25 Best Art and Design Moments of 2015

BenCab's 50 Creative Years, the Philippines returns to Venice Art Biennale, the restoration of the MET, and more.


(SPOT.ph) This year has been vibrant for the Philippine creative scene. It was a year of comebacks, milestones, big wins, and worldwide recognition. There were various local art fairs showcasing Filipino talents, exhibits held every day, different awards recognizing established and emerging artists here and abroad, and the revival of old practices after decades of neglect. The country is brimming with culture and ingenuity, and here are 25 remarkable events in 2015 that prove just that.


Barredo's open rib cage installation which was inpired by a stack of plates from Mandarin


Gabriel Barredo’s Opera

In January, Silverlens opened 2015 with Opera, an entire zone put together by Gabriel Barredo. In Opera, the artist dissected the body as an invitation to reflect on the self while exposing what’s fascinatingly alien. Saying we were in deep awe would be an understatement, but we don’t have enough words to describe how captivating Barredo’s body of work is. 




BenCab’s 50 Creative Years

This year, we celebrated the five decades of creativity and contribution to Philippine art of National Artist Benedicto "BenCab" Cabrera. We got to see his great and extensive body of work in a series of exhibits in museums such as the Ayala Museum, the Yuchengco Museum, and the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). Going beyond the walls of museums, we saw Sabel come alive in Sabel, Love and Passion, an original musical theater production starring Iza Calzado. His art also inspired ready-to-wear fashion, limited edition stationery, and collectible sculptures, bringing his concepts to a bigger audience and market.

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The Philippines returns to the Venice Art Biennale

2015 was a notable year for Philippine contemporary art as it marked the country’s return to the Venice Biennale after a 51-year hiatus. The event is arguably the most celebrated contemporary art exhibition in the world. The Philippine Pavilion entitled “Tie A String Around the World” tackled the issue of the disputed West Philippine Sea, and was represented by curator Patrick Flores and artists Manuel Conde, Carlos Francisco, Manny Montelibano, and Jose Tence Ruiz.




Showcase of Pinoy artistry at APEC

Filipino artistry and design was the star of the 2015 APEC Leaders Welcome Dinner held at the Mall of Asia Arena in November. Renowned designer Kenneth Cobonpue was the creative director of the welcome dinner. Projecting the image of the “Global Filipino,” Cobonpue used natural materials and incorporated modern themes, transforming the venue into an outdoor garden. Inspired by the Banaue Rice Terraces, a grassy circular stage was set in the middle of the arena for dinner. Colorful anahaw leaf designs were hanging on the ceilings, while economic leaders sat on Cobonpue’s APEC edition of the coveted Yoda chairs. 




A casually dressed crowd flocks to Art in the Park

People again flocked to the Jaime Velasquez Park for Art in the Park in January. Although conceived as a platform for the arts, it has now moved more confidently with the rhythm of city life. It’s a good way to get snippets of what the local art scene has to offer. Plus, the cotton candy sculptures were a huge hit with adults, too!



Germany gives a piece of the Berlin Wall to National Museum

In case you don’t know, we have a piece of Germany in Manila—literally! A portion of the Berlin Wall was revealed in October at the National Museum in commemoration of Germany’s 25 years of unity along with the 61st anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Germany. The Philippines is the first Southeast Asian country to receive part of the Berlin Wall, and second in Asia after South Korea.




Emerging artists Pio Abad, Frank Callaghan, and Ryan Villamael win Fernando Zobel Prizes at the Ateneo Art Awards

On its 12th year, the Ateneo Art Awards 2015 concluded at Shangri-La Plaza, Mandaluyong in September. It was first established with the vision of recognizing emerging young artists. This year, the three artists that took home the Fernando Zobel Prizes for their outstanding creations were Pio Abad (The Collection of Jane Ryan and William Saunders), Frank Callaghan (Dead Ends), and Ryan Villamael (Isles). For the second edition of the Purita Kalaw-Ledesma Prize for Art Criticism, Paula S. Acuin won for her review of Cesar Legaspi: The Brave Modern.




Jojie Lloren flawlessly brings together art and fashion

Renowned fashion designer Jojie Loren brought together fashion and art in Musings with the Musesan exhibit at the CCP in July. His impeccable skill in tailoring is elevated to a true art form in the exhibit of 40 pieces inspired by icons of the Philippine visual art scene including the iconic “Sabel” by BenCab, the shimmering light in Fernando Amorsolo’s paintings, and Vicente Manansala’s cubism. 


Sculptures by Ramon Orlina

ManilART challenges current issues and sets its own bar for art appropriation

The theme for its seventh run of ManilART is "Raising the Filipino Colors on the World Stage," as a celebration for the Philippines’ return to the prestigious Venice Biennale. The SMX Convention Center was full of thought-provoking works of art. Guests were welcomed with glass sculptures by Ramon Orlina, and there’s also Boni Juan's art installation featuring Rizal detached from the Rizal Monument, making a peace sign with the Torre de Manila as the background. 




Ayala Museum launches Augmented Reality

Ayala Museum welcomed the addition of Augmented Reality to their iconic Diorama Experience of Philippine History. It's the first of its kind in the Philippines and Asia, with the museum taking another step towards reaching out to younger visitors and encouraging love for art and learning. The AV Reality app adds effects and gives dimension to the enshrined historical events. The narration and pieces of dialogue add context to the scenes and tell our history in a compelling manner. 




Manila FAME becomes a design paradise

In Manila FAME’s March and October runs, it remained true to its promise of bringing the best of Philippine craftsmanship, design, and talent. The SMX Convention Center was filled with carefully curated artifacts and booths. On its 62nd year, it had plenty to offer by way of art from local artists, homegrown food, as well as heritage crafts from different regions of the country.



Leeroy New’s fresh, psychedelic lights-and-sounds Christmas show

You can always count on Leeroy New to produce mind-blowing and fresh installations. His lights and sounds show, “Astreopora,” does not fail to celebrate the holiday season even if it deviates from the usual yuletide themes. According to New, the installation is a larger production of a performance space and sculptural installation he created in Boracay, which was inspired by the ocean. He told SPOT.ph, “I always want to expand ideas I’ve already done. For this, we decided to make it bigger." And big, it is!




Growing support for public art

This year, we’ve seen more support for public art, both from private and public sectors (yay!). In September, NCCA partnered with Cavity Collective to turn the Pasay Cemetery wall into a beautiful work of art as part of its Art in Public Spaces project. Even business districts recognized art as part of what makes a city beautiful, as seen in the Art BGC project that launched in May and the murals along Makati CBD walkways and underpasses. International graffiti artists called Outsiders Krew left colorful murals around the Gagalangin area in Tondo for their ‪#‎ShareTheWordProject.




Philippine textiles take the spotlight

Philippine textiles took center stage in many shows this year. The Metropolitan Museum of Manila presented the Inabel exhibit in September, featuring Inabel cloth dating from 19th to 20th Century, mixed with modern pieces, and International Festival of Extra Ordinary Textiles (FITE): Renaissance Exhibition which included works by Patis Tesoro and Ann Pamintuan. In October, over 16 major textiles in the Philippines like abaca, cotton, and silk were showcased at Likhang Habi Market Fair’s fifth year. Then there’s also NCCA’s latest development in the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3. For its Art in Public Spaces project, the terminal’s walls feature colorful designs of Philippine textiles and the pillars are decorated to look like Maranao lakub, hand-painted by the TALAS Art Group.



CCP presents the first performance literature festival

In November, the CCP launched Performatura, the first performance literature festival in the country. Some of the highlights of the three-day festival are the musical performances, spoken word poetry sessions, discussions with National Artists like F. Sionil Jose, and the opening of Chromatext Rebooted, an exhibit that displays artworks incorporated with words, poems, and prose, as well as masterpieces by poets and writers.




Art book compiles 75 portraits of Filipino artists

See Filipino iconic creators in one book! Filipino Artists in their Studios, a book seven years in the making, was finally launched in November. The book is a compilation of 75 portraits of Filipino artists by photographer Pinggot V. Zulueta and articles edited by Isabel C. de Leon. Among the featured National artists are BenCab, Napoleon Abueva, Arturo Luz, Abdulmari Asia Imao, and Federico Aguilar Alcuaz. 



“Hills of Nikko” by José Joya


Key Philippine collections are loaned to the National Gallery of Singapore

Loans from the National Museum, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), CCP, and Metropolitan Museum of Manila as well as from key private collections contributed to the opening of the National Gallery Singapore (NGS), which seeks to showcase Southeast Asian visual arts. Among the Philippine works on loan is an abstract by National Artist Hernando R. Ocampo, “Hills of Nikko” by José Joya, and “Under the Mango Tree” by Carlos “Botong” Francisco. “The exposure of Philippine art abroad, particularly as part of a larger narrative, contributes to the appreciation and respect for our art, culture and history...We have so much to be proud of in Philippine art, we should share this with the world,” Clarissa Chikiamco, Filipino curator of the NGS, said in an interview.



The rise of coloring as a hobby


2015 saw a new shelf display in bookstores: adult coloring books. While children are busy playing with iPads, grown-ups were coloring away. It’s a fad that is most welcome because it encouraged everyone, especially non-artists, to release their creativity or de-stress through art. The coloring addiction also extended to smartphones through coloring apps like Colorfy.




Publicis Jimenez Basic, E. Zobel Foundation, and 4As Creative Guild of the Philippines came up with an advocacy that seeks to democratize art and art appreciation in the Philippines called Art Lotto. The idea is simple: Take photos of art you see anywhere, which is pretty easy to spot in Manila, and post it on your Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook accounts with the hastag #ArtLotto. “It’s a fun, playful way to do art consciousness among Filipinos,” said Ryder Aquino, co-creator of Art Lotto. You can still join because the winner will be drawn early 2016!



Graffiti artist Egg Fiasco for Secret Fresh


A bigger Art Fair Philippines with more galleries, more art, and even more attendees

Art Fair Philippines is a platform for art for everyone—artists, noobs, curious onlookers, curators, collectors, and more. This year, we saw fresh faces, new developments, old favorites, and plenty of surprises, all in one parking space! With 33 participating galleries (its largest number to date) came a lot of artists and even a greater number of art.



Untitled, 2015 by Maria Taniguchi (image from Silverlens)


Maria Taniguchi wins the Hugo Boss Asia Art Award 2015

Already an established artist in the Philippines, Maria Taniguchi competed against five other shortlisted artists for the 2015 Hugo Boss Asia Art Award for emerging Asian artists, showcasing her works in Shanghai. "Her very singular, humble, but extremely focused practice of painting and video enriched the realm of media and raised a unique sensitivity of making the picture with infinite possibilities of meaning," Larys Frogier, Director of the RAM and chair of the jury said.



Longer lines during free museum days

They say the best things in life are free, and we agree. The National Museum opened its doors for free for the whole month of May, and because of the good response from the public this year, they extended it until June. They gave free admission during APEC week, too. Ayala Museum also welcomed visitors for free in July. Come October, all national museums offered free admission in celebration of Museums and Galleries Month. There’s also Newseum, a project offering a fresh take on how kids can appreciate local art by hosting a free Saturday museum day.




Kenneth Cobonpue’s APEC Yoda chairs raise over P8 million for UNICEF

Kenneth Cobonpue’s six limited-edition APEC Yoda chairs went under the hammer and raised a total of P8.81 million. All proceeds will enable UNICEF Philippines to help save the lives of over 50,000 children and mothers. These highly-coveted chairs were used by P-Noy, U.S. President Barack Obama, APEC hotties Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau and President of Mexico Enrique Peña Nieto, Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe, and Prime Minister of the Republic of Singapore Lee Hsien Loong. The highest chair sold was (of course) Trudeau’s, which fetched P2.05 million.




Rodel Gonzalez wows us with his works

The fact that you’re not familiar with his name is understandable. But stay on your radar, he should. Rodel Gonzalez is a living proof of the Force...of the paintbrush. He’s the only Filipino artist who is authorized to create interpretative art for Star Wars and Disney. His oil and acrylic paintings are so awesome that George Lucas himself bought four of Gonzalez's first Star Wars originals. In December, coinciding with the first week of The Force Awakens in the Philippines, he exhibited his original works, as well as prints and posters at the Bonifacio High Street Cinemas.



METamorphosis: NCCA begins the restoration of the MET

It looks like a lot of people are very eager to see the Manila Metropolitan Theater return to its old grandeur. The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) acquired the MET from the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) in June. To finally mark the first step to its restoration after years of neglect, the NCCA launched the MET Clean-up Drive with student volunteers in December. Want to be part of this historic restoration? There will be a clean-up drive every two weeks starting January 2016. Stay tuned for announcements in the official Facebook page for the project: METamorphosis



Art by Warren Espejo, with photos from the museums and galleries's websites, various TV show videos, news clips, and images used by fans in YouTube slideshow videos.

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