After 51 years, PHL returns to ‘art world’s Olympics’ Venice Biennale

January 27, 2015

After 51 years of non-participation, Philippines is set to make a comeback at one of the major contemporary art exhibitions in the world.

A technical team arrived in Venice, Italy last week to prepare the Philippine Pavilion in Palazzo Mora for the 56th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale or La Biennale di Venezia to be held from May 9 to November 22.

The team is led by Dr. Patrick Flores, a professor at the University of the Philippines’ Department of Art Studies and a curator at UP’s Vargas Museum.

His curatorial concept, “Tie A String Around the World,” bested 15 other proposals. It was decided by a panel of jurors expert on modern and contemporary art and culture such as Tokyo’s Mori Art Museum chief curator Mami Kataoka, New York-based multi-media artist Paul Pfeiffer, Independent Curators International executive director Renaud Proch, critic-artist-writer Cid Reyes, National Commission for Culture and the Arts chairman Felipe M. de Leon Jr., and Senator Loren Legarda, who pushed for the Philippines’ return to the international art exhibition.

According to NCCA, Flores’ concept centered on the “poetic and political reflection on the history of world making, the links between geography and politics, and the notions of nation, territory, and archipelago.”

The Philippine Pavilion aims to spark conversation on the “history of sea and its relationship on with the current world, claims to patrimony, and the struggle of nation-states over vast and intensely contested nature.”

“Tie A String Around the World” will include Manuel Conde’s 1950 film Genghis Khan alongside contemporary art projects of intermedia artist Jose Tence Ruiz and filmmaker Mariano Montelibano III.

Looking forward

Flores, NCCA representative Riya Lopez, and the rest of the country’s technical team have also met Venice Biennale General Manager Andrea Del Mercato and exhibition main coordinator Manuela Luca-Dazio on January 21 in Milan to present the plan for the exhibit.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that Mercato and Luca-Dazio are both looking forward to the Philippines’ comeback exhibition.

“After 50 years since the country’s first and last official participation in The 32nd International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale 1964, the exhibition of the Philippine Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2015 aims to strengthen the role of the Philippines in the international community as a nation of and destination for contemporary art,” the DFA said after announcing the Philippines’ return to the exhibition last year.

The first time the Philippines joined the exhibition in 1964, it was curated by Filipino National Artist for Visual Arts Jose Joya to represent the rise of modern art in the country at the time.