Artist-run spaces have a long history in Manila, where community initiatives and a sense of the D-I-Y spirit are upheld by artists in order to carve their own place in the local art scene. Since the 1960s, Filipino artists have been holding their own court in itinerant gallery cafes in the bohemian district of Malate in downtown Manila. The 70s Shop 6 responded to the climate of the Martial Law years with their clearly anti-monumental use of readymades and found objects. The gallery boom in the 80s saw the rise of Pinaglabanan Gallery, which showed works by artists from Manila as well as those by artist groups outside the center. Including those based in Los Baños and Baguio, Pinaglabanan Gallery connected them to other art centers abroad through exchange programs and exhibitions. This global cross-over outlook was maintained by succeeding spaces in the late 1990s to the mid 2000s such as Third Space, Surrounded by Water, Big Sky Mind, Future Prospects, and Green Papaya, all of which cultivated a mixed programming of exhibitions and events from various art fields and participated in international networks of like-minded organisations.
The latest incarnation of artist-run spaces in Manila - Lost Projects, Krem Contemporary Art, Department of Avant-Garde Cliches, and Light & Space Contemporary - all opened within the past year, providing alternatives to the local art scene, which is dominated by commercial galleries and flailing government institutions.
Lost Projects run by Australian artist David Griggs and Siddharta Perez, a young Filipino curator, occupies the first two floors of David’s studio in Marikina. They host exhibitions and residencies by artists and curators from Manila and Australia, facilitating links between the two countries, which have been in place since the early 90s through the Artists’ Regional Exchange and other subsequent programs organised by Asialink. Lost Projects opened in October 2010 with Pow Martinez’s exhibition, ‘March of the Pigs’, who went on to win one of the Ateneo Art Awards this year. Sam Kiyoumarsi was also nominated for the same award for his exhibition ‘Inalienable Dreamless’, also first shown in Lost Projects earlier this year.
Pow Martinez and Sam Kiyoumarsi were also instrumental to the founding of Light & Space Contemporary in Fairview, Quezon City, which opened in May 2011 with a sprawling group exhibition in an impressive building that outsizes the big warehouse galleries in Pasong Tamo. The newly constructed compound has three main galleries and several artists’ studios and is owned by the family of two young artists - brothers Jason and Joseph Tecson, who together with Pow and Sam have quickly established Light & Space Contemporary as the cradle of a new generation of artists.
In contrast, the single-room Krem Contemporary Art, located in a more-accessible part of Quezon City, is literally a one-man show by poet and artist Marc Gaba, who organises all aspects of the gallery cafe from curating the exhibitions to serving the coffee. Reminiscent of spaces like Big Sky Mind and Future Prospects, which were part exhibition spaces and part hang-outs, Krem opened in January this year with Marc, fellow poet Kristine Domingo, and multi-media artist Yason Banal in a group exhibition that intersects language and text with images and actual objects.
Department of Avant-Garde Cliches (DAGC), owned by established artist Manuel Ocampo, is well-positioned along the Pasong Tamo strip near powerhouse galleries like Finale Art File, Manila Contemporary, and Silverlens. Critiquing and at the same time appropriating their commercial strategies, DAGC specialises in contemporary prints and limited-edition books by local and foreign artists. The space opened in February 2011 with a group show featuring works by artists from three continents. Aside from an exhibition space, DAGC also provides invited artists with a print studio complete with materials for the production of their new works. It also organises workshops and lectures about various aspects of printmaking.
- Thu, 1 Dec 2011