CEBU CITY, Philippines – The very first Visayas Art Fair (VAF) not only proved that thought-provoking works of art can be born amid uncertainty, but more importantly, that Visayan art is as elevated as works in national art fairs.
The “Visayas Art Fair: Connecting the Islands through Art,” was opened for private viewing on Thursday, November 25, and was officially opened to the public on November 26. The event ran for four days, featuring works by 17 artists and galleries from Western, Central, and Eastern Visayas.
“This is really very inspiring and very motivating for current artists, and for even younger ones to go and practice art. To make art. Because this makes a difference in our society,” said Palmy Pe-Tudtud, Dean of the College of Communication Arts and Design of the University of the Philippines-Cebu.
Hailing from islands far from the artistic center that is Metro Manila, it usually takes a lot of funding and persistence for local artists in the Visayas to be able to mount themselves on the same platforms as contemporaries from the National Capital Region.
In the virtual press conference for the VAF, chairperson Lorenza Boquiren said it was the “opportune time” to present Visayan artists to the world after being “locked in for almost two years.”
The fair went the extra mile to give representation and due attention to all artists. And because the art scene is primarily a male-dominated industry, it was only fitting that an event grounded on empowering local artists dedicated space specifically for women artists to showcase their works.
Alyssa Selanova, curator and one of the exhibitors of By No Means – a featured exhibition of works from women artists – explained that the idea was made in recognition of the unequal playing field between women and men artists, even in the Visayas.
“This illustrates how art has become an avenue for women supporting women, and has become more inclusive not just for women artists but also for women from other sectors,” Selanova explained.
By No Means was composed of 10 women artists from Bacolod, Iloilo, Bohol, Cebu City, and Dumaguete City.
Selanova, who was also a part of the organizing body of the VAF, said that although the concept of the very first Art Fair in the region was an ambitious and arduous undertaking, putting it together was both a relief and cathartic.
“Right now, nagreflect akong works karon sa kaning nahitabo sa akoa (my works reflect the events that are going on in my life).… I’m so tired of doing this with all that is going on, but I want it. Though I am very tired and burnt out doing this, but, at the end of the day, ma-fulfill gihapon nako akong passion (it fulfills my passion). Art is very addicting,” she said.
Avenue for expression
Needless to say, the fair gave creators a space to not only showcase their skills, but also amplify the messages and ideals they stand behind.
JM Llanos, one of the participating artists, fielded his protest painting called “The Cost of Beauty,” which critiques the commodification of art prevalent in the industry. He explained that this pervading culture reduces pieces into mere items of transaction, and strips them away of their artistic value and meaning.
“Whatever the price is, it’s not the cost or the price of art because no one can ever buy art. You can never buy art. What happens is a buyer pays for the stewardship of a certain art work, which entails a responsibility to share it to the community and the next generations,” he said.
He hopes to remind patrons that the end goal is not to collect art pieces, but to open them up to larger audiences.
Amid the myriad of techniques, media, and messages all put forward by the VAF, one thing is for sure: in its four-day run, the Visayan artist was seen. And her call for a spot at the table was definitely heard.
“It’s an interesting development despite the pandemic. Talking to some artists there made me realize that the art scene in general only truly spotlights artists from NCR, so seeing a vast number of artists from different schools and collectives was enlightening,” said Chanel Pepino, an art graduate from Siliman University in Dumaguete City.
“The art scene in the Visayas should really be looked at more now that Visayas Art Fair showed smart and capable artists and their works,” she added.
Apart from the exhibitions, the fair also featured multiple workshops, and a fashion show organized by the Fashion Institute of Design and Arts (FIDA). VAF also put a spotlight on local artisans and designers through its Pop Up Makers’ Market.
Held at the Montebello Vista Hotel, the VAF was organized by Cebu Design Week, Inc., one of the leading art organizations in the Visayas, in partnership with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas, the Sacred Heart School Batch 1985 Foundation, and the Cebu Furniture Industries Foundation. – Rappler.com