Art in the Park: bring mom, bring dad, bring baby. Just don't leave her carriage unattended, someone might put a price on it. Photograph by Tammy David
Culture Art

The collector-in-training's guide to scoring big at Art in The Park

Welcome to the yearly Art Fair-in-shorts. If you're a beginning collector, this is where you start. 
Jerome Gomez | Mar 15 2019

If the annual Art Fair Philippines is for the major leaguers and high-rollers—the kind who don’t even have to glance at the price list before writing a check for that Marina Cruz—the Art in The Park gives a chance to the collector-in-training-wheels to fill his walls with art at starter-kit costs.

With every piece selling at no more than P50,000, scoring big at the yearly art bonanza at the Jaime Velasquez Park in Salcedo Village—now on its 13th year—then becomes a challenge that more than anything requires smarts and good taste, instead of just tons of your or your dad’s cash. With none of the suited patrons in attendance, and with only trees and sky as roof, the atmosphere is more Sunday market than stock market, and therefore more conducive to leisurely looking around, meeting artists and befriending gallerists—the people you want on your side as you earn your cred in art patron-hood.

Speaking to avid Art in the Park goers over the years, we drew up a no-fail guide to help you navigate this Sunday’s artstravaganza.

 

1. Come early.

Wear comfy, breezy clothing but don't over-accessorize. This is not Coachella.

We cannot stress this enough. Gates open at 10am, and by that time there is already a considerable queue. The collector and society columnist Pepper Teehankee remembers those genteel days when he can actually enter the fair grounds earlier—but the organizers have been stricter in the past years. So while Pepper lives somewhere farther, he makes it a point to sleep in his neighborhood flat the night before just to be by the Jaime Velasquez park entrance at the appointed time. If your neighborhood flat is on the other side of Ayala, you have a year to move. 

 

2. Bring a mini-entourage. 

Guys, bring your son to carry your loot. Wives, bring your husband to take your pictures for the ‘Gram, and a friend or yaya to line up for you in the payment center. They will also be helpful when you find yourself at a quandary deciding on a piece that caught your eye. 

The best mini-entourage you can find: the artist Yeo Kaa (in white dress) flanked by (from left) Art In The Park's Jean Abordo, Trickie Lopa, Oscar Mejia, Lisa Periquet, and Rhona Macasaet.

 

3. Check your favorite gallery’s offerings on social media. 

Some soc-med-savvy art spaces do post the artworks they will have on showcase a day before the fair. Consider this your prep for #4.

The Jaime Velasquez Park transorms into a roofless art mecca every March.  

 

4. Start with your favorite galleries. 

This is not S&R where you can just leisurely go through all the halls so you won’t miss out on anything. Time is of the essence, and remember that everyone else is on the prowl for a major get. Even your friends—so keep them close for the selfies and socials but when you’re still hunting, they should be at a safe distance, at least from that Johanna Helmuth you’re eyeing. Teehankee enumerates the spaces that he likes: Tin-Aw, Finale Art File, J Studio, Blanc, Art Verite, and Studio 1616. This last one an artist-run group that features young names like John Marin, Helmuth and, yes, Yeo Kaa, blockbuster star of the last Art Fair (come to think of it, of the last two Art Fairs), and featured artist of the Art in the Park this year (which just means she will have a special installation in the garden). The 28-year old artist from Palawan has earned a modest following in the collector circles, and enjoys selling art with her other artist friends at the yearly event. By the way, we love how the press release very innocently describes Yeo Kaa's works as "candy-colored stylized figuration reminiscent of fictional characters from children's books." Maybe that's how best to sell Yeo Kaa to the Salcedo Village crowd. 

Zean Cabangis's works will grace the fair's postcards this year.

 

5. Don’t be dismissive of the student and school-run booths.

Last year, the FEATI University School of Fine Arts, FEU, the International School of Manila, and the Philippine High School for the Arts all had booths. These are treasure troves that may spring the next big things in art. They don’t usually show in major art spaces anyway, and some students sell their work for as low as P5,000. You may end up with a work of a future Dex Fernandez or Maria Taniguchi for the price of a jacket at Zara. Also there is nothing cooler than being able to say, in a few years’ time, that you have a piece from this or that auction star when no one was still paying attention to their work. We have friends who talk like this and believe us they milk it. 

 

6. Brush up on different artists's styles before coming to the fair.

Remember last year somebody luckily got an unsigned Bencab? It just goes to show that it pays to take your art and artists seriously when diving into art collection. So when you see black bricks that's a Maria. When you see baby clothes that's Marina. Never confuse the two.   

When evening strikes, the party begins. This year, the Blue Rascals will be playing.   

 

7. Come full and bring water.

Water because it’s hot and you need hydration. And as for coming full: as has been said, time is as important as the money in your credit card. You shouldn’t be bothered by such banal concerns as getting a hotdog or paella on site when you’re pursuing the next Geraldine Javier.

 

8. Have fun. 

Art in the Park is a party, too, and a lot of people do treat it as a social event. It’s a great opportunity to meet the artists while they’re having their afternoon snack or happy hour drink. This will give you a glimpse of the mind behind the artwork you just bought—which might lead to an invitation to visit the artist’s studio, a very collector thing to do, a privilege exclusively given to art buyers at the top of the food chain. Mingle with the gallerists; any insider information on what’s out there in the art world (who’s hot, who’s not, who’s price is rising at the auctions) will be helpful in your pursuit to being the next Michelangelo Samson.

But really, enjoy the afternoon and stay for the evening. Don’t worry: should you end up regretting your art purchase, it is very unlikely you won’t be able to send your least favorite daughter to Poveda this coming school year.

 

This piece originally appeared on Metro.style