I made it to the Art Fair on its last day. My social media network was all abuzz about it and showing off some pretty amazing artwork and pieces, especially on Instagram. Various galleries, including some galleries from other countries filled up two parking lots of The Link in Ayala.
The place was filled to the brim (being a Sunday) and people were walking from one gallery to the next and, to be honest, I was quite annoyed with many of the people. Yes, I agree with my friend Kate, who was happy that people were there and they were being exposed to all this art, but like Kate, I was also so annoyed because a lot of the people were there not really engaging with the work.
I read Jeanette Winterson’s book Art Objects and I remember she so eloquently wrote that art (and I’m paraphrasing here) shouldn’t reach out to you, you have to cross that distance too. You have to engage with it. You have to meet it halfway. You have to bridge that distance between your experience and the artwork’s experience.
A lot of the people there, in my opinion, weren’t doing that. They walked around, talked a lot, and were watching other people more than they were the artwork. They took a lot of pictures and stood beside the artwork with these weird smiley faces; I figured this was for Instagram and it just felt like they were announcing that “I was here at Art Fair” and I felt so annoyed and frustrated. I only took photos of the works that hit me in the gut — so that I could remember names of the artists, and hopefully follow their career.
Like I read in Art Objects, I would try to engage with the artworks but since there were so many — and so many people — I just chose to engage with those that drew me in. When one piece did, I would stick to it for a while. Just stare at it and see what thoughts came to my head, what feelings were stirred inside. I just let it work on me as I worked with it. I’d change my angle of looking — come close, look at it from the side, squint my eyes — to see if I could see something new in that short span of time.
Often, I’d feel the weight of people’s stare behind me because they wanted to take a photo and they didn’t know why I was “taking so long” looking at one painting. I was so annoyed. I barely spoke to Kate who was moving at her own pace. Only when a work really hit the both of us that we’d find an empty space, away from the movement of people to discuss it, otherwise, we would walk around in silence.
If that makes me a snob, then I’m a snob. I have read about art and I’m no expert but I know that it’s more than just pretty pictures or home decor. I have way too much respect for the medium to be dismissive and to commodify it as Instagram fodder. Yes, I did post a detail of my favourite work on my Instagram, but it came with a poem that was drawn out of me. I was engaging with the work — because the work made me feel human.
The work in question was by Gus Albor. I am familiar with the name and I’ve seen his work in other galleries before but never has his work affected me the way the work he exhibited in yesterday’s Art Fair did. I was transfixed. That’s the word. I was transfixed.
I wanted to buy it and empty a whole wall so that I could put it up because I could look at this piece for hours and I know that if I left, for like months, and just got on with my life, that one day I’d see it again and just feel something different because I’ve changed and I’d stare at it for a new set of hours and get something different and new.
It was so beautiful. I posted on Instagram a very close shot of the detail of the canvass and how the paint dried and formed on it and added a poem in the caption that came to me as I was staring at it.
And I keep thinking about all the other people there and how all of this opportunity to feel really human and to find out who they are — because all engagement with good art, or art that means something to the individual, is a process of self-discovery — is a wasted chance. Yes, fine, everyone is there and you can say “hi” and talk and chat; but you’re there for the artwork. Shouldn’t you be?
Again, I feel so bad for having been so affected. I feel so bad for having been so annoyed. I could have just gone and walked around and try to shut them out but they were all over the place, talking loud, and walking in front of you, and blocking paintings so they can take shot after shot of work that they just merely thought was “pretty.”
Art, good art especially, is a great and grand thing. It’s what I aspire towards. And it affected me so much to be around that energy. It’s the same energy I feel when I go to clubs and popular bars and it’s the reason why I don’t go to these places anymore. I just don’t synch in with that frequency. And I’m happy for the art community and the art world.
I just wish that, at some point, it would improve. I wish that later on, people will start to engage. And I’m sure it will. It’s still relatively young — the art scene. We have a rich history of fantastic art but it was not accessible for everybody. Now it is. And that’s great. Exposure is the first step. I just hope that, at some point, we start educating people into the next step which is engagement.
I’m just ranting. I was given audience to such amazing works (and some really bad ones too) but I was there and I was feeling so human and all these people around me were taking jabs at it and cutting me with their inability to connect.
It’s my first time at The Art Fair. I’ll be better prepared next year.