallery shows, and there are definitely more galleries today,” she said.
Ms. Lopa added that the country now has a better defined art eco-system: galleries, museums, fairs, auction houses, and art schools. “These elements all contribute to a healthy art scene.”
These upbeat sentiments are also brought about by young Filipino artists who are up to date with global trends in their fields and have already made their presence felt in the international exhibition scene, ManilArt marketing and public relations director Tess Rayos del Sol said.
“With social media connectivity and our facility for the English language, they are able to join the discourse and exchange with artists from all parts of the globe… Much of emerging art draws from multicultural influences and contemporary issues,” she said.
Art as ‘blue chip’ investments
Auction houses have also reaped the benefits of the flourishing art scene.
Salcedo Auctions, which, according to its Web site, “sells work of leading local and international artists and artisans… with the theatricality and high drama of public bidding,” said support from patrons have been “phenomenal” ever since it was established seven years ago.
“We are elated that when we started this thing, it was not crazy after all. When we said we will open an auction house, everyone thought we were looney, that it wouldn’t work. Filipinos are shy, they won’t bid, and they won’t let go of their possessions,” Salcedo Auctions advisor Richie Lerma said.
The establishment’s steady growth can be attributed to two things: the Philippines’ overall economic expansion and the growing familiarity of the people to the auction process.
“[Collectors] are looking at the ‘investment’ quality of collectibles. It’s very important to underscore here that Salcedo Auctions has produced fine arts and collectibles in this scale in the Philippines,” he said.
Salcedo Auctions, which is run by and registered as KRM Management and Services, Inc. in the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), posted a gross income of P4,943,750 in 2014 — its latest available info on the SEC Web site — against P1,909,817 in 2013.
“Revenue has gone up year-to-year because we are now auctioning different categories such as jewelry and time pieces, furniture, books, maps, among other things,” Mr. Lerma said.
For his part, Jaime Ponce de Leon of Leon Gallery, another art auction house, said collectors are eyeing rare pieces in modern art and those works by artists who are considered as “blue chip” in the industry.
Leon Gallery reported P12,819,630 in revenues in 2014, the latest data available in SEC.
Mr. De Leon said the art scene in the Philippines has a direct relationship with how the West is doing, and has a positive effect in the Southeast Asia.
“Philippine art is growing. With the interest that is happening now, it should continue its path to be a center for art in Southeast Asia. The Philippine art is one, or if not, the most vibrant in Southeast Asia art scene,” he said.
In terms of survival, ManilArt Exhibitor Relations Director Silverio Ambrosio said auction houses will continue to prosper in the future.
“Auction houses will continue to survive, but keen selections and properly documented artworks will be the order of the day. Auction houses seem to enjoy keen competition amongst them,” he said.
“For as long as we get very good pieces, we encourage collectors to consign with us for as long as they have confidence with Leon Gallery, we will be able to sustain the operations. It’s all about confidence and relationship with collectors,” Mr. Lerma said.
Art market far from saturated
Contrary to what others may think, the Philippine art market is far from being saturated, ManilArt art fair Director Atty. Amy W. Loste said.
“The demand is growing as awareness spreads. In fact, Filipino galleries and artists should continue to actively vie for a bigger share of the international market, like Singapore and Hong Kong, as some areas are benefitting from the promotion of Filipino artists,” she said.
Ms. Loste also noted that countries that have a strong belief in their cultural dominance can actually capitalize on the arts and translate cultural development into the creative industry.
“I think France is a prime example. There is no reason why Filipinos cannot do the same,” she said. “We have a rich and distinctive cultural heritage in art, design, cuisine, music, etc. and with the Filipino diaspora all over the world, and there is no reason why Filipinos cannot claim our rightful place on the world stage.”
But even with a blooming art scene, Atty. Loste nevertheless emphasized the need for government support and policy.
“What we need more of is government support and policy that recognizes art and culture as being in the forefront of national life and integral to the development of our identity as a people,” she said.
Mr. Jardin echoed the same sentiment.
Governments in Asia have already focused on the creative industry and have seen its potential, unlike the Philippines where the creative industry is not even categorized as such in the Department of Trade and Industry.
“In Korea, the arts and culture is financed as an investment, rather than a grant, subsidy, or contribution, with an end view that the government will earn from this investment,” he said.
While creating a Department of Arts and Culture may add another layer of bureaucracy, it would help if someone on a “cabinet-level” would fight for the arts and culture, Mr. Jardin said. That person “can work on a bigger budget for the cultural agencies.”
Nevertheless, with Filipinos’ improved buying power and easy access to information, Mr. Ambrosio said the positive impact in the art scene will somehow continue in the coming years.
“More young Filipinos with money to spare will continue to support the arts. Acquiring art is no longer confined to the elites — it is now part of a lifestyle,” he said.
And with the new administration coming in, artists, art managers and enthusiasts are hopeful that this progress will be sustained and developed more in the future.
“The economic fundamentals are there for the general Philippine economy. The new administration promised to continue the successes of the Aquino administration and I think that would include the arts and culture sector,” Mr. Jardin said.
Camille Anne M. Arcilla (@cam_arcilla on Twitter) covers the arts and theater beat for BusinessWorld. She loves to travel when time and money permits. Margarita Samantha Gonzales (@famamfa on Twitter) designed the chart. BusinessWorld Researcher christine joyce s. castañeda (@cjscastaneda on Twitter) helped provide data to the infographic.