Annie Cabigting just turned a gallery into a museum, and the result is stunning

Jerome Gomez, ANC-X

Posted at Mar 06 2018 07:28 PM | Updated as of Mar 06 2018 08:02 PM

Annie Cabigting's paintings in the museum setup designed by Miguel Rosales

The viewer as subject has long been a fascination for Annie Cabigting

As her subjects scrutinize the paintings, Cabigting studies her subjects: their clothes, their poses, the way they crane their necks

Cabigting appropriates a Rubens work in "Jewel In The Crown of Thomson (after Rubens)"

MANILA -- Art fans were pleasantly surprised to discover the Tall Gallery of Finale Art File transformed into a museum space last Thursday night. The artist Annie Cabigting opened her show, "Museum Watching," which featured a summary of her paintings of people looking at, well, paintings. 

To make the experience of viewing the works even more immersive—or meta, if you will—Miguel Rosales, the art advisor, transformed what was once plain rectangular white space into a distinguished room in a museum, with cornices and olive grey walls, even incorporating stately furniture to complete the fantasy. 

There’s a carved 19th century console with a marble top fronting a painting of a man looking at an image of a town hall ceremony. The console is from the auction house Casa de Memoria which specializes in European furniture. 

There is also an 18th century giltwood center table from the same source, as well as drapery and a couple of ottomans designed by Caramel Inc., an art advisory and creative consultancy where Rosales is president and creative director. 

The frames were chosen by Cabigting herself and echoes closely the design of the frames she depicted in the paintings. 

Finale’s cavernous space served as a fitting shell to the exhibition, and the museum idea proved to be a novel concept, especially in a week of brisk gallery-going and Art Fair to-dos. The set-up took almost a year to plan; while designing and identifying the details took a mere two months. 

“The physical set-up amazingly only took about two days, and another day to hang the works,” says Rosales who has another contribution to the show, it turns out. 

One of the paintings is based on a photograph he took of the palazzo Ca’ Rezzonico in Venice in 2015. It is the image of a picture-less frame with a cushioned bench below it; with the two ends of a thin strip of rope tied around the chair’s armrests. It is a picture that portrays a vignette not quite ready for public viewing; hence the absence of an imagined spectator in the painting. 

A photo of the palazzo Ca' Rezzonico in Venice taken by Miguel Rosales was the basis for the painting

The viewer as subject has been a continuing fascination for Cabigting, and so is the appropriation of other people’s artworks. She’s done Rothko, Pollock, even fellow Filipino artist Louie Cordero. A famous early piece of a similar theme is called “Conversation With Bacon,” an oil on canvas painting from 2009, which is fronted by a man in a vibrant green sweater so very closely scrutinizing Francis Bacon’s 1954 “Figure With Meat.” 

In 2013, Cabigting staged an exhibit of the same theme in Singapore called "There’s Always Something To Look At If You Open Your Eyes!" which included a work that also shows up in "Museum Watching": “Jewel in the Crown of Thomson (After Reubens)” which features a couple of museum hands about to hang Peter Paul Ruben’s “Massacre of the Innocents” on a scarlet wall.

Because she’s been doing this theme for a few years now, Cabigting’s viewer-as-subject paintings has earned a following of their own. Perhaps because of its approachable quality, transporting high art into a contemporary, relatable setting. 

"Museum Watching" then is just Cabigting having a little more fun presenting her discourse on the activity of art critiquing and its elements: the artwork, the spectator, and the space between and around them. It’s the artist expanding her vision of our fleeting relationship with an artwork. That or she’s just making sure the art spectator is afforded a venue where they can best do their spectating. 

After all, isn’t the art audience her favorite subject?