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Art For Everyone: A Guide To Starting Your Art Collection

The Art for Everyone Fair running in several SM Malls is a timely reminder of what art’s true essence should be: accessible to the general public, and something that uplifts, can educate, and be enjoyed by everyone

It’s my opinion (and of course, you’re welcome to disagree with me) that the art market here in the Philippines lacks maturity and the right attitude. I acknowledge the popularity and success of the auction houses, and how they survive based on commercial considerations; but I bewail the fact that it’s fostered a market driven by money, the power of acquisition, and pride of ownership. Works by Filipino masters are tagged with exorbitant prices, and they become sources of status or bragging rights, and kept in private homes where they’re viewed on a very exclusive basis. 


Unlike in the USA, Japan, or Europe, there are no mechanisms or incentives encouraging art owners to bequeath or even lend their acquisitions to museums or galleries. Look at the Frick Collection in New York which began as a privately owned museum, or the Honma Museum of Art in Sakata, Japan. They may be run as profit centers, but the most important takeaway is that the art is accessible to the general public.



Art For Everyone At SM | SM Supermalls



Art For Everyone At SM | SM Supermalls


In the past, I’ve written about how Henry Sy basically led the social revolution that democratized the mall experience nationwide, and made it something the average Filipino could enjoy. Thanks to SM and other like-minded developers, malls were no longer the bastions of the elite and moneyed. 



Hans Sy | Philip Cu-Unjieng


So it’s encouraging to see the next generation of Sy’s still pushing, in diverse ways, to keep the essence of this vision of Tatang alive. The Art for Everyone fair that was spread over 18 SM Malls all over the country, is a wonderful “experiment” in making appreciation and acquisition of art, something that a broad spectrum of Filipinos could enjoy, and indulge in. Well curated, and even supported by art departments of various universities, Art for Everyone lived up to its name by being a showcase of some local masters, and a plethora of select pieces by lesser-known, but quality, Filipino artists.





What was striking to note was the affordability of the pieces on sale. It became an open invitation for those who love art (or are curious about it), but aren’t financially capable of joining the bidding war of the auction houses, to “gamble” and start their own collection in a modest manner. Likewise, if intimidated by museums or galleries, it was a wonderful opportunity to expose your family, your children, to Art in a venue that was accommodating and welcoming. It was SM “revolutionizing” in a particular arena, and making good on its vision and promise to diversify the experiences it can offer to the public and its Mall-goers.



Art For Everyone At SM | SM Supermalls


I polled some collectors and gallery owners on what advice they could give neophyte Art collectors; and two pieces of advice was the consistent refrain:

  1. Check who curated the art fair. These are either the academics or gallery owners who have an “eye” and will screen the works of art compiled, and ensure that the majority of works displayed all possess “promise.”
  2. Acquire the work that “speaks” to you and you’ll genuinely be happy to own. It shouldn’t be purely acquired with investment and appreciation in mind. With young artists or unknowns, everything is a crapshoot, a gamble. For the affordable price you pay, it’s got to be a piece that you really love; so that regardless of how the artist’s reputation evolves, you’ll still be happy with the acquisition.




It’s really as simple as that. Anything more would be speculative. Select SM Malls will be running Art for Everyone until mid-September; so check to see if the SM Mall closest to you still has the fair running. Enjoy, and be wise in your selections.


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