Online Art Fair Philippines draws 40,000 visitors

DESPITE initial technical glitches, the online iteration of Art Fair Philippines this year could be deemed a success, drawing many more people to its talks, virtual tours, and workshops than it had in previous editions held in a Makati carpark.

Held online for the first time in its nine year history, the 10-day art fair featured 44 exhibitors, recorded over 276,000 website views, and drew over 40,000 visitors from May 6 to 15.

Adapting to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic by migrating online, the 2021 Art Fair Philippines focused on digital arts with the Welcome to the Metaverse, NFT 101 Showcase in its Projects section. The section featured non-fungible tokens (NTFs, one-of-a-kind digital properties) from Narra Art Gallery and Tropical Futures Institute, as well as talks on crypto art and an introduction to NFTs.

“I think we succeeded in giving fair visitors a selection of artwork in the digital format that was varied and different from what they have seen locally before. We showcased work that keeps to what is current globally. I did get several comments about the quality of the talks on digital art,” Art Fair Philippines co-founder Trickie C. Lopa wrote in an e-mail to BusinessWorld.

“Despite some technical glitches early on, I would assess it as a fairly successful effort to achieve a robust online art fair presence. We worked very hard to deliver a simple, user-friendly website with easily navigable gallery pages,” co-founder Lisa O. Periquet wrote in the same e-mail.

“We boosted our educational program with a jam-packed schedule of talks, tours, workshops and demos that catered to a variety of interests. The take-up of these online events was a revelation; we had twice to thrice the number of attendees that we normally register in the physical fair — this is one of the effects of a digital space that eliminates many barriers to access,” Ms. Periquet added.

The co-founders noted the favorable reception to this year’s talks, virtual tours, and workshops.

At the very least, we doubled the attendance for talks versus figures in the live events. At best, we quadrupled [in] the number of attendees,” Ms. Lopa said.

The virtual gallery tours of Narra Art Gallery and a studio visit with acclaimed artist Alfredo Equillo were among the well-attended tours, while the talk on issues in archiving Philippine photographs and the panel discussion on the Art Fair’s first Residency Program gained the most participation.

While on-ground events are yet to make a comeback, the co-founders foresee that the physical and virtual fairs will co-exist in the future.

“We would love to be able to get back to a physical fair, as having a personal interaction with art is an unbeatable experience. However, running an online platform this year has revealed many areas that could be further developed, such as the educational aspect of the fair which is very important to our mission to widen the audience for contemporary art,” Ms. Periquet said. “Having a hybrid of physical and online might be in the works for the next fair edition.”

The 2021 Art Fair Philippines website (www.artfairphilippines.com) remains live until June 15. Recorded talks, tours, and select workshops will be uploaded soon. For updates, visit https://www.facebook.com/artfairph. Michelle Anne P. Soliman

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