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Art balances the healing world

There’s no arguing in the fact that Filipinos would rather line up for food at community pantries to feed their families rather than spend time clicking on free virtual art exhibitions.

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A month has passed without many knowing that 15 April is World Art Day. It doesn’t take rocket science to figure out why the day came unnoticed.

In simple psychology, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a five-tier model tackling the importance of human needs from the most basic to the most complex but still essential need. From the bottom of the hierarchy upwards, these needs are: Physiological (food and clothing), safety (shelter, economic security), love and belonging (human connection, intimate relationship), esteem (confidence, fulfilling dreams, achievements) and self-actualization (achieving one’s full potential, including being able to pursue one’s creative passions).

Detail of Noemi Mendoza’s installation at J Studio.

The nation is hungry, people are losing jobs brought by the economic crisis resulting from the pandemic. Community quarantines are still necessary as the number of infections continues to spike. But it’s also continuing to affect businesses. There’s no arguing that Filipinos would rather line up for food at community pantries to feed their families rather than spend time clicking on free virtual art exhibitions.

This is the second year of World Art Day, which was proclaimed at the 40th session of Unesco’s General Conference in 2019 and envisioned to be a celebration promoting the development, propagation and appreciation of art.

Renato Ong at Avellana Art Gallery.

Even as essentials are on people’s thoughts, art still has its place in these difficult times. Audrey Azoulay, director general of Unesco, said in her message last year: “Bringing people together, inspiring, soothing and sharing: these are the powers of art, the importance of which has been made emphatically obvious during the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Mona Lisa as
pandemic muse
The date 15 April is also the birth anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci, an engineer and painter of the much-memed Mona Lisa portrait. Da Vinci was born in 1452 and died on 2 May 1519 in France.

He was among the famous Renaissance period artists who created works that have transcended time and are now considered cultural icons.

The Unesco chief said that the Mona Lisa was chosen as an exemplar of sorts for last year’s World Art Day celebration because it has been revisited and reimagined by many artists during the pandemic. The Mona Lisa remained relevant as it has been shown as self-isolating at the Louvre Museum, or covering her enigmatic smile with a mask.

Veejay Villafranca explains the idea behind the Strange Fruit collective of photographers.

“This is how, despite the crisis, art is demonstrating its resilience today,” Azoulay added.

Art finds a way
The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has made the art community very vulnerable as museums and galleries closed, and events have been canceled to give way to health protocols against the virus infection.

Still, artists have found a way to express themselves, to reflect on society and create art even the chosen medium is facing the challenges of the world’s deep-dive into digital transformation.

If you’re from the moneyed set who are compensating for their canceled Europe trips by spending their money instead on purchases of paintings from big-time galleries, then great. Thank you for making the art world survive.

Artist Pete Jimenez with ‘Island for Sale’ installation at the Ateneo Art Gallery.

Supporting the art community and having artists stay in their field of work is a tough mission especially if providing subsidies for artists, even art and cultural programs promoting history and heritage, are not the priority.

But art and culture, despite its neglect and at a time of physical distancing, still brings humans together. It’s the binder between Maslow’s basic essentials to what will keep everyone sane and, also, well during these uncertain times. Art is therapy, it’s healing.

And as organizers of Art Fair Philippines are showing — the feisty and fearless trio of strong women Trickie Lopa, Lisa Periquet and Dindin Araneta — art is still community. Never mind if the always eager audience won’t be stepping in the crazy and creative bubble called The Link for the overload of art exhibitions and lectures. No flowing wine and the priceless and super-chill chance of jamming with your favorite gallerists, artists, critics and friends in the cultural world. The vibrant energy is palpable even as Art Fair Philippines has gone virtual on 6 to 15 May this year via the https://artfairphilippines.com/.

This year’s gathering has 44 galleries, photo exhibitions, lectures, films and calls for art residency programs in partnership with Don Papa Rum. There are Open Studios where viewers get to see artists doing demonstrations on photography printing, book making and pottery, to name a few. Virtual Tour includes virtual visits to a gallery, a collectors’ space and a visual artist’s atelier.

Art Fair Philippines video playlist in collaboration with Daata. / PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF ART FAIR PHILIPPINES

Art Fair Philippines also presents the Julius Baer Next Generation Art Prize winners, featuring various young international artists with multimedia works.

And perhaps what came as the most surprising and doubly thrilling — proof that the women of Art Fair Philippines will always come out with surprises no matter what — is the Welcome to the Universe show.

Where cryptocurrency is a parallel universe with the physical world of finance and investment, it has become the current rage. Art Fair lets viewers into the cryptocurrency space, where NFT, Non-Fungible Token, has been making headlines all over the world. But don’t worry, Art Fair Philippines organizers have made this microsite clear and filled with information with a Crypto Basics 101 button included for newbies.

There was a time when chatrooms like Friendster (launched in 2006) were considered a social dating site to meet new people. Then Facebook happened. Now social media platforms are also getting to be known as opportunities for learning about, viewing and selling art. Who knows how soon the cryptoworld world will become the new normal in art investment? So, boom. Art is part of the future.

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