Art/Style/Travel Diaries

Given art fair-fatigue, what ALT Philippines 2024 offers differently

'Not meant to feel like bargain hunting'—Nine galleries out to shift the paradigm of art as experience

Mark Valenzuela / Artinformal Gallery, "Once BittenTwice Shy" ceramic, 2020

Jose Santos III /The Drawing Room, Order of things, assemblage of found objects, varnished, wood, resin, 14ft x 35 inches. 2023

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

I say this within the context of an art show courageously mounted by the organization of nine galleries called the Contemporary Art Collective, launched in 2020 at the start of the pandemic. Not the best of times for a launch; with some galleries closed, and visits restricted with rigid safety measures in place, the collective regrouped and took its show with artists from the nine galleries to a smaller venue. The show opened with several artists finding themselves confronting isolation, anxiety, and vulnerability by conveying moods and frustrations in works that focused on  either ambiguity, life, and/or death. The show pushed through.

But the lively art scene was disrupted, and abruptly. In  response to the  growing physical absence of art lovers and collectors, some artists took their works online without gallery presentation and support. Then…our daily lives came to a big grinding halt, and moved online. It became everybody’s national duty to stay home.

But the repercussions from the worldwide lockdowns have since dissipated, and an art market is back from the pandemic hiatus, steadily returning to an in-person form, despite the increase and new-found convenience in full digital engagement. Artists and art fairs are back and stronger, it seems, regardless of the downturn from a global health crisis and art fair fatigue. People will want to get together after being restricted from doing so for so long!

Rocky Cajigan / The Drawing Room, Memory eaters, hair, thread, gauze and wood, 34 x 20 cm. 2018

Denver Garza / The Drawing Room, Belly of the beast: Devourer, Acrylic, sequin, beads, various thread on canvas with steel L bars and hinge, 102 x 57 cm. 2022

It really is better to see art in person and up close, there is nothing like it, and ALT Philippines, affirming this, proclaims it will be a coming together for writers, collectors, and curators, to celebrate the art that has been made.

Globally there is a renewed interest in attending shows in person. Ethan Buchsbaum, senior director at Almine Rech New York, says it best: “The art business is a relationships business, and COVID closures created a very real desire to resume the types of traditional interactions that many collectors not only enjoy, but require, in order to make informed decisions.”

Now on its third edition after rolling in the deep, the show is ready to provide an even stronger platform for artists that creates a wider awareness for their practice. Despite the post-pandemic uncertainties that face brick and mortar galleries, ALT Philippines underscores galleries’ resilience to adapt to changes, and the impact of new habits of viewers and art collectors. Many galleries have had to change their working models and renew audience interest in physically attending shows, beyond making sales and visitors taking selfies. More than consummating a sale, the need to engage in broader dialogue and deliver enriching visitor experience through artists talks, panel discussions, and in-person immersive and enjoyable activities had to be addressed.

Nine progressive galleries are now at the forefront of changing the current art fair paradigm. (ALT Philippines 2024 collaborating galleries include Galleria Duemila, Underground, MO_ Space, Finale Art File, Blanc, Vinyl on Vinyl, West Gallery, Art Informal, and The Drawing Room. It will be held on Feb. 21 to 25, 2024, SMX Convention Center.)

In typical art fairs, galleries are invited to participate by paying a fee and mounting their show in pre- fabricated, designed  booths. In the case of ALT Philippines, the galleries are hands-on and participate in all aspects of the event, from selecting a location to designing the space and all the programs.

It doesn’t just participate by bringing in works.  The event will be collaborative, rather than participatory. ALT Philippines will have nine instead of a hundred booths of the typical massive art fair.

Rirkrit Tiravanija + Tomas Vu, Fear eats the soul (Red), Clay & textile paint on newsprint, linen canvas, 88 x 71.5 inches, 2019

Impy Pilapil / Galleria Duemila, “Atlantis III”

Abi Dionisio / Finale Art File, Red Is Not Red, Blue Is Not Blue (Ramen), 2023, thread on linen in wooden hoop 6 inches diameter

It is a show and not a fair, now reshaped to have more focus and encourage more dialogue about each work of art.

Curator Stephanie Frondoso adds: “This year, the nine galleries will be presenting art within a floor area of over 2,500 sqm. This edition has the greatest breathing space for art and the best atmosphere for appreciating and collecting it.  The exhibition design strategy (by B+C Design, Inc.) is holistic and interdisciplinary, with unified graphics, floor layout plan, and furniture design. Never before seen in the Philippines, this integrated design approach highlights the importance the galleries give to presenting art. The venue’s expansive scale allows for freedom and an organic, emotional response made possible when every work of art is respected and valued. It is within this experience that the ALT galleries, opinion leaders in art, will engage their audience.

“The nine galleries have participated in numerous art fairs, both locally and internationally. They discovered that some of the bigger fairs had smaller ones held simultaneously, or around the same time, to maximize the time of audiences who had flown in to see the shows. Some clear examples are the bigger Art SG with the smaller SEA Focus in Singapore, and the bigger Frieze New York with the smaller Independent New York and TEFAF New York held on closely scheduled dates. Similarly, the nine galleries of ALT Philippines wanted to mount a separate new show to create more focus on the artworks they are presenting and be able to engage in more dialogue.”

Pancho Francisco / Finale Art File, Puzzle, 2022, Hand-cut book pages, digital print and acrylic paint encased in resin, 12 × 9 × 3 inches

Philip Aldefolio / Underground, “Dog Circle”, acrylic on plaster, 60″ diameter, 2023

Vien Valencia / Underground, Untitled, wood, house paint, filler on canvas, 6 x 5 ft, 2022

It will be different  from the typically raucous art fair, which groups together artworks for sale in stalls.

The show will be held at the  Mall of Asia with the intention of being accessible to the public. It will conduct a daily Conversations Series with the aim of public education and dialogue on diverse, sometimes marginalized art forms. There will be informal discussions with artists, gallerists, curators, musicians, filmmakers, critics, and scholars; audiences will be invited to participate. Topics will include female artists as risk takers and diasporic artists. There will also be a discussion on the evolving definition of outsider art as well as live performances. ALT Conversations will be held every 2 pm and 4 pm from Feb. 22 to 25, 2024. Daily tours will be conducted at 3 pm from Feb. 22 to 25.

Jellyfish Kisses / Vinyl on Vinyl, “Ghost Motel”, soft sculpture installation, variable dimensions, 2023

Linds Lee / West Gallery, “Expressionism”, Acrylic on canvas, 4 x 4 feet, 2022

Tyang Karyel / Vinyl on Vinyl, “Power Fools”, installation of painted wood, variable dimensions, 2023

Nilo IIarde / Finale Art File, So-And-So Paints A Picture, Seventy, 2015, oil on plywood,16.50 x 11.43 cm

Frondoso  emphasizes that this will be a different art  show. “The galleries of ALT Philippines have been presenting experimental, avant-garde and difficult to collect works for several generations. To be in that position, they had taken many risks. They have opened up their galleries to new genres, have presented curatorial projects that redefine or push the boundaries of art, and are interested in criticality. Selling art to support artists’ practice is crucial, but is not the only dimension. Visiting ALT is not meant to feel like bargain hunting in a junkyard. The artist’s voice is highly valued. Every work of art is installed and presented as something important: a recorder of history, a reflection of society, a response to today’s pressing issues, a work of creativity that inspires imagination and innovation. “

“Mars” by Marco Santos for Underground, acrylic on wood

It will be a celebratory and experiential show from what I gather, more than its past editions—the physicality, the production, the lay-out, and the set-up—highlighting not just the artworks but the different personalities of each gallery in curated spaces and not stalls, spotlighting the artists and the visitors.

ALT Philippines 2024 collaborating galleries include Galleria Duemila, Underground, MO_ Space, Finale Art File, Blanc,
Vinyl on Vinyl, West Gallery, Art Informal, and The Drawing Room. It will be held on Feb. 21 to 25, 2024, SMX Convention Center.

About author


A former magazine editor, she writes about arts and culture, both as journalist and as friend to many of the country’s foremost artists, designers and the culturati.

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