Matthias Arndt is the founding director of the Arndt Gallery in Berlin. The gallery was established in 1994 as one of the first contemporary art galleries with an international profile in former East Berlin, and recently in the vibrant art landscapes of Asia – particularly Southeast Asia and the Pacific region.
Following the successful two month run of “Wasak! Filipino Art Today” in Berlin, Matthias Arndt continues to support Philippine artists with the gallery´s participation at the Art Fair Philippines featuring the works of Jigger Cruz, Alfredo Esquillo, Ian Fabro, Geraldine Javier, Pow Martinez, Manuel Ocampo, Alwin Reamillo, Norberto Roldan,Kaloy Sanchez, Rodel Tapaya, and Tatong Torres. The fair will feature works of exhibiting artists on rotation from 18 to 21 February 2016 at Booth 28, Level 5-7, The Link Carpark, Parkway Drive, Ayala Avenue, Makati City. The “Wasak! Filipino Art Today” book edited by Matthias Arndt and published by Distanz will be launched in the Philippines on 20 February at the fair grounds
With over 28 years in the Art Business, Arndt has established himself as a pioneering connoisseur of the Berlin art scene and an expert authority in the field of international contemporary art. He was named a “Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres” and inducted as a member of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Ministry of Culture. He is a member of the Tate Asia Pacific Acquisitions Committee.
Below are his thoughts on Asian contemporary art and the recent exhibition “Wasak! Filipino Art Today” which featured the contemporary works of Filipino artists.
How long have you been involved in the Asian art scene and what drew you to Southeast Asian Filipino contemporary art?
I mounted some exhibitions such as “ASIA: Looking South“ and “SIP! Indonesian Art Today“ in Berlin and curated exhibitions in Australia and Asia and visited Indonesia and the Philippines before opening the Singapore gallery in January 2013. I identified Southeast Asia amongst the most exciting new art landscapes, rich in artistic creation with the most prosperous markets.
Berlin is an ideal city to expose Western audiences to new artistic positions. Exploring Singapore and the Philippines – two completely new territories and cultures for me – was and remains exciting.
Could you tell us about Filipino artists who most excite you, and why?
I am extremely excited by a new generation of contemporary practitioners from the Philippines working in a variety of styles and media. Painting is a particularly strong thread in many of the artist’s practices. For example in the bold work of Jigger Cruz, Rodel Tapaya, Annie Cabigting, Pow Martinez, Nona Garcia, José Santos III, Ronald Ventura, and Marina Cruz.
What are the biggest challenges in selling/promoting Filipino art in Germany?
In the beginning I had no context to put what I saw and who I met in relation and comparison to my global view on art. Over 28 years in the business you learn to trust your gut feeling and instincts. I embarked on this journey with an open mind, identifying the key artists in Indonesia, the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries I wanted to work with. Although experiences can be challenging due to different understanding of business ethics and how the markets works, it has been extremely rewarding. I needed to accept that I would never view Asian culture with the eyes of a local person born and raised in Asia, and instead, I took advantage of a fresh look.
In Southeast Asia there are no infrastructures to show, support and build artist careers as we have developed in the West. So I had to advertise the gallery’s offer and expertise first, and build trust that our offer of opening international markets and bringing a new audience to the Southeast Asian artists was serious. Only then we could start the core work, to prepare new markets and audiences for Southeast Asian Art. We have worked hard to establish Filipino artist’s careers beyond their national boundaries and markets by building profiles overseas via exhibitions and publications that educate international collectors and audiences.
Do you plan to regularly hold more exhibitions in Berlin and elsewhere?
The “WASAK! Filipino art Today” exhibition is a landmark survey exhibition of contemporary Filipino art held in Europe. The underlying motivation of our exhibition “WASAK! Filipino Art Today” in Berlin was to shed light on the fascinating contemporary art landscape in the Philippines. We are extremely excited to be exploring this fresh, new territory that in turn allows us to introduce Western audiences to a multitude of new artistic positions that represent the future of contemporary art in SEA.
Interestingly, contemporary art from the Philippines is not really perceived as “Asian“ so Western audiences can deal with the works better than as they would do with Chinese or Indonesian art. It seems that the visual language and iconography is closer to the European and western language. Also making the effort to publish an extremely comprehensive Publication about Filipino Art and putting the work in a historical and contemporary context pays off. We produced a hard cover 192-page publication with German publisher DISTANZ Verlag to accompany the show. Feedback and press have been excellent and there has been a strong fascination and curiosity for this new generation of Filipino artists.
We will continue to work alongside artists from the Philippines in addition to other areas in the Pacific region in a range of projects and exhibitions.