If the opening night turnout for ALT is an indication of the collective pull of the 10 influential galleries that put this maiden event together, then this new art marketplace is off to a promising start.
Not only did the 10 — who bolted out of Art Fair Philippines last year — fill up the SMX Convention Center at SM Aura with art and an audience, they filled it up with some of the most renowned personalities in art and society — a rare sight this side of BGC, which most likely explains the big smile on Hans Sy’s face.
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Everyone was there: from artists and curators to galleries and art patrons. Dr. Cuanang? Check. Jaime Laya? Check. Paulino Que? Check check check! Can you imagine all the checks issued that night?
All four MM Yu drip paintings were already sold out when we arrived at half past 5. And so was a Yasmin Sison, and the Ayka Gos and the Lyra Garcellanos. Of the 10 galleries, Underground chose to focus on one artist: Valerie Chua who showed paintings of romanticized museum objects. Anton Belardo, over at Vinyl on Vinyl caught the curiosity of many with his “panic room” where visitors are encouraged to share their worries, sentiments, etc. in exchange for advice, snacks or silence.
The Drawing Room, for its part, showed some of the strongest pieces including a video work by Derek Tvmala and a wallbound patchwork cabinet by Jose John Santos that caught the attention of a trio of older men who spent quite a few minutes discussing it and Santos’s oeuvre. “Eto talaga you can see something came from within eh,” said one.
So how different is ALT from the fair it defected from? It’s clearly a more polished environment, a more manageable space to navigate, and, as the kaftanned Queenmelo Esguerra said that VIP evening, while surveying the space: “I love this fair. The ceiling height really made a difference.”
Here are the things we overheard from the VIP crowd on opening night:
“Kasi yung mga ganyan mura pa.”
“Meet the man of the hour.” — Elena Coyiuto at the sight of Hans Sy
“Eh di ba may Lyra ka na? Ibigay mo na lang sa’kin Lyra mo.”
“I wanted sana the Yasmin kaya lang sold na eh.”
“Puwede ba buksan 'to?” — a collector deciphering Jose John Santos’s cabinet.
"West Gallery is the most conservative and they made 'tiwalag'.... They believe in the Sys. Hindi sila basta-basta"
“Happy na 'ko sa nakuha ko. Ang daming flowers.”
“Sold 15 minutes ago.”
"This is a coup to get the most influential of the galleries to do this.”
“Yung true art appreciators napansin yan.”
“Twenty four thousand Lang?! Sana pala binili na natin!”
“We don’t want to ruffle the SM people.”
“Ma’am gusto ko talaga suot mo," Brisa Amir to Ling Quisumbing, her former teacher. Ling: “Thanks. Pantulog ko to."
“No, this is Junya Watanabe.”
“See, it's so easy...just like that. Hindi katulad duon sa isa.” — an artist noting the friendly gate guards who let her in without the pass after she said hers is with a friend already inside the exhibition hall.
“Naiyak ako. I think I’m moving to Amsterdam.”
ALT is ongoing until Sunday, February 16, 2019, at the SMX Convention Center, SM Aura, Taguig City
Photographs by Chris Clemente