DESIGN

This Poblacion restaurant-gallery fusion is a true feast for the eyes

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Artist Leeroy New and actor-restaurateur Marvin Agustin join forces in Kondwi, a new restaurant-gallery in Poblacion, Makati. Photo by JL JAVIER

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — Kondwi stands out in the evolving Albert St. facade with a two-storey industrial look. Experimental concepts abound in Poblacion, Makati but since Kondwi opened in November last year, the restaurant and gallery is among the few hip spaces to extend the activity to the northern side of Makati’s old town center. Located closer to residential J.P. Rizal than the center of activity around Kalayaan and the red light district of P. Burgos, the collaboration between actor-restaurateur Marvin Agustin and sculptor Leeroy New is not marked by any big, bright signage.

A look into the ground floor is obscured by drapes but purple lights peek through. But it’s by no means an exclusive club. Kondwi (a Filipino take on the word “conduit”) acts as a channel across creative disciplines. Kondwi is an interesting addition to Poblacion's band of offbeat spaces. Its fusion of art and food is a perfect showcase for New’s perspective as creative director, particularly in the realm of hospitality design expression.

The ground floor is an expansive lounge serving creative cocktails by beverage consultant Ulysse Jouanneaud (who also has a bar in Poblacion) and Asian tapas by Toyo and Helm alum Alexander Craig Tan. The 150 square meter space features pieces custom-designed by New: from the paintings, sculptures, and even a blown glass lamp in the shape of a bubble man hanging from the celing. Other interesting pieces include mismatched tables, baroque cushioned thrones, surrealistic velvet banquettes that appear molten, and chairs upholstered in brocade, all using upcycled frames.

New curates the art on the walls and the tables every few weeks, featuring works by artists and designers from various disciplines. The planters throughout the space were created as part of an exhibition called “Hortus,” where artist-designers — including sculptor Jinggoy Buensuceso and industrial designers Vito Selma, Stanley Ruiz, and Liliana Manahan — give their take on vessels for flora. Placing art outside the white-walled context of a gallery is one way to cultivate the growing art market. The pieces are also all available for purchase.

The second floor, though, is indeed a gallery with white walls. The high-ceilinged loft is decidedly more playful than its contemporaries. It hosts visual art and performative exhibitions that do the space justice. New has mounted large, floating light sculptures in the shape of his signature extraterrestrials, hung from the ceiling, for a show that was on view around Christmastime. Dex Fernandez’s famous Garapatas once filled one corner of the room from floor to ceiling. The gallery space is also unique in its promotion of the art of dance. It hosts dance lessons (they have Salsa Tuesdays) and art workshops.

With the variety of performances Kondwi has hosted so far — from a Sunday drag brunch in the lounge to a multidisciplinary project with choreography by New York-based Elizabeth Roxas Dobrish in the gallery — it seems anything can happen here.

“Memoria” cast lava rock vases by Jinggoy Buensuceso, terrariums by Balay Diwa, and blown glass busts by Leeroy New on a long dining table. Photo by JL JAVIER

A variety of upcycled chairs custom designed by Leeroy New. Photo by JL JAVIER

The bar is lit by lava wall lamps and hanging blown glass skulls by Leeroy New. The “Scaffold” plant receptacles are by Stanley Ruiz. Photo by JL JAVIER

A life-size light installation by Leeroy New hovers above the Kondwi dining space. Photo by JL JAVIER

Behind the grand spiral stairs is an intimate corner banquette with "Apocalyptus" planters by Vito Selma. On the wall is a Jinggoy Buensuceso piece. Photo by JL JAVIER

The entire second floor is a gallery space that hosts visual art and performative exhibitions as well as dance lessons. Photo by JL JAVIER

A surrealist banquette upcycled by Leeroy New. The works on the walls are "The Future is Plastic" by Kiko Escora, "Bata-K" by Georjanno Abenoja, "Sacred Heart" by Leeroy New, and "Origins No. 17" by Mars Bugaoan. Photo by JL JAVIER

A look into the ground floor is obscured by drapes but purple lights peek through. But it’s by no means an exclusive club. Photo by JL JAVIER

The space is an interplay of wooden and metallic chairs plus upholstered seating in jewel tones of velvet and brocade. Photo by JL JAVIER

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Kondwi is located at 6109 Albert Street, Poblacion, Makati.