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The Emerging Patroness’s Guide To Scoring Big At Art In The Park

If the annual Art Fair Philippines is for the major leaguers and high-rollers—the kind who don’t even have to glance at the price list before writing a check for that Marina Cruz—the Art in The Park gives a chance to the collector-in-training-wheels to fill her walls with art at starter-kit costs. With every piece selling at no more than P50,000, scoring big at the yearly art bonanza at the Jaime Velasquez Park in Salcedo Village—now on its 12th year—then becomes a challenge that more than anything requires smarts and good taste, instead of just tons of your or your husband’s money. With none of the suited patrons in attendance, and with only trees and sky as roof, the atmosphere is more Sunday market than stock market, and therefore more conducive to leisurely looking around, meeting artists and befriending gallerists—the people you want on your side as you earn your cred in art patron-hood.

Speaking to avid Art in the Park goers over the years, we drew up a no-fail guide to help you navigate this Sunday’s artstravaganza.

Come early. We cannot stress this enough. Gates open at 10am, and by that time there is already a considerable queue. The collector and society columnist Pepper Teehankee remembers those genteel days when he can actually enter the fair grounds earlier, but the organizers have been stricter in the past years. So while Pepper lives somewhere farther, he makes it a point to sleep in his neighborhood flat the night before just to be by the Jaime Velasquez park entrance at the appointed time.

Bring a mini-entourage. Your husband to take your pictures for the ‘Gram and carry your loot, and a friend or yaya to line up for you in the payment center. They will also be helpful when you find yourself at a quandary as to deciding on buying a piece that caught your eye. 

Check your favorite gallery’s offerings on social media. Some soc-med-savvy art spaces do post the artworks they will have on showcase a day before the fair. Consider this your prep for #4.

Colony, Art in the Park 2018 Special Exhibit

Did You See The Words #4, a collage by Jacob Lindo

Start with your favorite galleries. This is not S&R where you can just leisurely go through all the halls so you won’t miss out on anything. Time is of the essence, and remember that everyone else is on the prowl for a major get. Even your friends—so keep them close for the selfies and socials but when you’re still hunting, they should be at a safe distance, at least from that Jacob Lindo you’re eyeing. Teehankee enumerates the spaces that he likes: Tin-Aw, Finale Art File, J Studio, Blanc, Art Verite, and Studio 1616. This last one an artist-run group that features young names like John Marin, Joanna Helmuth and Yeo Kaa, who have already earned a modest following in the collector circles. It might be easier to get your hands on their works here than in their solo shows.

Don’t be dismissive of the student and school-run booths. This year, the FEATI University School of Fine Arts, FEU, the International School of Manila, and the Philippine High School for the Arts will all have booths. These are treasure troves that may spring the next big things in art. They don’t usually show in major art spaces anyway, and some students sell their work for as low as P5,000. You may end up with a work of a future Dex Fernandez or Maria Taniguchi for the price of a jacket at Zara. Also there is nothing cooler than being able to say, in a few years’ time, that you have a piece from this or that auction star when no one was still paying attention to their work.  

Come full and bring water. Water because it’s hot and you need hydration. And as for coming full: as has been said, time is as important as your husband’s credit card. You shouldn’t be bothered by such banal concerns as getting a hotdog or paella on site when you’re pursuing the next Geraldine Javier.

Have fun. Art in the Park is a party, too, and a lot of people do treat it as a social event. It’s a great opportunity to meet the artists while they’re having their afternoon snack or happy hour drink. This will give you a glimpse of the mind behind the artwork you just bought—which might lead to an invitation to visit the artist’s studio, a very collector thing to do, a privilege exclusively given to art buyers at the top of the food chain. Mingle with the gallerists; any insider information on what’s out there in the art world (who’s hot, who’s not, who’s price is rising at the auctions) will be helpful in your pursuit to being the next Olivia Yao. But really, enjoy the afternoon and stay for the evening. This year, Margarita Fores is serving her take on street food, Don Papa will have a booth, and Kalimba artist and singer Bea Lorenzo will be providing the entertainment. Don’t worry: should you end up regretting your art purchase, it is very unlikely you won’t be able to send your least favorite daughter to Poveda this coming school year.