It’s been years since I cared tremendously about the Ateneo Art Awards. That is borne mainly of a self-aware arrogance, where I tend to wait for the winners’ homecoming exhibits – that is, if they get an artist grant that (ideally) comes with being one of the winners.
This year, my interest was really limited to Buen Calubayan’s “Fressie Capulong.” Calubayan’s work is one I’ve followed since 2009, when I interviewed him for being awarded one of 13 young and exciting artists by Nokia and the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Then, Calubayan seemed to be at the tail-end of a series of paintings that reconfigured and reassessed, and therefore blasphemed against, images of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary, and Pinoy Catholicism in general.
After a stretch of no exhibits and no art, and becoming an employee of the National Museum, Calubayan’s December 2012 (sort of) comeback exhibit was barely noticed. It also barely sold anything.
Winning the Ateneo Art Award for 2013 could only feel like retribution for “Fressie Capulong” and Calubayan. Though that might be said for most of the artists in this shortlist, too.
New, if only because different
It had become expected, the shortlist that the AAA would come out with every year, and this is not entirely the organizers’ fault. After all, the process is one that sends out a call for nominations of exhibits, which is then shortlisted by a jury.
Since the 2009 AAA, the shortlist has had the usual suspects, certain artists have become “suki,” and the exhibit looks the same year-in year-out. That might be the nature of a competition such as this, where a jury (of the usual suspects too) would come up with the same(-looking) shortlist every year.
On this, the AAA’s 10th year though, there was reason to celebrate. The exhibit looks calmer than usual, if not austere. Unlike years when it seemed like a contest on concept or grand installations, this year it is mostly paintings and framed works. Unlike years when there seems to be the need for some shock value or the obvious art-in-your-face, this year there is a quiet to the shortlisted exhibits.