A career in the arts might be easier for someone like Richard Gomez, an actor and incumbent mayor of Ormoc City, Leyte, than for a regular undergraduate art student (heck, even a Fine Arts fresh grad).
Recall how, in 2019, Gomez’s acrylic painting “OOOOHH” featuring a yellow squirting penis against a black canvas, received a lot of flak when it was exhibited as part of ManilArt held at SM Aura Premier. But what became even more controversial than its subject or style was its price tag: almost P200,000.
This is the context behind the satirical artwork, “Tite Oooohh??” posted earlier today by UP Diliman painting student Jayvee Francisco.
“The P200,000 price signifies the value of his name rather than the value of his art ‘oooohh.’ Without any background in fine arts, Gomez managed to sell a 48” x 48” painting (for that price),” Jayvee said in the post.
He added: “The P1 increment on the other hand signifies how most Filipinos value the art of those who are new or (yet to be) popular in the art scene, with many carrying the notion of ‘pamilya/kaibigan mo naman yan, baka pwedeng libre na.’ Perhaps it can be perceived that the value of studying fine arts is only P1 compared to established names with no background (in the arts).”
There seems to be a lot to unpack here: What does an art degree mean in the current competitive art market? How does an artwork sell without leverage afforded by one’s stature?
Going to art school and earning a degree is typically viewed as a rite of passage for successful and “legitimate” artists. By this logic, those who did not study Fine Arts might have a difficult time selling their work and getting the proper audience and backing, which could possibly determine their future career. But on the other hand, having an established patronage boosted by one’s popularity, also shows how problematic this idea of the “art market” really is.
The art market dictates taste and distinction arbitrarily and if you’re popular, it’s easier to sell your work and earn money. But this doesn’t guarantee validation from equally problematic art institutions either (this warrants another discussion).
The satire of Francisco’s work is found less in the object itself but rather more in its reasons for selling, and the invisible art market that surrounds the work once it is made public. If a penis painting can sell for whatever price its maker dictates, then the difficulty of selling a satirical piece just goes to show an art market out of joint.
Finally, the work’s critique lies in questioning the arbitrary selling point of artwork alongside one’s identity as an artist, and this is one of the many issues the art world should grapple with, if it considers itself a suitable place for every artistic development.
Photo from Jayvee Francisco’s Facebook