For most people, visiting museums and galleries can seem daunting. Of course, even for me.
I once visited a gallery on a whim because I was in the area and thought about going in. I didn’t find my way figuratively and ended up being more perplexed than enlightened.
I remember having a conversation with someone about a museum. It was a new concept, way ahead of its time, but the museum didn’t catch on. If I had to give my opinion, it could be partly about the atmosphere that the museum evokes. It appears to have been created to impress rather than inspire visitors.
There was an explanation to help viewers or visitors understand what he is trying to do. But it’s too haughty that normal people like me have trouble grasping the content.
I know educating viewers is part of his responsibility, but how can he educate people when they’re not even inclined to take a look, or it doesn’t pique their interest just because they can’t understand the content or its purpose? There should be a balance somewhere.
Maybe it’s just me, but every time I walk into an art gallery, I feel this certain pressure that I need to know something about the arts, that I at least know what I’m looking at , or that I have a small understanding of what the artist is trying to convey.
I could count the times I was so engrossed in a gallery visit, and it was especially when a curator spent time explaining and sharing stories about the artworks and artists with visitors. Simply put, not the high-flying explanation they often do, so I got so much more out of the artwork.
But these are rare occasions. Most of the time, I saw supervisors spending more time telling them to stop touching things or taking flash pictures than engaging people.
There should be a more relaxed environment for the public to view and appreciate the artwork. I find that I appreciate works of art more when they are displayed in non-traditional spaces like restaurants, cafes, shopping malls and other alternative spaces where people who are not inclined to visit a gallery of art can go to see art.
For new artists, alternative spaces are a good way to expose themselves outside of legitimate institutions. For seasoned artists, it provides a place to connect with the market that would otherwise be intimidated by traditional art spaces.
Henjie Carmona, an art collector, found his connection to the art scene while dining at a restaurant in Makati. While waiting for their food to be served, he looked around the restaurant and a piece of art caught his eye. He called the number posted and struck up a conversation with the curator, who turned out to be Jaime Ponce de Leon, the owner of Leon Gallery.
“Jaime was very engaging. He shared his knowledge of the arts, told me about art history, masters and artists. He recommended getting a pen and ink, depending on my budget at the time,” Carmona explained.
Over the years, Carmona sold his pen and ink artwork and eventually purchased pieces by Vicente Manansala, Federico Alcuaz, Jose Joya, among others. He also bought Sanso, Luz, Legazpi and other old masters, as well as new artists like Gino Bueza, Jim Paul Martin, John Paul Duray and even John Lloyd.
“I’m not really a connoisseur of art. I’m just very visual. I have always been fascinated by the works of art made by the masters. I wanted to own one, but buying power was an issue back then,” Carmona said.
After starting his condotel hospitality business in 2001, he started thinking about buying something that would make him happy. Rather than put his money elsewhere, he decides to collect works of art.
A question usually arises when it comes to buying works of art: are you buying one for art or for investment?
Carmona has this to say: “Appreciation is just relative. After all, it is often driven by marketing. For me, the most important thing is my connection to the work, to the artist. You don’t buy artwork because they like it. It’s a no-no because you might end up disappointed. This is not always a guarantee that he will appreciate or even maintain his price.
Also, he cautioned against choosing something just because someone tells you to. “It’s always good to know the arts and history. You can weigh what art dealers or curators say about a work. But in the end, it’s all about connection.
The sensation that a piece of art makes him feel becomes one of the main considerations when buying it. “When I look at the painting, it has to make me happy. I am quite sensitive to colors. They make me happy. I don’t like anything dark. I know there are a lot of talented artists out there, but if their work is too weird or too depressing, I don’t like it. I’m not disparaging them, but that’s just a matter of personal preference.
Another consideration is his relationship with the artist. “It’s good to know the artist personally. I speak to them. I have to choose their brain.
Carmona likes artists who are driven by their passion and who paint according to their artistic philosophy rather than creating works that they believe will make them rich. He finds a new pleasure in meeting new artists.
Some of the artwork he collected can be seen at his restaurant, Rafael’s Tapas Bar and Restaurant, located at Resorts World Manila. The restaurant is dotted with works of art – from music-inspired chandeliers to commissioned paintings and sculptures.
“Works of art create something different in a space. The artworks have a powerful vision to create an ambience – good mood for the diners. Restaurants are good places to appreciate works of art. This is what happened to me. I was able to appreciate the works of art while having dinner in a restaurant. I surround my restaurant with artwork because it makes me feel good, and when others like it, that’s another good feeling. And in a way, that validates me.
When people refer to him as an art collector, Carmona often avoids the term.
“I have a certain perception of an art collector and I have met art collectors who have built a house for their art collections. I’m not at that point. But I guess what drives them to collect art is the same passion as me. But it’s just that our purchasing power is different.
At the end of the conversation with Carmona, I realized that if we want people to appreciate the arts, we have to make them accessible, whether geographically or educationally.