A funny thing happens at every Art Fair Philippines. People either post photos on social media, or complain how everyone is coming in droves to take selfies or OOTDs.
I take my time to follow the threads on social media so that I can revisit my favorite pieces or see ones that I’ve missed, and to read all the vitriol spouted by my friends about the people taking photos with the art. Unpopular opinion: I’m actually okay with it.
People seem to be forgetting what Art Fair Philippines is all about. Since its inception in 2013, it has invited the country’s best galleries to exhibit pieces in the unconventional space of The Link’s carpark, to take the pieces out of the intimidating space of the gallery and the museum to bring it to more people.
Newsflash: people have different ways of appreciating art. Some admire it from a polite distance, examining the form, the process, and the concept. Some discuss it with friends. And there are those who take photos as keepsakes (or for some sort of bragging rights), or who insert themselves between the camera and the artwork. What’s wrong with that?
Discriminating against them or mocking them is the reason why art is intimidating. People are afraid that they will be judged for not understanding or appreciating art the “right way,” which is to nod thoughtfully. Dissing those who don’t appreciate art the way we do reinforces the idea that art is an exclusive field only for the learned and the cultured. And when you think about it, it defeats the purpose of Art Fair Philippines: to make it more inclusive. Mocking these people makes you a snob.
Allowing people to take their selfies and their photos for social media means increasing the reach and visibility of Art Fair and art in general. It allows them to see how healthy the local art scene is, and hopefully encourage them to visit museums and galleries. This year, The Link carpark reached its capacity on Saturday, but social media helped those who couldn’t go to appreciate and see the fair vicariously. We’re the social media capital of the world. Let’s use it to show how badass our artists are.
To be honest, the number of people who attended overwhelmed me. I was at the vernissage on Wednesday, the day before it opened, but I returned on Saturday to accompany a friend, and at the same time, look at the pieces as a guest, not a member of the media where I had to take photos, too. I am slightly claustrophobic so it was a struggle trying to enter the narrow entrance to the fair, which was already packed with people wanting to get in. Thankfully, everyone was organized and the security team gracefully handled all the visitors, including the fragile me who was already on the edge. Upstairs, the Fair was packed with people… taking photos.
I understand my friends who complain about the selfie-takers. Yes, it is quite annoying. But I remind myself that it’s a good thing, that at least people came to see what the fuss is all about. To the people taking photos, you do you, girl. But be considerate of the people around you. Don’t turn the pieces into the backdrop of your hour-long photo shoot. You don’t even need to take a photo of everything.
Before you start taking your ‘grams, study the art in front of you. Look closely and see how it was made. Try to feel what the artist is trying to say. If you are moved, if for some inexplicable reason you become attached to the painting in front of you, that’s when you take your photo. Then move along.
I believe art is a universal concept. It’s one that doesn’t need education to appreciate (but of course, you will understand the nuances and the context if you are educated in it). But let’s not rob first-timers of the experience to tap into their inner selves and discover new truths. The number of people who showed up at Art Fair Philippines 2017 is a good thing. It means more people are into art. if not, they’re at least curious, and that’s always a good start.