Art Fair Philippines is fast approaching! For those of you who are a little stumped as to how you might navigate your way around Manila in the coming weeks, you're in luck. Isa Lorenzo and Rachel Rillo of SILVERLENS Galleries have categorized their guide to Manila by area, highlighting not only where the art buzz will be but also the popular local haunts in respective areas. As for dealing with Manila’s infamous traffic over the course of Art Fair Philippines, they suggest hiring a car and driver. They also suggest planning activities around just one area per day due to this traffic’s notoriousness. These areas are within Manila which includes Pasay, Makati, Bonifacio Global City (BGC) and Ortigas & Quezon City.
Foreword by Isa Lorenzo and Rachel Rillo
"Every year, friends who come visit ask us for recommendations. Here is the list we give them. Art visitors are very specific and don’t have much time to do the research or explore on their own. This list is by no means a comprehensive one, but it is one we use to survive this crazy city we call home."
Isa and Rachel recommend this place as it’s where The Spoliarium by Filipino painter Juan Luna resides. Luna, working on canvas, spent eight months completing the painting which depicts dying gladiators. The Spoliarium is the most valuable oil-on-canvas painting by Juan Luna. With a size of 4.22 meters by 7.675 meters, it is the largest painting in the Philippines.
The building was originally designed as the public library by Ralph Harrington Doane, the American consulting architect of the Bureau of Public Works, and his assistant Antonio Toledo. Construction began in 1918 but was suspended several times because of lack of funds. When it was decided that the building should be used by the Legislature, the revisions of the plans was entrusted to Juan Arellano, then supervising architect of the Bureau. The building was inaugurated on 16 July 1926, and by then had cost four million pesos.
MCAD is the place to go for all things contemporary. Distinct for its position as a non-collecting institution, MCAD’s contemporary art exhibitions, public programs, as well as other cultural and art-inspired undertakings showcase the possibilities of technology, new media and presents content that encourages engagement with art and culture, its practice and production, as well as its presentation and interpretation.
The Metropolitan Museum of Manila is one of the major museums in the Philippines. It was originally built as a venue for international art exhibitions in 1976, aimed at expanding the exposure of Filipinos to the visual arts of foreign cultures while enhancing cultural diplomacy. The museum was among the first to develop and extend its audience reach by embracing the philosophy of ART FOR ALL, adopting a bilingual approach to exhibition texts, and implementing a vigorous education and community outreach program.
Isa and Rachel recommend this place for its stunning brutalist architecture. Established in 1966 and envisioned to be the center of arts of culture in the Philippines, the Cultural Center of the Philippines Complex houses some of the country’s most recognizable brutalist edifices designed by renowned architects Leandro Locsin, Francisco Mañosa, and Froilan Hong.
Calle Wright is an outpost of SILVERLENS, initiated by Isa Lorenzo and Rachel Rillo. It is a venue for mid-career and established artists to exhibit their work within a historical context. As an art space, it aims to engage community audiences and spaces within Manila, while also fostering exchange between artists, curators, and cultural workers both within the Philippines and abroad.
Isa and Rachel recommend staying at The Henry, located in the Pasay area of Manila. The Henry Manila is a boutique hotel like no other and offers a different experience from your typical accommodations. As you enter the property, you are greeted by a garden reminiscent of a villa.
In the same compound also lies A-11, a rustic furniture, and design shop. They have previously been featured in the Wallpaper* City Guide for Manila for travelers who only have 24 hours in the city. A-11 (or Artelano 11) has been cited as one of Manila’s greatest art and design gems, complete with unique shopping finds.
The Pasay area is also home to Avellana Art Gallery. Founded in 1997, this gallery has always been located in eccentric enclaves such as old houses. Since the early-2000s, owner Albert Avellana has run his gallery in this post-war house in the bucolic heritage compound, 2680 FB Harrison.
The Makati area is home to Art Fair Philippines, the reason galleries and collectors flock to Manila in February. If you’re one of convenience, Isa and Rachel recommend staying at the Fairmont Makati or Raffles Makati, both a stone's throw away from the fair.
Galleries in the area include SILVERLENS, Finale Art File, Vinyl on Vinyl, Archivo 1984, artinformal, 1335 Mabini, The Drawing Room, Bellas Artes, Lanai (home and interior design), Aphro (design), and Univers (clothes and design).
They’ve also listed over 20 recommended restaurants and bars, including People’s Palace (Thai), Sala, Sala Bistro, Wildflour, Rural Kitchen, Milky Way (Filipino), Circulo (Spanish), Pancake House (American), Smoking Joint (smokehouse and bar), Kazunori (Japanese), Txanton (Spanish tapas & wine), M Dining (fine-dining & bar), Toby’s Estate (coffee), 20:20 (bar/club), Terry’s (Spanish), Poison (donut shop), Toyo (dinner spot), Panaderia Toyo (bread house), Mess Hall (lunch spot), 78-53-86 (cozy bar), and Bar Pintxos. The Poblacion area within Makati is also well known for having an array of bars and restaurants.
The BGC area is home to MO_ Space and MOs Design, an artist-run gallery that showcases innovative works by Manila’s most dynamic contemporary artists. Initiated in 2007, it has mounted consistent artist-curated solo and group exhibitions that change and expand the boundaries of Philippine art. Located at the 3rd floor of MOs Design along Bonifacio High Street, it is also artist centred rather than market-driven, supporting artists by providing free exhibition space, promotion and documentation.
Isa and Rachel recommend Bank Bar, a bar hidden in a 7/11 store. It comes complete with a great food menu along with a wide selection of drinks. Also on their list in the BGC area is their steakhouse recommendation, Raging Bull Chophouse & Bar, located inside the Shangri-La Hotel
The Ortigas/ Quezon City area is home to Blanc Gallery, West Gallery, Artinformal (Greenhills), and the newly opened Ateneo Art Gallery in Arete. It is also where you can find Lopez Museum, a Philippine art and history museum and library, and the Jorge B. Vargas Museum, a contemporary art museum at the University of the Philippines.
The Artling would like to thank Isa Lorenzo and Rachel Rillo for their Manila Art Primer on the occasion of Art Fair Philippines which this feature has referenced.
Any views or opinions in the post are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors.
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