This October 9, 2013 is the beginning of MANILART 2013, an annual art fair that’s on its fifth run and which has become something of a rock event among artists, dealers, buyers and art aficionados. My friend Noli Romero, owner of Renaissance Art Gallery, gave me a couple of tickets to the gala opening and so my checkbook and I will be attending. I’ve visited MANILART a couple of times and have not been disappointed in the wide selection and quality of the art on display. One noticeable thing about the fair is that every year the number of exhibiting galleries increases. Put it down to any number of factors – a growing affluent class of buyers, more artists willing to make their careers in art, and therefore more people who see the business angle of the whole thing.
This is a good thing. Some people think that art should be isolated from the profit motive, but I disagree. After all, artists have to eat. And so do art dealers. Okay, so I’ve got a soft spot for the latter: I was once after all a Teenage Art Dealer. This was in the mid-eighties (now I’m delving into ancient history). I was in college, Marcos had just been deposed and it was early days into the Cory Aquino government, the economy was in a bad way and art was a luxury folks just didn’t think about. Most folks, though, except yours truly. It started when my buddy had a consignment of watercolor landscapes and pastel nudes by noted (later National) artist Cesar Legazpi. With nothing to do between classes I would accompany him to sell his paintings to parents of friends or classmates. After a few weeks “apprenticing” to him I figured there was nothing to it. I sold works of Romulo Olazo and Mauro Malang Santos, to name a few, that I directly acquired from the artists. That summer I took a job in Citibank not only to learn banking (which I did, a bit), but also to sell to upwardly mobile banker types who were building their first homes. Eventually, selling paintings took a back seat to another venture: putting up a modestly successful hamburger stand, but that’s another story (I’m tempted to say that there’s not much difference between selling art and hamburgers, but that would be trying to be clever. They have absolutely nothing in common.)
The good thing about the proliferation of art galleries is that it makes art more available to the regular guy (present company included), stripping away layers of pretentiousness or exclusivity that the art community sometimes builds to keep others out, and prices up. Art is there for the taking, if not at least for the viewing by anyone who, curious, wishes to understand the world and celebrate life through the eyes of the artist.
(Note: I am not in any way connected with MANILART.)