Geraldine Javier does art shows with a heart

Art shows with a heart
By Walter Ang
December 8, 2009
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Thirty-something contemporary visual artist Geraldine Javier has been setting records in major Asian auction houses Christie's and Sotheby's in Hong Kong and Borobudur in Singapore in the past few years.

Last year, her "Curating the Sky" sold for at least 10 times its estimated selling price in Christie's. In 2007, her "Absurdity of Being" sold for 16 times more than the original estimate. Other works that have been sold include her "Storm Chasing Dog Chasing Girl Chasing Storm" and "One Leads to Oblivion, The Other to Sorrow."

Her most recent international auction was for Christie's just a few weeks ago. Javier acknowledges that her success at the auction houses makes her "happy" but she notes that "there is also a lot of pressure." She has not rested on her laurels and is known to keep a very strict schedule (this interview was conducted after her regular work hours) to continuously produce new work.

This year, she has participated in exhibits in Milan, Beijing, and the Czech Republic. In Manila, she was part of the group show "Interior Motives" at Mo Space Gallery and had a solo show, "Butterfly's Tongue," that opened in West Gallery and moved to Manila Contemporary Gallery.

Giving back
Javier completed a degree in nursing before becoming an artist. A recipient of the Cultural Center of the Philippines's 13 Artists Award in 2003, she has been participating in group exhibits since the mid-90s and has consistently done solo shows this past decade.

Her work has been lauded as "sophisticated and enigmatic," touching on subject matter such as "death, misery, dysfunctional relationships, and emotional violence" with executions that mix "absurdity, imaginary, fantasy, and reality."

Javier uses oil on canvas; her technique is described as photorealistic and has now evolved into a more painterly direction with the inclusion of other media such as preserved insects and hand-embroidered elements.

Despite her success, Javier does not live in a bubble. Her home was flooded in the recent spate of typhoons and she was acutely aware of how her colleagues were affected. "Many artists' works were destroyed in the flood. There was very little I could do to help. After the storms, I had to finish pending deadlines and wasn't able to volunteer. It was very frustrating, not being able to help," she says.

She called on news broadcaster Julius Babao for help. Javier had participated in the Art 40 fundraiser auction last year organized by Babao for a Gawad Kalinga village he had sponsored. "I knew it would entail a lot of work for Julius to organize another fundraiser auction but I brought up the idea anyway," she says with a laugh.

Art 2 Heart
"Ghe is a real gem in the art world," says Babao. "She is well loved not only here but also abroad, as evidenced by her success in the international art auction scene. Her works are extraordinary and unique. The time, effort, and skill that she puts into every painting is really amazing. That's why her paintings are sought after by Pinoy and Asian art collectors. The young collectors say you're not "in" if you don't have a Geraldine Javier.

"But what makes her more interesting is that aside from being a great painter, she's also a good person. When she sent me a text message to suggest that we organize another fundraising auction, I immediately agreed."

Babao didn't have plans to organize any fundraisers this year. "The success of Art 40 is a tough act to follow. I also wanted my artist friends to take a break from fundraising and to concentrate on their shows here and abroad. But when Typhoon Ondoy and Pepeng hit the country, it awakened the volunteerism spirit in all of us, everybody was eager to do their share in helping people."

Gawad Kalinga is a movement for nation-building that aims to transform poverty stricken areas with the goal of building 700,000 homes in seven years (2003-2010). Babao hopes to replicate the success that his first GK village has achieved. "Close to a hundred artists joined Art 40 and it was able to raise P2.5M. The money was used to build 30 houses for 30 families in Bagong Silang, Caloocan, which is doing very well. It has become tourist attraction for foreigners and a GK model village because it's the only village with houses that have graffiti murals spray-painted on them.

"This year's fundraiser auction is titled `Art 2 Heart,' and we're targeting P3M. The amount went up because of higher production costs for construction materials. GK is giving us land in Sitio Amparo, Caloocan where we plan to build the Art 2 Heart Village for 30 families who were badly affected by typhoon Ondoy."

Javier is putting the finishing touches to her Art 2 Heart piece titled "Casta Diva." She says, "It's inspired by opera and can be described as Louvre Museum-meets-flea market."

Babao adds, "So far, we have 50 artists joining us in this event, masters like Ang Kiukok, Ramon Orlina, Mauro `Malang' Santos and the best crop of contemporary artists that the country has ever seen like Ronald Ventura, Elmer Borlongan, Rodel Tapaya, Winner Jumalon, Mark Justiniani, Gabby Barredo, Wire Tuazon, and many more."

Art 2 Heart fundraiser auction is on Dec. 19 at Chief Justice Claudio Teehankee Foundation, 4/F Ateneo Professional Schools, Rockwell, Makati City. Call Art Verite at (632) 915-1982 or 63917-329-6273. Preview viewing begins Dec. 18 at 12noon or visit

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