Art Fair Philippines began life in 2013 as a four-day event that took place in a temporarily repurposed parking building in Makati City, Metro Manila’s commercial hub. The 2022 hybrid event is a case study of how contemporary art shows in the region are adjusting to new digital realities. This year’s edition of Art Fair Philippines ends on Friday, 1 April, after a ten-day run, which is its longest yet. For the past two years, the fair has been engaging with major developments that have shaped the wider art world, including the rise of non-fungible tokens (NFT) and other forms of digital art.
Art Fair Philippines 2022’s main onsite exhibitions are in the Ayala Triangle Gardens, a park in the heart of the city’s central business district. Apart from the usual exhibitions of contemporary visual art from new and established artists on the site, the site’s augmented reality art walk and film screening pavilion mark the second year that the fair is working with the digital art platform Daata. Tech360.tv spoke with Trickie Lopa, one of the fair’s organisers, and Anna Mustonen, Daata’s Head of Curatorial and Content.
Lopa says that Daata’s collaboration with Art Fair Philippines began with last year’s entirely online edition. It all came about because she first got to learn about the burgeoning field of digital art in the middle of 2020 when she attended the second (online) edition of the Art+Fintech Summit. In one of these talks, she learned about Daata’s pioneering work in promoting digital art, and she eventually reached out to the company’s founder, David Gryn, on Instagram.
The result of this initial contact was their first collaboration for the 2021 fair. It was a natural decision, Lopa says, to focus on digital art for the pandemic's second year. The fair held its first-ever Non-Fungible Token (NFT) Showcase, featuring works from the burgeoning Philippine crypto art community. At the same time, the organizers commissioned Daata to provide three works for the ArtFairPH/Film component, and they responded by offering new works by Jeremy Couillard, Petra Cortright and the multi-ethnic digital art collective Keiken. These works were available on the fair’s website for viewing. Lopa says that they received very positive feedback about the films, and Couillard’s work is now at the centre of the 2022 film programme.
The heart of this year’s partnership between Daata and Art Fair Philippines is the augmented reality (AR) art trail. Lopa credits Daata for encouraging them to work with a Filipino artist on the project, suggesting the artist and designer Leeroy New. New’s work Aparisyon (Apparition/Vision) was at the centre of the AR walk, along with a new story by the Filipina speculative fiction writer Eliza Victoria. Mustonen says that putting together this AR walk required a good deal of coordination, with Daata testing materials from a distance and the fair’s organizers working on the ground.
Daata says that their experience with Art Fair Philippines is helping to introduce the Southeast Asian market to their work, and Lopa argues that the 2021 fair is probably the first in the region to feature an NFT showcase. The next major one happened in Singapore in January 2022. The government-supported S.E.A Focus 2022 featured its own NFT showcase and, not to be outdone, also had an on-the-spot NFT minting showcase similar to the one at 2021 Art Basel Miami. The fair’s NFT showcase featured crypto artists from across the region, including those from several Southeast Asian countries, India and South Korea.
Contemporary art fairs like Art Fair Philippines and S.E.A. Focus may well be on the right track in focusing on digital art. As Mustonen says, it is an increasing part of contemporary art practice and fairs should focus on educating audiences and collectors about this, and in her words, “to de-marginalise the use of technology in art”.
Manila’s Art Fair Philippines 2022, a long-running contemporary art show, has been embracing new developments in art and technology, including NFTs and augmented reality as part of art practices.
The fair’s augmented reality art walk is the second collaboration between its organizers and the digital art platform Daata, featuring works by visual artist and designer Leeroy New and writer Eliza Victoria.
Art Fair Philippines and Singapore’s S.E.A. Focus are putting a spotlight on how the visual arts are changing in a more digital direction throughout Southeast Asia.