While Manila Arthop isn’t the first time anybody attempted to plot all of Metro Manila’s museums, galleries, and off-the-grid art places in one book, it might be the first legit directory we have of art in city. The Museum Foundation of the Philippines is in on the project initiated by the Electrolychee Studio, Planting Rice, and Lena Cobangbang.
And boy what a project it was to mount. “While some cities in the world have art maps, Manila is another monster that could not be easily tamed. Spaces and initiatives kept moving, turning dormat, and getting revived,” says Sidd Perez of Planting Rice.
It took them all of three years to launch Manila Arthop, categorizing the spaces into museums, artist-run spaces, universities, and commercial galleries.
There are about 10,000 copies that are being given away for free in universities, galleries, museums, and artist-run spaces. We talk to the people behind the project.
So how did this all come about?
Electrolychee: We got a message from Sidd asking us if we’d be interested in designing this with Planting Rice. And we told her, ‘actually nasa isip namin yan, gusto namin simulant at gawin but we didn’t know how to go about it logistics-wise.
Sidd Perez: It seemed like a pipe dream for a lot of people, peers who have preceded us and colleagues who by practice do independent mapping for visitors. There have been attempts from artists and curators who have started practicing long before we did. While some cities have art maps, Manila is another monster that could not be tamed. Spaces and initiatives kept moving, turning dormat, and getting revived. It was important to us to honor friends who’ve tried doing this before and to also acknowledge that cultural interpretations and art was circulating in different and many ways publicly.
It took you guys three years!
Electrolychee: Usual delays and problems. Collating the data and then figuring out how to present them; deciding what to include and what not to include, meeting with the editorial team who all had their schedules. On our end as designers, plotting from scratch was damn hard!
You get the location, you look it up on Google Maps, and then verifying if tama ba yung nasa Google Maps. Tawag sa space to confirm. Then you draw from Google Maps, connect to other spaces nearby, which was incredibly tedious especially if you’re unfamiliar with the district. You make sure all the spaces fit. Of course, we had to run things with Museum Foundation, and then we got married pain the middle of it!
Sidd: Our project wanted to generate as much information as possible. We were trying to figure out how to include everything and to research and ask around for places we didn’t know about. Of course it’s also a matter of negotiation — what constitutes this space? Is it commercial? Is it an artist space? How public does it want to be?
So how did you plot the map? What were the criteria that you guys used?
Electrolychee: Our main criteria was that the space had to be active, meaning they regularly hold shows and events. There were a lot of calls — we called the spaces to confirm details, which got us stuck especially when it’s a government institution or when the person on the other end of the line is just a lackey and couldn’t provide useful details.
The design work felt like doing the back-end of a heavy website. It was very step-by-step and detailed. ‘Di mo lang pwedeng iwanan because if you do, you have to mentally get your head back into it, restudy it, figure out what you’re doing next.
We especially like that you guys included strange off-the-wall places.
We didn’t just want to feature commercial galleries and museums. It was important to feature heritage and artist-run spaces too, as these fringes contribute to the vibrant art scene. Maski for us ang daming na-unearth na spaces like Pineapple Lab [in Makati] and Vetro [in Quezon City].
Others we included were ArtbooksPH [on Pioneer Street], Video 48 [on West Avenue], Cinema76 [on Luna Mencias], Heritage Art Center + CCP Shop by Archivo and Calvo Museum, 98B, and Hub Make Lab [both in Escolta].
Did you include any walls or urban art spaces?
We included Secret Fresh [on Ortigas Avenue] and Vinyl on Vinyl [on Pasong Tamo] are top of mind; Suez and Zapote [in Makati], too. But as for walls, we didn’t include any. Subculture na yan.
Where is Manila Art Hop currently available?
That’s the list we should come up with soon. But for now, check out the hashtag #ManilaArtHop on FB and IG to know where you can pickup a copy. We also encourage people and art spaces to use the hashtag.
Where else would you like to bring it?
Provincial and regional areas. We gave copies to the Batangas University orgs and the BenCab Museum in Baguio. We’re giving copies to friends in the art fields abroad, as well as to schools and private libraries so the map can reach more people.