Philippine artistry in focus at France's Maison et Objet 2
The ARTIPELAGO pavilion. Marilyn Paed-Rayray, ABS-CBN News

Philippine artistry in focus at France's Maison et Objet

After a four-year hiatus forced by the global pandemic, Filipino artists and furniture decor designers reclaimed their spotlight at Maison et Objet.
Marilyn Paed-Rayray, ABS-CBN News | Jan 24 2024

PARIS, France -- In a remarkable comeback after a four-year hiatus forced by the global pandemic, Filipino artists and furniture and decor designers reclaimed their spotlight at Maison et Objet. 

Nestled within the ARTIPELAGO pavilion, Design Philippines showcased the works of painters, multimedia artists, and artisans, featuring diverse designs in decor, functional items and furniture, luminaires, and paintings that reflect Filipino craftsmanship and artistry. 

Philippine ambassador to France Junever Mahilum-West, who spearheaded the ribbon-cutting, said: "This year is an outstanding showcasing of Philippine products, mga decor in the home, and the most creative and innovative companies in the Philippines who came up with these designer furnishings. You can see when you look around that the concept is ARTIPELAGO -- archipelago ang Pilipinas, 'yun ang ating ipinapakita." 

"At the same time, we also showcase artworks of very well-known Filipino artists," added Mahilum-West. "This is something we could be proud of. One thing, ang Filipino culture of mixing up everything and coming up with a very good blend of all sorts of influences. For example, art genre, you will notice that tayo 'yung rich. 'Yung Filipino style of decorating is gusto nating punuin 'yung space, parang ayaw natin na may empty space na naiiwan. But everything is harmonized and they blend together well."

Organized by Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM), this year's participation in the trade fair is set to captivate attendees by redirecting focus on the creativity of the artists rather than the manufacturers. 

Edward Fereira, former ambassador turned CITEM’s executive director, said: "The Department of Trade and Industry through CITEM is here to help the SMEs. We do help them to try to elevate their abilities to produce quality products that the Filipinos could be proud of. Products here are well-selected and are very appropriate for the design of our booth." 

Coming out of the pandemic, First Lady Liza Marcos has been instrumental for the grand comeback of the creative forces behind Design Philippines. 

"We are very very grateful for the support of the First Lady," said Fereira. "You know she’s a lover of art, she understands quite well Filipino artistry, so I think with her support we were able to put this together and that is very important for us."

Curated by Anton Mendoza of Galerie d’Antoine, the ARTIPELAGO pavilion is a unique concept inspired by both the charm of the bahay kubo and the functionality of a museum. Shaped like a house whose confines integrate traditional materials for a cultural touch, the space flourishes with a myriad of marvels, as stunning home furnishings paired with fine works by Filipino artists transform the pavilion into an exquisite haven of design and artistry. 

"Because we are an archipelago and since we are promoting art, we made it ARTIPELAGO. My focus is to promote art and to elevate furniture as a form of art as well because it is," said Mendoza. 

For Mendoza, this marks the departure from previous approaches as the emphasis is firmly placed on the artists, allowing their stories and creative processes to take center stage. Each artwork and functional piece of furniture is signed by the artist. "We want to promote the furniture maker, the real core which is designed by good designers," he added. 

This shift in perspective is a conscious effort to transcend the boundaries of mere manufacturing, encouraging a more profound connection between the creators and their audience. 

Chiqui Veneracion, Maison et Objet Philippine representative, takes pride in the inviting feel of a bahay kubo and the organized, informative atmosphere of the pavilion that creates a harmonious and engaging experience for visitors. 

"The approach that we’re doing is really different, elevating our artists, our artisans, not just manufacturers [but also] the real creatives of the Philippines. So it expresses the heart of the Filipino. Representative siya of what Philippines is all about and how we can move forward in the international marketplace," Veneracion said. 


From modern minimalist to intricately detailed traditional pieces, the collection encapsulates the multifaceted nature of Filipino design. Each designer brings a distinctive touch, seamlessly blending tradition with contemporary aesthetics. 

One of the eye-catchers are luminaires made of capiz shells and the astrological clocks. "We call it a clock but it does not tell time. It's actually a limited edition mechanical art piece," Cris Venzon of Venzon Lighting and Objects said. 

A stalwart participant in global design trade fairs, Aerostone consistently caters to importers and wholesalers in both the US and European markets. Aside from pieces housed in ARTIPELAGO, it has a formidable presence, having its own exhibit space accentuated by grand garden ornaments featuring mesmerizing water installations, as well as intricately crafted furniture. 

Aerostone's exhibit space. Marilyn Paed-Rayray, ABS-CBN News
Aerostone's exhibit space. Marilyn Paed-Rayray, ABS-CBN News

Aura Brucene Ulep, Aerostone's marketing manager, shared the use of cutting-edge technology in reconstituted stone resulting in the company's distinctive collection of classic and contemporary items suitable for both indoor and outdoor settings. 

"Aerostone is lightweight... so it's easy to transfer from one place to another. It is also easy to clean and maintain. The finish as it aged, it’s more beautiful and it’s more antique, it’s more of the art," Ulep said. 


Beyond the physical forms of furniture and decor, these artists are weaving narratives with every piece. Their creations tell stories of resilience, innovation, and the rich cultural tapestry of the Philippines. 

ARTIPELAGO also features an exceptional collection of paintings and artworks by renowned Filipino artists curated by Galerie D' Antoine. First time to exhibit in Europe is Demi Padua, a visual artist based in Bulacan, whose artwork “Untitled” tells a story of resilience and creativity. 

"Ano 'yan eh, portrait ng mixed culture. Nire-represent niya 'yung mga Pilipinong pumupunta sa iba't-ibang lugar at na-adapt nila ang iba't-ibang kultura ng ibang bansa. Tayong mga Pilipino madali tayong mag-adapt sa kultura ng iba," Padua said. 

He added: "Behind nung mga ginagawa ko na ganyan since nung bata ako, mahilig na akong mag mix and match. Dahil sa hirap ng buhay di kami nakaranas na magkaroon ng bagong laruan, damit… Ako bilang bata naging creative ako, natuto akong mag-recycle ng mga action figure. Wala akong pambili ng robot, so 'pag nakakita ako ng mga laruang sira, kinukuha ko 'yung mga parte na puwede pa magamit. Kaya ang itsura parang collage din."

Creatives of Design Philippines are heading to Ambiente, a design trade fair in Frankfurt and another promising avenue to further establish the Philippines as a hub for innovative and artistically rich furniture and decor design. -- with a report from Mary Anne Alcantara-Rivera