Modern Philippine art in focus

In an exclusive interview with former Italian ambassador to the Philippines Giorgio Guglielmino, Art Fair Philippines co-founder Lisa Ongpin-Periquet gave her insights on how she helped build up the local modern Filipino art scene with the successful 11th edition of the annual fair at The Link, Ayala Center, Makati City. Among this year’s special exhibitions was a showcase of 55 exhibitors from the Philippines, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, and Spain.

Giorgio Guglielmino (AGG): In a recent article of The Art Newspaper in Italy, it was mentioned that at present there are more than 300 art fairs around the world, what is Art Fair Philippines’ strategy to be different from the rest?

Lisa Ongpin-Periquet (LOP): Choosing to establish a contemporary art fair in a car park was the most significant curatorial decision my partners and I made when we founded Art Fair Philippines in 2013. It sent a message that signaled: unexpected, urban, edgy, gritty, inventive, and daring. All these adjectives could conceivably apply to contemporary art itself. We have always maintained a laser focus on bringing the best of Philippine contemporary and modern art to as wide an audience as possible, domestically and internationally. The unusual venue we chose suited the art we intended to highlight and vice versa. Today, after 10 years, Art Fair Philippines remains the biggest and best-attended art fair in the country, and has achieved a reputation as a well-regarded regional art fair in Southeast Asia.

AGG: How do you relate with the major art fairs in Asia like Basel Hong Kong or Frieze Seoul?

LOP: It’s good for us, from a smaller, regional art fair, to visit major art fairs as a benchmarking and networking exercise. It also affords one the opportunity to study art trends, the particular markets these major fairs serve, and think about how Philippine art might fit in, or on the other hand, how art from these regions might appeal to the Philippine market. It’s always informative and thought-provoking to see what is happening outside one’s usual milieu.

AGG: Do you have many foreign collectors visiting the fair? From which country?

LOP: Yes, we do have a number of foreign visitors, often collectors and institutions from the region — Singapore, Indonesia, Hong Kong, etc. We also have quite a number of foreign galleries who participate in the fair, and draw their clients in. This year, for example, we have close to 25 percent foreign gallery participation from countries such as Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan, Korea, and Spain.

AGG: Do you feel that the attention of the art scene is moving towards Asia?

LOP: A lot of new wealth is being created in this part of the world, and growth in the art market naturally follows the money. When an art market is growing and active, artists and creativity thrive and it all adds up to a vibrant art scene. The establishment of new art fairs in Asia, in Singapore (Art SG), Taipei (Taipei Dangdai), Japan (Tokyo Gendai), and Korea (Frieze Seoul) is evidence of this belief in active, wider markets in the region with room for growth.

AGG: Any special feature in this year’s fair?

LOP: One of the hallmarks of Art Fair Philippines is its developmental aspect as we develop and explore new focal points each year with our Projects section. For example, in the past, we have featured photography in the contemporary art landscape, sound art, digital art including NFTs, and so on. In 2024, for Projects, we are featuring for the first time, three foreign artists: an American multimedia artist, Mr. Star City; a Spanish performance artist, Eugenio Ampudia, and a young Romanian artist, Andreea Medar, who works with materials such as luminous thread embroidered on plastic. We are featuring an exhibition of works by Philippine women artists who focused on abstraction at a very exciting time in our modern art history, in the 1970s and 1980s. We are fortunate as well to present the Pacific Islander artist, Taloi Havini, who is the recently announced winner of the Artes Mundi 10 prize, the UK’s leading biennial exhibition and international contemporary art prize.