Interview by Margarita Buenaventura
Manila’s art scene may not always speak, but through Isa Lorenzo, it has definitely has a voice. As the co-founder of Silverlens Galleries, she is instrumental in elevating the standards for strong and intelligent art curation, not only in the Philippines, but also in Asia. She has consulted for several collections both at home and abroad, as well as public and private.
But what is perhaps distinct about Lorenzo’s renowned body of work is that it extends beyond her years as gallerist — aside from championing young Filipino artists, she herself is a creator of the craft. Lorenzo’s art and photography have shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the UNESCO House in Paris, among many others. Her 2006 photography exhibit “Filipinas”, featuring distinguished women across occupations, has just come back to the Philippines after a stint overseas. Lorenzo’s dossier — both as a curator and as an artist — is equal parts extensive and visually arresting, and to know her, it seems, is to gain a deeper appreciation for local art.
Just before she flies off on holiday, The Edition pays a call on the esteemed curator to talk about wearing different hats in the art world, measuring success, and what makes contemporary art come alive right now.
What excites you about local contemporary art right now?
That more and more art world people — curators, collectors — are coming from different parts of the world.
You’ve gained renown for championing many young Filipino artists. From your experience, how would you describe an artist with a strong visual identity? Is there a formula to spotting potential?
Artists who have a deep understanding of what their practice is about is a good start in spotting potential. Technical skills, quality of the finished work, discipline, ambition, and understanding of their practice — altogether make a good formula.
Besides being the force behind Silverlens Galleries, you’re also an accomplished artist. How does your work in both disciplines inform each other?
I spend almost all of my time on Silverlens and our artists. But all of it is informed by myself being an artist. I know how difficult it is to be an artist, and we treat our artists the way we, Rachel Rillo — co-director of Silverlens, who is also an artist — and myself, want to be treated.
You’ve mentioned in an interview on your repatriated “Filipinas” exhibit that it pays “homage to women who’ve reached lifetime success.” Since mounting the exhibit in 2006, has your measure of a woman’s success changed in any way?
It’s more of a success as a human being. It is always about adding value to your life as well as to everyone whose life you touch.
Is there any woman right now you would love to add to the list, if you could?
I was handed a list by one of my Filipinas, Mrs. Maribel Ongpin. I’m studying the list.
Isa Lorenzo’s Silverlens Galleries is located in 2F YMC Bldg 2, 2320 Don Chino Roces Avenue Extension, Makati City 1231, Philippines.
Photos by JL Javier