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Mr. Manners: How To Enjoy A Visual Buffet (Art Fair Etiquette)

Is it just me, or has art appreciation and collection been making a big comeback? Well, I guess it never left, but it has become far more accessible and democratic. I was at a dinner the other night, and guests were all agog over the prices of newer artists eclipsing Philippine masters.

Paintings and collectibles were once the area of families and institutions that considered it to be a legacy for the nation, and in time bequeathing them to museums. There are voracious buyers who scour auctions worldwide to find long lost Philippine masters. Other see them as investments, while some buy them to join the bandwagon. Whichever way they choose, they are allowing art in the Philippines to be NOW again.

Local auction houses were not in vogue a few years back. No longer the domain of the likes of Christies and Sotheby’s, local auction houses, fueled by the desire of owners to pass on their collections, now contribute to Manila’s increased appetite for art. The auction houses generate buzz that gets people to pick up pieces that one just couldn’t acquire on their own.

As it is the season for art, the ArtFair brings in the beginning of another visual feast. The Vernissage signals the start of the exhibitions. Taken from  French meaning “varnishing,” it is the term used to present a new collection privately to patrons. In the 19th century, artists would give a finishing touch with a coat of varnish. This custom, usually prior to the formal exhibit, allowed benefactors to admire the works and celebrate with their completion.

You have to give it to Dindin Araneta, Trickie Lopa, and Lisa Periquet. Over the past six years, attendance has increased from 6,000 in 2013 to 40,000 last year. Galleries have doubled from 24 to 51. And more significantly, the art space has grown from 2,780 sq.m. to over a hectare (13,017.70 sq.m.) for this edition. These three women can be credited for reviving the interest in Philippine art and contemporary culture. 

If you are new to the art scene, welcome to what could possibly be the most interesting chapter of your life. There is so much to learn and consume, increasing your appreciation for the enthralling lifestyle. Art in the Park is the first point of call for those appreciating art beyond Humanities 101.

ArtFair Philippines brings you an interesting collection of the most revered galleries in the country, and joined by respected international counterparts. Imagine an art opening on steroids at the Link, and absorbing the visual plethora can be daunting (downright nerve-wracking, if you ask me.)

I found out through the years of attending openings that there is a lot of etiquette in the world of art. And like many things, it tends to be understood rather than spelled out. Like going to any event, we just need to be mindful of how we act, and how we share the all important footprint.

So I put together some pointers to make this enjoyable, a little guidance goes a long way in ensuring you get the best out of the next three days. I don’t have a guidebook, but hopefully, these tips give you the start you need for your learning process:


Read up, check online, okay?

Given that there will be quite a number of artists present, maybe you can zero in on a particular style or art movement you like. The Internet allows you to review and take notice of paintings or sculptures that may appeal to you. It doesn’t take much, and it shows you are interested. Knowledge is power, as the late Ernie Baron used to say. Not wanting to be uppity, but using the right words would help. When chatting up the gallery owner, it shows you have done your homework and even if you don’t purchase a work, it will surely be noticed. I tell you, my Humanities classes were put into good use!


Watch your footprint.

The organizers request you keep your totes to the minimum, or simply check them in. This way no bulky items will get in the way of the viewing. Also, keep you phone down, or on vibrate. This is about enjoying yourself in a very unique experience.


Keep your tone down.

This isn’t a party, or a pop-up. It is serious work on display, short of veneration. Be respectful of other goers, they want to take and imbibe the moment. Remember, if you need to take a call, find a spot away from other people!


Noli me tangere.

Enjoy the work, and by no means touch it. As the organizers pointed out, enjoy with your eyes only. I know there are times you may be tempted in amazement, but keep your hands to yourself. Oh, in the installations, those huge displays that may have a lot of touchy stuff, resist. Hahaha, I have been guilty of that!


Enjoy, but don’t overstay your stop.

The galleries have small spaces in the Link. As much as they want you to linger, scope out the piece you may like, and come back again. It’s fine to stand by a painting and discuss it with companions, but remember, be mindful, there are others also wanting a glimpse of the piece.


If you have nothing good to say, don’ t say it.

I am guilty of not understanding a piece, or just not getting the groove. So why be tactless? I am surely not an art critic. It’s for sale, so if you don’t like it, move on. There is nothing wrong, just being nice. What may be disdainful to one is elation to another.


Watch your behavior.

Guests are there to see art, so refrain from certain behavior at all costs. If you get into a heated discussion with anyone, be quick to excuse yourself before things get out of hand. Quick default excuses include needing to visit the restroom or refill your drink.


Mind the selfies.

Again, enjoy the art and do take photos, but no flash please! Enjoy the moment, absorb the work, and marvel at the creativity. Just don’t keep snapping photos just to be able to post! If you must, you can do it later. There are a lot of seating areas at the Link so you can update your IG. Plus, you will engage the FOMO with others and egg them to come over, too.


Don’t talk about pricing.

There generally isn’t a price on the pieces (haha, this isn’t Pottery Barn), so ask for the book. They usually place pieces available and pricing. The dot on the painting isn’t asado or bola bola, it is to show if the piece is reserved or purchased.



Think of it like an oral test, you wouldn’t want to engage if you haven’t done your homework. If there is an artist you like, read up on him or her, really do. It puts you in a great place with others.


This Art Fair is a great way to spend a day enjoying compelling works, feed the brain, and stimulate your own creative passions. I love going to the fair because it helps me with my fan business. It inspires my thought process, and it gets me going. You must make time to go, and after, make visits to the museums and exhibits. There is a bit of an artist in everyone, and with these pointers, your trip to the fair or a future museum will surely make you more mindful!