Saturday, June 4, 2011

The two-hour art trade

The intriguing installation exhibit at Whitespace

You'd think Saturdays would be more about chill and less about the fast-pace of life. Well, not in my life. It's close to midnight and I still haven't found the time to take a deep breath and relax. I thought that would happen earlier, when I went to Arogya Ayurveda Center for my 10 AM abhyanga appointment. But as usual I was rushing through everything and the awful traffic along Quirino Avenue this morning didn't help at all. I was 30 minutes late.


Then I was supposed to meet my friend B for lunch at Sala Bistro at exactly 12 noon -- but when I looked at my watch after the treatment it was exactly 12 noon and I still had to shower, change and get to Greenbelt. When I finally got to Sala Bistro at about 1220 pm, which was a minor miracle in itself, B was all curious about my ayurveda treatment.

"What are you doing this for?" B asked me. I replied: "Stress and rising blood pressure."

How ironic then that after the treatment I'd rushed around madly, tied my wet hair into a bun, and headed for Greenbelt in a state of more stress and anxiety than before my ayurveda treatment. Fortunately, lunch with B was pretty relaxing and the dark chocolate tart we shared for dessert did wonders to bring happiness back to my life at that very time.


Later in the afternoon, my art collector friend came around to my house again to talk art and to put a couple of paintings on my walls as a trial. He'd actually left them at my house late last night but I hadn't been home then; and earlier this morning I simply hadn't had the time or the energy to unroll the giant canvases he'd left on my living room floor. But around 5 pm he showed up again with lots of determination to make me keep one of the paintings he'd brought: a really huge pop art painting by an up and coming young artist who'd already sold well at Sotheby's in Hong Kong.

"What do you think?" He asked, with the kind of boyish grin I'm sure he uses quite effectively when he wants to get his way about anything. I answered: "It's nice, but it's a bit too red. And I hate to think what I'd do with it if I suddenly were to tire of it." It was the size of four life-sized mirrors, after all.


Then I added: "But I'll take it if you do a trade with me. Take that painting off my hands." I didn't have to say more than this. He knew exactly what I meant. It was a very large grey painting that he'd persuaded me to think of as that of repressed children, a few weeks ago. It was now hanging in a hallway opposite the guest washroom.

He walked over to look at it again. Then he said: "Give me two hours to think of something. Or of someone to buy your painting so we can do a trade."

I looked at him amusedly. It was like a game and - with the speed and casualness that we were discussing everything - I felt we were trading five penny baseball cards instead of very large oil paintings. But I said: "Sure. I'm going out to dinner tonight. But if you're going to trade with me, call me in two hours and I'm actually going to break my dinner to answer your call."

It was 614 PM and we said goodbye; then off I went to Manila Contemporary at Whitespace to attend the opening party/ performance/ exhibit entitled Absence before going to dinner. On the way to the gallery, I was still thinking about this painting and, frankly, I couldn't really decide whether to get it or not. But I decided to text him again anyway: "If you can come back to me in two hours, I'll be really impressed." I hate slow, so two hours to get a deal done gets high marks in my books.


The performance/ exhibit at Whitespace was small but so stimulating. I'm not a big fan of installation art in general as I always tend to think of art in the context of my home; but these live installations were truly interesting. One was an installation by Bea Camacho, of a white box with a girl inside who occasionally wiggled around so that the box would move. Later on I saw her get out of the box, with a short explanation to the people around: "My legs hurt." I later learned that this girl was Bea herself! The box-like structure was a replica of her childhood home, and this installation is meant to show the disconnection between memory and reality, and between past and present.

Opposite this was an installation by Dutch artist Melia Jaarsma entitled Animals Have no Religion. This consisted of two pairs of unsmiling people wearing strange clothes and apparatus that made them seem human and yet not quite.

Animals have no religion
by Melia Jaarsma

But perhaps the most interesting were the last two installations. One, an installation by renowned Indonesia artist Melati Suryodarmo, had a woman wearing high heels with her upper torso hidden from view so that only her backside and legs showed. "Is the model real? How does she ever manage that?" Everyone wanted to know.

Installation by Melati Suryodarmo

And to me, the most dramatic was the last installation by Racquel de Loyola called Mound, which was literally a pile of rubble with a live girl buried beneath everything so that only her head and hands showed. This struck a chord with me, perhaps because I had just experienced the Tokyo earthquake and it was just too close to home. But actually this pile of blocks and other discarded building elements represented the collapse and the forced eviction of homes and people in Manila.

That's the artist herself under the mound of rubble


At 714 PM, I was finally on my way to dinner and my phone beeps with a text from my persistent art collector friend. "How's the exhibit? I have one hour to do my counter offer then we close at 814 PM while you're having dinner."

I then replied: "I stayed fifteen minutes at the exhibit and now I'm late for dinner because of you." It was true. We'd talked about art much longer than I'd budgeted.

Not too long after, he called me at the restaurant with a simple message: "Done. A trade and I'll include a dinner in as well." I smiled to myself and put my phone away for the evening, now that this deal was done.

Finally, I could have my own Saturday dinner and an enjoyable evening with really old friends I haven't seen in a while. But midway through dinner my phone beeps again. I thought it was the art collector having second thoughts about the trade so I quickly checked my phone; but this time, it was just my incredibly complicated BBM friend criticizing a meal I'd written about in a previous post which, of course, he hadn't tasted himself.

Then he added: "And did you think about me all day and tomorrow as well?" There was a smiley face after. He was referring to a photo in a previous blog entry, which I'd borrowed from a Facebook friend and posted. I just posted it because it looked cute.

He knew the answer but I responded as honestly as I could, anyway: "If that was true, that would be so SAD."

And if he's reading this blog, he'll now know that I was actually thinking of a pretty large and red painting all day.

Travelife's Special Summer Issue
with Angel Aquino in Boracay
Angel Aquino in Bora
for Travelife Magazine's April-May 2011 issue


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