Art Fair PH’s biggest achievement on its 10th year 2
Three of the participating artists at this year's Art Fair Philippines exhibition (from left): Wawi Navarroza, Pow Martinez, Yeo Kaa

Art Fair PH’s crowning achievement: an expanded audience for Filipino contemporary artists

This February marks the fair’s 10th year. Organizer Trickie Lopa looks back on how it all started and what it’s achieved
ANCX Staff | Jan 27 2023

People have a love-hate relationship with The Link every time it transforms into an art market each February. Some art-watchers appreciate the location for its convenience; others complain about the limited elevators, the air-con, the parking. 

Still, people show up. And they’ve been showing up since 2013, back when the three ladies from the Museum Foundation of the Philippines: Trickie Lopa, Dindin Araneta, and Lisa Periquet, premiered what would become the biggest annual art event in the country. 

Art Fair Philippines
Art Fair Philippines goes back to The Link for its 10th year. Photo by Jojo Gloria

Art Fair Philippines is gearing up for its 10th edition this February, and Lopa recently shared her recollections with ANCX about putting the whole thing together in the beginning, specifically finding the perfect venue for such an ambitious undertaking, one inspired obviously by the huge art fairs in the region. The ladies knew they wanted a central location—accessible to many, “a place where you can just go,” said Lopa. “Where you can come in during lunch.” 

Kilo Escora
Kilo Escora whose works are portraits of modern society and social beings are part of an exhibition curated by Norman Crisologo.
Mark Andy Garcia
Mark Andy Garcia, who paints expressive landscapes, is part of the Projects exhibition.

The three were at that time working with Ayala Land and scouring options from its property catalogue. Recalled Lopa: “It was actually Fernando Zobel who suggested, ‘Why don’t you check out this car park? It’s kind of newish, it has nice bathrooms. Look at it.’” Which they did. And they saw the possibilities. And just to confirm their hunch, they invited the noted architect Andy Locsin to survey the space. “Oh, this is definitely workable!” And that’s how it all started. For the interiors, they even got extra help from global design star Kenneth Cobonpue.

Raymond Guevarra
Raymond Guevarra works with mixed media and is known for his boxes with pop culture toys from the 90s.

On that first February, the fair had 24 galleries for each of the floors it occupied, which included all the top-tier art spaces in Manila. “We had 6,000 visitors in that first year and we were super happy already,” said Lopa, laughing at the memory. “That meant we can do another year, and that’s pretty much how it’s been.” 

Pow Martinez
Pow Martinez’s funny, grotesque, colorful, commentary of urban life and society are expected to show up at the Projects section.

The Art Fair audience has no doubt grown over the years. The highest turnout was in 2017, at 40,000 visitors which, judging from Lopa’s reaction, was already quite overwhelming. In 2020, their last live event before the pandemic, the fair hit a more manageable 30,000 visitors. 

Yeo Kaa
Yeo Kaa is known for her bright and colorful anime paintings possessed with an undercurrent of violence and darkness

Lopa takes pride in these numbers. To her they represent the results the fair wanted to accomplish from the beginning. When asked how she thinks Art Fair Philippines impacted the local contemporary art scene, Lopa told ANCX: “I think something we set out to do and I think we really achieved is to expand the audience for contemporary art. That was really our goal.

Rosario Bitanga
Rosario Bitanga, whose works have been enjoying a resurgence, is also a featured artist in the three-day fair.

“When we started it 10 years ago, if you remember, there were art fairs in Hong Kong and Singapore, which still are the biggest art fairs in Asia, and which always has Filipino artists and galleries showing there. At that time it just felt a bit of a pity that the Filipino audience didn’t know these artists, and that’s what we really set out to do. We always remind ourselves our point is to expand the audience for contemporary artists and I think our numbers have proven that.”

Wawi Navarroza
Wawi Navarroza’s striking self portraits are the stars of this year’s photography section.

This year’s Art Fair Philippines is happening from February 17 to 19, and its back at Ayala Center’s The Link, following last year’s outdoor and much smaller incarnation at the Ayala Stock Exchange. For what to expect, click on this link.