Oshima, Masferre topbill 6th Art Fair's spotlight on photography

Jerome Gomez, ANC-X

Posted at Feb 01 2018 07:00 PM

Neal Oshima will exhibit images of Southeast Asian ethnic groups in this year's Art Fair Philippines. Handout

MANILA -- Local photography titan Neal Oshima and Filipino-Catalan lensman Eduardo Masferre will each get a spotlight thrown on their works in this year’s Art Fair Philippines. 

Oshima, more known for his editorial and commercial efforts, has been taking photographs of indigenous tribes and rituals for more than four decades now. The collection of images he’s showing for Art Fair is called “Kin,” which focuses on distinct Southeast Asian ethnic groups including our own tribal cultures. 

Oshima’s images are expected to resonate with the late Masferre’s body of work, a chronicle of the lives of indigenous peoples in the Cordillera Mountains with whom the photographer lived amongst from 1934 to 1956. 

Together with the curator Angel Shaw, Oshima is also putting together for the March fair what might be the most expansive local exhibition featuring documentary photography. Veteran and emerging names in the field—among them Jose Enrique Soriano, Nana Buxani, Tommy Hafalla, Geloy Concepcion and Veejay Villafranca—will be showing a more compact version of the visual narratives they have worked on over the years. 

For decades, local photography have lagged behind paintings when it comes to saleability, largely owing to the former’s nature of being replicated. Will this focus on photographs in the most visited venue for Philippine art (from an expected 30,000, last year’s visitor head count went up to 40,000) improve its stature in the local art market? 

“With the interesting selection and body of works that will be presented in the inaugural year of ArtFairPH/Photo, we are excited to see how photography will continue to find its place in our local art scene,” said fair co-founder Lisa Periquet. 

Fair co-founder Lisa Periquet at the press conference of this year's Art Fair. Handout photo

Having already earned its cache as the premier venue for exhibiting and selling a reputable selection of contemporary Philippine visual art, this year’s Art Fair—which has 51 galleries participating—is only expected to draw in a bigger crowd. Hence, every available nook in the Ayala Center carpark building, The Link, the fair’s venue since year one, will be used as exhibition space, giving the participating artists and galleries a playground more than 13,000sqm in size. 

Taking its cue from the deluge of people and the long queues from previous years, the organizers are imposing a timed-entry regulation. Visitors will only be allowed in during three specified periods: 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., and 5.30 p.m. to 9 p.m.. This, said co-founder Trickie Lopa, should even out the flow of guests, ensure safety, and give the audience a better art-watching experience. Once in, however, visitors can decide how long they choose to stay.

At Wednesday’s press meet, a question was raised regarding artworks already being sold to private collectors even before opening day, leaving many regular visitors disappointed when they make inquiries on pieces they like. 

“We heavily persuade the galleries to make the works available to the people (visiting on public fair days),” assured Lopa who made special mention of Isa Lorenzo and Rachel Rillo of Silverlens Gallery who always prepare a good amount of works for showing, allowing them to change the pieces on view every day. 

Art Fair Philippines will once again be held at Makati's The Link. Handout photo

This year’s Art Fair Philippines falls much later than its usual February dates but not because it has opted to give way to the first Manila Biennale opening this weekend in Intramuros, Manila. 

“We were just trying to avoid the Chinese New Year,” Art Fair organizer Trickie Lopa told ANC when asked why the sixth edition of the event is happening outside of National Arts Month. 

While some have been quick to spin tales of rivalry between the two art events, the presence of Carlos Celdran in the Art Fair program of talks—specifically to discuss the Manila Biennale which he spearheaded—should be enough to put a stop to rumors about tension between the two camps.