MIGHTY APHRODITE

A SHOP OF CU­RI­OUS WON­DERS RETHINKS ART AND DE­SIGN.

Town & Country (Philippines) - - STYLE SPY DESIGN - By Clif­ford Olan­day Pho­tographs by Wil­liam Ong

It was a state of funk that led Tina Fer­nan­dez, founder of con­tem­po­rary gallery Art In­for­mal, to this cu­ri­ous space. The pro­duc­tion of her gallery’s ex­hi­bi­tion pro­grams had fallen into a cer­tain rhythm so that even its challenges had be­come pre­dictable. The gal­lerist found her­self in search of some­thing that would ex­cite her, some­thing that was a bit re­moved from the art scene and the gallery set­ting, and some­thing that was new and “a lit­tle more fun.”

In that mo­ment of un­ease, she took up an of­fer to take over a re­tail space hid­den away in Pa­song Tamo in Makati. Tina had al­ready been think­ing about putting up a store where she could present art in a friendlier way to a much larger au­di­ence, and here was that op­por­tu­nity to set up shop.

Aphro Liv­ing, the art and de­sign bou­tique, in­vokes the name of Aphrodite, the god­dess of love and beauty. Tina had pre­vi­ously at­tended a work­shop on Carl Jung, where she iden­ti­fied the archetypes that pre­vailed in her un­con­scious: Zeus, the god of thun­der, and Aphrodite. She passed on this in­sight to Jag­nus De­sign Stu­dio, who then fash­ioned the space, once part of a bad­minton court, into a ver­sion of a Greek tem­ple.

There are the char­ac­ter­is­tic steps lead­ing up to the sum­mit, a ledge-like open space. Be­hind the twin pil­lars of Madre ng Hag­danan by Ling Quisumb­ing Ramilo and other works is Tina’s of­fice, where the boss has a com­mand­ing view of ev­ery­thing, much like Zeus, who rules gods and men. Nearby, Aphrodite’s fem­i­nine spirit as­serts it­self in the form of a slide, which can be used by guests to swiftly re­turn to the first floor.

The many pieces crowd­ing each step also ap­pear like of­fer­ings to the gods. Jars, sketches, fig­ures, and bibelots are at once cu­ri­ous, strange, and beau­ti­ful. The dif­fer­ent ex­pres­sions of pot­tery from Pablo Ca­p­ati III, Joey de Cas­tro, Alec Ocampo, and Jon and Tessy Pet­tyjohn de­mand ap­pre­ci­a­tion, while the teetharmed flora of Bea Al­cala are some­thing to be fig­ured out. Hint: Look closer.

Al­ready, there are hot items. By the time this story is printed, it’s likely that Aphro will have run out of Geral­dine Javier’s mir­rors, pieces that are metic­u­lously hand­painted on thin can­vas and em­bel­lished with ren­der­ings of in­sects. Women are also ex­cited about the su­per-chic weave bags from Zacarias 1925, a line by Rita Nazareno that is now avail­able to lo­cal shop­pers for the first time.

A keen ob­server will note that Aphro’s col­lec­tion strad­dles the cat­e­gories of dec­o­ra­tive and use­ful— paint­ings and plates, sculp­tures and chairs. Part of the store’s pur­pose is to shake up the per­cep­tions of art and de­sign. You need only look at a Zacarias purse to re­al­ize how an ob­ject can be so highly de­signed that it crosses over into the realm of art, or sit on a chair made out of crutches (an­other Quisumb­ing cre­ation) to learn that some­thing that doesn’t look like a chair can be both func­tional and fun.

There are many more things to con­sider in Aphro. You won­der out loud if you should just hang Wicked, an in­stal­la­tion of blue-green brooms as­sem­bled by vis­ual artist Patty Eus­taquio in collaboration with the fur­ni­ture maker E. Mu­rio, on a wall at home, be­cause it looks too beau­ti­ful and too valu­able to sweep away dust, but Tina points out that th­ese re­ally are walis from Baguio, so you can use them. You should use them. The Al­ley at Kar­rivin Plaza, 2316 Chino Ro­ces Ex­ten­sion, Makati.

STRANGER THINGS The tem­ple-like space of Aphro Liv­ing is home to cu­ri­ous yet beau­ti­ful col­lectibles.

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