Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — During Art Fair Philippines 2017, over 40,000 people visited The Link, a car park in Makati turned into an art pop-up. Dindin Araneta, one of the co-founders of the fair, says that they heard people complaining about how they felt they can’t move, or that they were bumping into artworks.
“This year, when we were asking for advice in crowd management, it was suggested that we look into timed entry,” she says. Araneta adds that for this year’s fair, they had to compute the exact number of people that could fit per square meter, as well as the minimum and maximum number of people that could fill up the space.
The fair’s timed entry does not mean that people are required to leave at a certain time; it will just regulate the time periods for when people can come in.
As the fair is getting bigger, Trickie Lopa, also one of the founders of the fair, says that the first question they asked themselves when planning for the fair was: “How do we make the 2018 fair comfortable and convenient for our visitors?”
With both the visitor attendance and physical size growing five times since the fair started in 2013, they had to sit down with their partners in Ayala Land and the architects from L.V. Locsin group and talked about the ways in which they can ensure that visitors will have an optimal viewing experience.
The organization is also making online ticketing available so tickets can be purchased in advance, the building’s ramp will also be used as the main entrance as opposed to people lining up for the elevator, and the entire third floor will be used as a holding area for visitors.
Art Fair Philippines has also come up with Art Fair etiquette guidelines that they are disseminating online so as to ensure that the people visiting the site may be more mindful and respectful of the works and of the people around them.
As in every year, there will be public art, talks, and art tours that are all in conjunction with the fair. Conceptual installations by Martha Atienza, Leeroy New, and Reg Yuzon are to be expected all over Makati.
Kidlat Tahimik will also construct a wooden installation inside The Link, alongside social realist works of Antipas Delovato, Renato Habulan, and Pablo Baen, among many others.
What’s new in the fair is a section called ArtFairPH/Photo, which is a space entirely dedicated to photography. This is the organization’s way of increasing the audience’s awareness of photography as a contemporary art form.
CNN Philippines Life talked to Dindin Araneta to know more about the rationale behind all the new things that they’re offering this year. Below are edited excerpts of the interview.
Why did you decide to include a section on photography? Was there a catalyst of some sort that nudged you to finally have one this year?
There's a large community of photographers doing excellent work and in other countries, photography is widely collected, widely acquired by institutions and collectors. We've been talking about it the past two years together with Julius Baer. One of the catalysts for that was when I was going around with Barbara Staubli, a Julius Baer collector. She was wondering why we have installations, why we have videos, video works, but there was very little work on photography.
She noticed it especially because of the work of At Maculangan, who has been widely practicing, and she thought the work was very strong. So we have been talking about it with them, and finally, this year, they decided [that] maybe we can collaborate more, in terms of sponsorship, by focusing on a section for photography — that they could help us develop it to bring more awareness to this [art form].
For the ArtFairPH/Photo, there will be pieces by Neal Oshima and Eduardo Masferre whose works largely revolve around indigenous people and their traditions. Was this deliberate?
No, not really. In the Philippines, a lot of the work that's being done for photography is documentary photography and … they like to document current events or what's happening [now]. And then not so much yet art photography, although there are people who practice art photography … I think you'll have a general survey of what people are doing in terms of photography in the Philippines.
We worked with people who have essentially been trying to do good work in photography in the country … It was just a matter of reaching out to them, inviting them, and … they're always looking for venues and this was an interesting venue for them.
As for the talks, you’ve already invited collectors to share insights before. But for this year, there’s an entire segment dedicated to them. Why did you decide to do so?
We always try to feature a collector. This year, it would be interesting to look into the psyche of the different types of collectors. When we were planning the talks we were thinking ... So we identified who are collectors. Surprisingly, most of them are male, and then Ambeth Ocampo will talk a bit more why the top collectors are also all male. He's already done previous research about it. We thought about that from the point of view of a scholar.
We also thought to have an informal, casual discussion with collectors who have been collecting for maybe 10, 15 years. And then also, focusing on an art historical perspective, wherein we have Fernando Zóbel who's collecting, also an artist, and he also set up a museum, and the bulk of his collection went to the Ateneo Art Gallery. So I guess looking into the different facets of the collecting mind or the collecting persona.
Has there always been a changing, overarching theme that you’d like Art Fair Philippines to have?
You know what, no. I think you can't really prescribe that because the people that you work with, the gallerists, artists, when they come in knowing the space, they come in knowing the audience, whether the viewing audience or the buying public, so they come in knowing all that... What we do try to emphasize is that they come up with well-curated spaces because as the fair increases in audience, we also have a more discerning public.
So the idea is really for them to work with us in pushing the boundaries on what a good exhibition is all about. We have to work with them hand in hand in that. Hopefully, we're able to improve on that on a yearly basis, on an annual basis as the fair becomes more established because we also have collectors from abroad who are used to going to all of these long-established art fairs, who are used to collaborating with museums, whether lending their collections or supporting museum exhibitions, but they're also buyers, they also support the galleries in other countries, so they know, they know.
If we want to also level up as a community, as a visual arts community, I think it's important for everyone that we can't just do that through one art fair. Although the art fair is one opportunity for us to show it altogether.
Logistics-wise, the organization seem to have responded to the massive amount of people that attended the fair last year, with having to employ timed entries and the art fair etiquette guidelines.
Yes, even if you study the history of audiences in other countries, they have all of these essays in studying the history of audiences, art audiences. There was also a time many years ago where they also had to teach the audience how to behave within a space for art. But eventually in time, they learned how to conduct themselves … That’s part of it, that’s part of a dynamic that we have to work with also.
Remember it took us 25 years to really create an art-going public. You have people going to the art fair, people going to museums, people watching Cinemalaya, you have people watching dance performances — it’s a good time to have.
Art Fair Philippines 2018 will run from March 1 to March 4, 2018 at The Link. For more information, visit their website.