Attending art events can feel a bit intimidating sometimes — especially if you feel unfamiliar with the subject matter. Museums and galleries also often have a vibe of exclusivity to them that could have an alienating effect on people who have just started to dip their toes into the art world.
For those people, Art Fair Philippines is the perfect gateway. It’s been six years since the event’s first iteration, but it’s still anticipated by both serious collectors and casual art enthusiasts.
This week, Makati’s The Link parking building has once again transformed into a space for modern and contemporary visual art from galleries around the world. Coconuts Manila was there for the media launch yesterday, where we saw an impressive number of paintings, sculptures, interactive installations, and the like presented across the booths.
There’s certainly a lot to see — it can be a bit overwhelming for first timers, so here are five tips to help with making the most out of your visit.
Take your time (really take your time)
The fair consists of five floors, and there’s plenty to see and enjoy on each one — it’s well worth it to take time exploring each level of the fair to get the full experience.
The lobby, found on The Link’s fourth floor, has brand-sponsored booths whose content fits right in with that of the actual gallery exhibits. Each one incorporates art into their designated spaces, acting as a preview for what’s to come in the upper floors.
Our favorite is the one by Don Papa Rum, which showcases works by the finalists of their annual art competition this year. The booth also has a bar where rum-based cocktails are served from 4:30pm to 9pm.
Don Papa Rum Brand Manager Erica Larkins said that they will be giving away stubs for free drinks during each day of the fair. These stubs can also be used to vote for a finalist. The winning work will be featured on limited-edition canisters, while the artist will get a four-week art sojourn in London.
Those without stubs can buy the cocktails for PHP150 (US$2.88) each.
The lobby also has a cafe with a full menu, but … more on that later.
Above the lobby are three floors filled with artwork. The fifth floor has showcases by Filipino artists of various media types. This includes David Medalla’s interactive A Stitch in Time that invites people to attach or embroider something to the piece, a 15-meter cloth suspended like a hammock.
There’s also a striking display of posters by artist and former director of the Cultural Center of the Philippines Ray Albano. The posters hang on walls that surround Albano’s Step on the Sand and Make Imprints installation recreated by his former colleague and friend Judy Freya Sibayan.
The sixth and seventh floors are where the galleries are situated. These may appeal more to those who are actually at the fair with the intention to purchase artwork, but they also provide newbies the chance to observe the trends in the local art scene. It’s pretty much gallery-hopping all under one roof.
There’s also a rooftop bar where attendees can enjoy refreshments and the Makati skyline.
Tip: Spend an entire day there (10am to 9pm) and really explore each exhibit. Spend a few minutes looking at your favorite pieces and see how they make you feel.
Use the stairs
Speaking of taking one’s time, we found that using the stairs instead of the elevators is a better way to explore the space.
Elevators can take a long time — especially during peak hours, because of the influx of visitors, so attendees might actually be better off climbing a few steps instead.
Apart from practicality, though, walking also reveals even more art to enjoy. Situated in the stairwell are more installations — an unexpected addition that shows how the fair was able to transform every corner of the parking building into opportunities to experience art.
Learn a thing or two from the experts
Those looking for a more structured way to enjoy the fair can sign up for one of its daily guided tours. These typically run for an hour and start at 11am, but attendees are encouraged to arrive by 10:45am. The tour is free for those with Art Fair tickets. Special group tours are also available for those who can’t make it to the existing time slots.
Art Fair is also offering a two-hour guided tour of the new National Museum of Natural History in Manila. This is offered on Saturday and Sunday, one at 11am, and another one at 2pm.
Meanwhile, attendees who want an even deeper dive into the art world can attend one of the fair’s talks, which discuss topics like “Selfies and Celebrities,” “The Value of Pictures,” and “Into the He(art) of the Art Market.”
Tip: If you’re unable to join the scheduled tours, then buy the Art Fair 2019 catalog that comes with a map, for PHP250 (US$4.8).
Stop and enjoy a meal
Visitors can truly spend an entire day inside Art Fair without going hungry — food and beverage options abound, and we don’t mean your typical generic catering services.
The aforementioned lobby cafe provides an array of choices that include a pizza topped with truffle-infused mushrooms, caramelized onions, and gruyere (PHP495/US$9.51), and a rice bowl with U.S. beef gyudon served with miso soup (PHP440/US$8.45).
There are also food booths in the upper floors, including a wine bar by Happy Living and Terry’s Selection, Australian cafe Toby’s Estate, and an impressive contemporary Thai pop-up by Simply Thai.
Shop the booths
Pieces in art fairs like this cost a pretty penny, but those who go there to simply enjoy viewing the artwork can still go home with souvenirs.
In the lobby is a booth by the brand Artwork that sells Art Fair merchandise and other art-related goodies. Some of our favorites include the tote bags (PHP399/US$7.66) that come in black and white, padded cellphone cases with geometric graphic designs (PHP199/US$3.82), and notebooks (PHP69/US$1.33) featuring portraits of iconic artists like Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Salvador Dali.
There are also a couple of pop-up book shops on the gallery floors that sell art books for those who want to continue their artducation.
Tip: If you don’t want to spend any money, then there are actually plenty of beautifully designed exhibit brochures that make for cool room posters. Best of all, they’re free. Also given away for free are issues of local magazines and newspapers.
Art Fair Philippines 2019 will run from Feb. 22, Friday to Feb. 24, Sunday. Tickets are available in the lobby and are priced at PHP350 (US$6.72) each. Discounted rates are available for students with valid IDs, persons with disability, and senior citizens.
For more information, visit the Art Fair Philippines website.
The Link is at Parkway Dr., Ayala Center, Makati City
This article, First timer’s guide to Art Fair Philippines 2019: How to get the best out of your visit, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company. Want more Coconuts? Sign up for our newsletters!