11 June 2016

Art BGC 2016: Behind the Art, All for the Culture

Photos by Andrei Suleik / Art by Dog & Pony

I remember the first time I saw the murals. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as romantic as you would think – I was en route a business meeting in BGC, slightly lost in my pencil skirt and heels. I think it began with the sideways astronaut – a hulking, beautiful figure in light of the golden hour. That extended gaze, however, seemed nothing more than a passing fancy. Prior to that, I glazed over online articles about the event, often from my more adventurous social media buddies.

The next time, however, was more intimate. A colleague had brought the murals again to my attention and asked if I was interested in seeing them. That was May 13, and we had finished work early that day. I didn’t think I had anything to lose and promptly said yes. We started off at Bonifacio High Street, moving through blocks and catching snippets of murals from the previous years. There was the Today is a Great Day mural by KFK. Andro in Chaos by Anjo Bolarda. And so on. We passed by an abundance of yarn along the way, finding later it was part of a larger installation by Eric Rieger. The whole thing played out like a treasure hunt – and like treasures, every new discovery felt more and more precious to behold.

A few murals later and some introspection, you’d wonder how they’d manage to do it – to put together an event that is both astonishing and grounded. It’s a thought that stayed with me the night of May 21, during the Art BGC culmination dinner at Kabisera, Bonifacio High Street. 

Arriving at the 2nd floor of the establishment, you would think this would be a highly formal event. Rows of tables meticulously fixed, elegant tablecloths and neat cutlery. A modest drink bar rested by the side, promptly and efficiently utilized once the rest of the guests arrived. Except, this was no formal event. No – as guests began to pour and drunken conversation began, the seemingly cordial setup had turned highly intimate; people changing seats and places and talking like they’ve known each other for years. A few chats later, and this would appear to be the case – some realizing they have a few common friends in the industry, or had worked on a project without knowing it. With the scene set, I decided to ask around.

Art BGC is roughly 2 years old, yet its impact is one that’s easy to see. It’s hard to imagine the walls of Bonifacio Global City without such works of art – images of astronauts, farmers, little girls, and owls greeting each passer-by in all their color, texture, and size. But unlike its free-spirited exterior may suggest, putting the festival together isn’t as laid-back as it may appear to be. Creating something this large could be a logistical nightmare, and talking to executive producer Kayo Cosio, it indeed sounds like one. 

“A manlift here costs 7 times the amount of what it costs in America. […] [And finding] suppliers who actually have these things, they’re few and far between in the Philippines,” he said. “And getting good pricing, it’s all very difficult stuff. Moving lifts around, making sure that all the building owners sign off on the thing – luckily this year […] it was much easier this time to get buildings to agree.” 

Yet despite all the hassle, it’s the collaborative nature of the project that continues to bring it all together. “We work with artists from all around the world, and organizers from all around the world, and you know they really come in with the understanding that it’s gonna be difficult, it’s gonna be tough,” said Kayo. “We asked the buildings to help contribute as well, by donating the use of their gondolas – one of the buildings we asked to sponsor the lift to be used for their building, and that worked out really great.”

As we continued into the night, “really great” seemed more like an understatement. Among the dinner guests were participating artists (such as Bunnie Reiss, Aleks Kocev, Max Soto, and Nate Frizzell), photographers (from Shutterpanda), and a host of people from the creative world who came to celebrate the festival’s end. 

Warm, intimate, and quite informal, it indeed felt like a culmination of everything that has happened, and all that is to come. Amid the din and chatter, festival co-founder Beau Basse stood up for some remarks, echoing the sentiments of the night’s celebrations by thanking volunteers, partners, and all who participated in the festival. If that’s an indication for anything, it’s that the effort placed had paid off more than it expected to. It’s a somber thought to think of in contrast to its alternative – instead of breathtaking murals, the walls of BGC could’ve been littered with ads, much like the rest of Metro Manila. 

“Because BGC is so new, and the safety regulations have kinda required these big firewalls be built, and they’re all pretty much 78 stories, we’re in a unique position. Anywhere else in the world, these walls would be covered with ads,” said Kayo. “There’s ads, and there’s branding. […] [The understanding] that people have about branding is that ‘Oh I want a picture of my logo there, I want a picture of a car,’ but that’s not branding. Branding is all the thoughts, the emotions […] about an organization, or a person even sometimes.” 

It seems then that the collaborative driving force behind the festival isn’t just limited to artists, but to other organizations as well. I wonder if this truly is the core of the festival – to find a true, global camaraderie between like-minded people from around the world.

“It’s a mix, you know. I think the core of the project is putting this city on the world stage, turning the eyes of the globe on to what we’re doing here. In BGC, yes, but also on art as well,” said Kayo. “We’re not cheating out the artist – the circle who probably painted the most famous mural that we have, the big astronaut, they just did a big thing with Game of Thrones. We try to get happening, the hippest, the best we can get out here.” 

All this said, it seems like the festival is here to stay – and with the team on the lookout for other suitable areas, perhaps Art BGC might even have a future expansion. But until then, it’ll need all the help it could get to continue running. 

“We really do need support. We’re very lucky to have brands like Converse get onboard this year and support us, and PAL, that was also really important. But if we wanna keep on doing this great thing, [we’ll be needing help from] branding,” said Kayo. “What we really wanna do is take the cool stuff we’re doing here and associate it with brands. And if we can find brands who would really support us, and support this program, we’ll keep doing it, we wanna keep doing it.”

You can view some photos we took from this year's Art BGC below, while the complete compilation of all the murals can be seen here. If you like what you see, we recommend you visit BGC and see them in person for yourself, the murals are a feat.

Art by Andrew Schoultz

Andrew Schoultz 

Bunnie Reiss 

Bunnie Reiss 

Art by Bunnie Reiss 


Art by Francisco Diaz of Pastelfd 

Francisco Diaz of Pastelfd 

Making of Francisco Diaz's Mural 

Viewing the Art of Kris Abrigo 

Kris Abrigo 

Kris Abrigo mixing paint 

Trip63 painting 


Art by K.F.K.

Art BGC Organizer, Kayo Cosio


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