If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the parking lot. And that’s exactly what a select group of Manila’s established galleries are set to do, if talk is to be believed: they’re not joining the 2020 edition of the annual Art Fair Philippines—or as some people call it “Art in the Parking Lot”—and are forming their own yearly art event.
Yesterday, the movers of these ‘renegade’ art spaces met at the ArtInformal gallery in Makati to discuss a possible joint statement. According to insider sources, the breakaway group is composed of the above-mentioned ArtInformal, along with Finale Art File, West Gallery, Drawing Room, Mo_Space, Blanc, Duemila, Mabini 1335, Underground and Vinyl on Vinyl. The group is now being called the Breakaway 10, or the SM 10 because they are reportedly moving into Hans Sy territory, the SM Aura in Taguig, expectedly a change of atmosphere from the Ayala Center parking building, The Link, the Art Fair’s address since its inception in 2012.
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One of the gallery owners that ANCX spoke to said the group’s members each have their own reasons for leaving the Art Fair fold: among them that the venue has become too small, that the organizers practice favoritism when it comes to giving premium spaces, that the artists are not being given the courtesy they deserve. But according to another source, a gallery owner not part of the breakaway faction, it is because these galleries refuse to be associated with a certain group of galleries known to sell works with questionable provenances. This particular group, our source says, wasn’t part of the Art Fair in the earlier years.
Asked about this development, Trickie Lopa, one of the organizers of Art Fair, told ANCX that they have been preparing for the next edition of the fair since May this year. “We are continuing on with our planning for Art Fair Philippines 2020,” she said in a message sent to ANCX Executive Editor Ces Drilon. When asked if she had been informed formally by the breakaway group, she said no—but some had already informed her verbally.
Art Fair Philippines is easily the biggest art market in the country. In its most recent edition alone, it gathered 36 local galleries and international art spaces. Galleries pay Php 300,000 for a slot in the three-day event and go through a “curatorial screening.” But many swallow the bitter pill of high rental cost because galleries are known to sell millions-worth of artworks as early as opening day. Last February, a Botero reportedly sold for 1.6 million USD, and a Bencab for Php 45 million. A Marina Cruz sold for 15,000 USD on the day of the vernissage.
If there are galleries leaving, there are those believed to be sticking it out with Lopa and company. These are: Leon Gallery, Art Cube and Silverlens.
“What’s crucial to this development is where Manong will side,” an artist manager quipped at an event Tuesday evening. Manong is Dr. Joven Cuanang, the influential art patron. When ANCX messaged him about this turn of events Tuesday night, Manong replied this morning to say word on the breakaway group hasn’t reached him.
“If they have Leon, they don’t need to worry. Leon Gallery is the art market,” says a gallery owner who requested anonymity. Leon, of course, is the leading auction house in the country.
“Anything new in art is always welcome,” says Dr. Rico Quimbo, a collector. “While these galleries were ‘no longer happy’ with how big the fair has become and miss the camaraderie of the smaller fair, this new art event I suppose is trying to get back to those roots. At the same time, it’s also a chance for Art Fair Philippines to innovate; get back to making the fair all about art all over again. The loss of ten galleries is the chance to invite new ones. They just need to be careful who to let in…While it won’t be the same without the breakaway galleries, it’s a chance for Art Fair to become an even better version of itself.”
Photographs from the Official Facebook of Art Fair Philippines