The friendly and fascinating ambiance of a sunlit flea market, paired with the comfort and vibrant flair of art exhibits—it sounds like a dream, perhaps a novelty, but thanks to Dindin Araneta, Trickie Lopa, and Lisa Periquet, the same organizers behind Art Fair Philippines and Art in the Park, it’s become a reality.

The Nonesuch: Fine Collectibles and Rarities, the first of its kind and staged by award-winning production designer Gino Gonzales, was held from October 27 to 29 at the Peninsula Manila in Makati. Visitors could admire and acquire all sorts of precious oddities, such as furniture, jewelry, books, maps, prints, religious artifacts, and other pieces of art and antiques.

The Nonesuch celebrates the uniqueness of these quality items, which have accumulated their own stories and memories as they’re handed down from person to person over the years. According to Lopa, after making contemporary art more accessible through past projects, they thought it appropriate to revisit traditions of decorative art for a change, as well as to widen the exposure of local art enthusiasts to craftsmanship and design. Periquet adds that the Nonesuch takes after the likes of Masterpiece London and the European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht—exhibits and fairs that shine a light on the history, value, and aesthetic qualities of objects.

Exhibitors included Maria Closa Primitive Arts and Antiques, Osmundo Furniture Gallery, Tawalisi Antiques, Unang Panahon, Mentxaka, and Gallery Deus, which specializes in colonial and ethnographic pieces. Jewelry designers Natalya Lagdameo and Nicole Whisenhunt, along with Ma. Angelica Rare Finds, which recreates and collects fine jewelry, were also present.

There was also the gorgeous exhibit-within-an-exhibit “La Tertulia Filipina,” presented by León Gallery, evoking the feel of a turn-of-the-century salon where artists, poets, and intellectuals gather to discuss art and life. It felt like a step into another world, with its selection of ivory, furniture, books, ceramics, and paintings, some of which are by Fernando Amorsolo himself.

  Untitled (Three Geishas), by J.M. Herrer (1913), presented by León Gallery

Attendees were implored not only to appreciate art firsthand but also to learn more about doing so through the Nonesuch Salon, a speakers’ series held in the Peninsula’s Nolledo/Hernandez and Garcia Villa function rooms. Emmanuel Breguet, general manager of Breguet France, flew in to talk about the Swiss luxury watch brand’s heritage and present the latest edition of his book, Breguet, Watchmakers Since 1775.

Other speakers were Floy Quintos, specialist on traditional art and the culture of indigenous people of the Philippines, on the Ifugao bale; culture and heritage advocate Ino Manalo, who is also executive director of the National Archives, on religious urnas; and historian and journalist Ambeth Ocampo on collecting and stewardship.

With a promising start, the Nonesuch Fair has opened up an avenue of possibilities for Philippine artisans and craftsmanship to thrive. And if you didn’t find exactly what you’re looking for, hope springs eternal: there’s always (fingers crossed!) next year.

By Fiel Estrella
Photographs by Kenneth Aballa

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