Thursday, August 11, 2011

Ateneo art awards. And the winners are...



Last night I attended the 8th Ateneo Art Awards organized by the Ateneo Art Gallery under the directorship of Richie Lerma. The Ateneo Art Awards is also Richie's baby, by the way, as he conceived this as a way of encouraging promising young artists. Over the years it has grown in prestige so that today it's widely recognized as perhaps the most prestigious award for a young artist in the Philippines.

Artists are nominated by their peers or by persons in the industry such as gallery owners. Once nominated, the shortlisted candidates go through a pretty elaborate process that reminds some of them of the stresses of "defending their thesis," Richie says.

The award comes with a grant, and last night three artists were chosen and each was given an artist-in-residency grant. These grants were arranged by the governments of the United Kingdom, Australia and Indonesia.

There were about 10 short-listed candidates and everyone in the audience basically had their own favorites. Personally, I was rooting for Rodel Tapaya, a young artist who has sold quite well at the Sotheby's auctions, but this is mainly because one of my favorite paintings in my living room is an early iconic work of his. I'd purchased it many years ago at an auction, and I clearly remember how a very well-known collector engaged me in a bidding war. It provided lots of amusement during the auction itself, although if not for him, I would have gotten it at about half what I had paid. The collector finally bowed out when he realized I wasn't giving up. I'm sure he's still quite sorry now to have let go of such a beautiful Tapaya, although he did put up a pretty good fight.

I saw some ayurveda friends in the audience as well, and they were rooting for another artist, whose works I really liked as well. "I traveled with him," the lady explained, after they'd told me who they were keeping their fingers crossed for.

Most of the short-listed artists were very good so any of them would have really made a good choice. But the final three were Maria Taniguchi, Bembol de la Cruz, and Kawayan de Guia.

BEMBOL RECEIVES TWO GRANTS


I got to speak to Bembol de la Cruz and Kawayan de Guia after the awarding. Bembol is a really down-to-earth and simple artist whose still life paintings have long been fascinating many collectors here. Tonight he told me: "I still don't know what I'll be doing during my stay in Australia. Frankly, I'm still in shock about the award. But I'm very glad they appreciated my paintings." Bembol actually received two grants to stay in Australia and Singapore for short residencies.

KAWAYAN TO TRAVEL TO AUSTRALIA

Then I spoke to Kawayan de Guia, a tall and lanky artist who really does justice to his name. If you don't know him, you really have to do a double-take because Kawayan looks very European, dresses in quite an attractive but bohemian manner, and speaks Tagalog like a native and in an extremely friendly way. Of course, that's because he is a Filipino. His father is the famous filmmaker Kidlat Tahimik, and his mother is German. According to him, his dad gave all three sons very unusual Filipino names.

Kawayan was also very surprised to receive the award. But he was also happy as this was a stamp of approval on his works, which he says were slightly misunderstood in the past. The work that clinched the award for him is entitled Bomba, and it's a revolving sculpture in the shape of a bomb with glass mirrors attached all around. But the meaning behind it isn't as literal as that. Kawayan said: "Bomba means no clothes. No adornments, no hindrances, no attachments to materialism."

And at the awards tonight, art lovers were of course talking about upcoming events in the art world. There's Manila Art coming up later this month, and then the Ateneo Art Auctions -- a favorite event of mine -- in early October. Don't miss these two art events.

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