Carren's Pitch

Life by Design


Asian Art Convergence

Posted by Carren |

Manila Contemporary undoubtedly adds something more to the conversation about art in the Philippines. With consistent shows that exhibit various artists from around the region, one cannot help but ask questions of origin, meaning, and intent. I don't have all the answers to those, but sometimes just having the question is enough.

Text by: Carren Jao
Published: MEGA May 2009

Beyond Art- Asian Artists express themselves to paint the face and soul of Asia

SOUTHEAST winds are blowing mightily inside an unassuming expansive space along Pasong Tamo. Standing beside a school and a commercial building lies Manila Contemporary, the latest space operated by the Southeast Asian powerhouse, Valentine Willie Fine Art.

Manila Contemporary is the Philippines’ local entry point into the regional art scene. Inside, the gallery’s white walls are tabula rasa, displaying the works of regional artists beside local artists. Works from Manila’s Jay Ticar, Amy Aragon, MM Yu, Clairelynn Uy, and Geraldine Javier stand beside the region’s Manit Sriwanichpoom, Kokok Sancoko, Natee Utarit, Jimmy Ong, and Mella Jaarsma.

After twenty years in the contemporary art scene and with three other galleries around Southeast Asia under his belt, Valentine Willie, along with a group of Filipino art lovers, reach further into the Pacific to feel the pulse of Southeast Asia.

With sister spaces in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, and associated with Tembi Contemporary in Indonesia, Manila Contemporary is truly a regional gallery. “Valentine’s entry into the local art scene is an overdue push to extend the local art into other physical spaces,” comments Siddharta Perez of Manila Contemporary. Utilizing this network of galleries, local artists are able to exhibit their work around the region.

Conversely, Manila Contemporary also gives local audiences a taste of the Southeast Asia they’ve been missing through group exhibitions from artists based around the region. More culturally Western than Eastern, Filipino art lovers are given the chance to rediscover their Asian roots.

India, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur…and finally Manila. These key cities evoke a myriad of images in the mind of any wanderer. From the well-known architectural majesty of the Taj Mahal to the Chinese-Malay melting pot of Singapore, Southeast Asia has no one face to show the world. Bringing to life their collective psyche under one roof is certainly a challenge not without its critics. Yet Valentine Willie persists. Siddharta explains, “Valentine seeks to come up with works with authenticity, and bringing together these works under the umbrella of ‘Southeast Asian’ art kind of beckons a return to ‘immediate culture.’”

Beyond a shared history of colonization by different Western countries lies Southeast Asia’s rich primordial culture. This is the Southeast Asia ancient Chinese traders have integrated under the name Nanhai or Southseas. Along well-chartered trade routes, commerce and ideas flowed freely among nations. As the 21st century begins, Manila Contemporary and Valentine Willie Fine Art galleries once again open up venues for the dissemination of ideas across the region. Expressed through the artist’s perspective, Southeast Asia becomes not a place of Western-influenced homogeneity, but a venue to express the psyche of a region coping with the dawning of a globalized world.
Manila Contemporary will be hosting a Julian Schnabel show on June 2009. More group shows with Southeast Asian artists are also planned for the year. In December 2009, Norberto “Peewee” Roldan of Green Papaya Arts Projects will be guest curating.
Manila Contemporary
2314 Chino Roces Ave. (Pasong Tamo Extension)
Barangay Magallanes, Makati, Philippines
Gallery Hours: Tuesday to Saturday 11 a.m.- 7 p.m., Sunday 12-3 p.m.
Closed on Monday and public holidays


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