ManilArt 2019 to showcase the world-class Filipino

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One of the featured artists of Artes Orientes in ManilArt 2019 is Kenneth Montegrande. Described by the gallery’s owner Rio Ambrosio as “the new kid on the block,” Montegrande will display 19 pieces of impressionist and expressionist paintings. Among them are (clockwise) A Touch of Love, Strong Like a Rock and Draw Me to Your Wonder.

THE flagship project of the National Committee on Art Galleries, under the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), returns next week for the 11th year to present the global caliber of Filipino artists.

ManilArt is tagged as the country’s first and longest-running art fair held every October in celebration of Museums and Galleries Month, as per Presidential Proclamation 798. This year’s festivities will run from October 10 to 13 at SMX Aura with the theme “Showcasing the Global Filipino Artist.”

“As a flagship project of the NCCA, ManilArt is the national art fair in the Philippines,” said ManilArt committee member Rio Ambrosio, who represents the galleries. “ManilArt encompasses the whole art genre and features all artists, from masters to the up-and-coming.”

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A total of 32 galleries will participate at this year’s event, presenting up to 15 artists each. Ambrosio’s Artes Orientes, for one, will showcase the works of nine artists. They are Justin “Tiny” Nuyda, Mario de Rivera, Menelyn Wong, Fitz Herrera, Ted Peñaflor, Donn Cellano, Edwin Ladrillo, Bayani Galera and Kenneth Montegrande.

This year marks as Montegrande’s official ManilArt debut, the latest in the string of accomplishments of the fast-rising artist. He will take the lion’s share of the Artes Orientes space and display 19 pieces of impressionist and expressionist works.

“Kenneth is the new kid on the block. He is on the rise,” Ambrosio said. “He is making a lot of strides and gaining a lot of following. I hope he can sustain it, and so far, he’s meeting the challenge.”

Montegrande is one of the embodiments of ManilArt’s theme of a global Filipino artist. This past summer, just seven years into his art career, the 40-year-old self-taught painter became the first Southeast Asian artist whose work is housed in the prestigious collection of Contemporary Arts Foundation, which was founded by Japanese tycoon Yusaku Maezawa. The mega art collector set a purchase record in 2017 for an untitled Jean-Michel Basquiat for $110.5 million.

Montegrande said he relishes the opportunity to be part of the ManilArt stage and to share it with acclaimed artists. “It’s a big break and honor para makasabay si Sir Tiny and the other masters on this show, which is one of the biggest art fairs in the Philippines. Nakaka-inspire at overwhelming.”

Montegrande is making a name for impressionism and abstract expressionism paintings, reminiscent of the works of his inspirations and the genres’ biggest names, such as JMW Turner, Claude Monet, and William de Kooning, to name a few. The Manila-born artist paints in a roof deck studio overlooking Manila Bay, and reflects the sight on his works of cloudscapes, seascapes and landscapes.

For his ManilArt show, Montegrande combines the three elements under the Trinity Series, featuring his dramatic clouds on top and textured sea and land below.

“If you look at my cloudscape, parang may paparating na delubyo o malakas na ulan,” he said. “Pero tandaan natin na walang ginawang pangit si God. Kahit may ulan, kahit may problema, if we face it together with Him, makikita pa rin natin ’yung ganda.”

Montegrande’s solo exhibition at ManilArt will be his ninth. He is also set to become the first artist to be featured in Contemporary Filipino Artists, a coffee-table book series of the De La Salle University Publishing House. Titled The Art of Kenneth Montegrande, the book will be launched this December as part of DLSUPH’s Christmas celebration.

“Montegrande’s art dwells in a most potent field where the dynamics of figuration and abstraction are constantly turning out very interesting picture spaces,” said DLSUPH Director Dr. David Jonathan Bayot, who professes his love for abstract expressionist art—“as exemplified by Franz Kline, for instance”—and what he calls as the “interesting intersections of impressionism and abstract expressionism…and I’m thinking of Per Kirkeby.”

In mid-July, Bayot attended the turnover of two Montegrande paintings to the Presidential Museum and Library of the Malacañan Palace. The office was created in 2004 with the implementation of Executive Order 366 to serve as the “principal historical and artistic repository in support of the institution of the Presidency and for the benefit of the Republic and the Filipino people.”

The two paintings now included in the palace collection are Transfigurings of Freshest Blue and Perla Del Mar De Oriente, both 48 x 60” acrylic on canvas works, painted in 2019.

Montegrande said the honor has only sharpened his focus to make more quality artworks to inspire people, including new artists.

Kung kaya ko, kaya rin nila,” he added. “Just trust in God. Mapangarap akong tao, pero hindi ako nagmamadali. I just trust in His plans.”


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