A SHOP OF CURIOUS WONDERS RETHINKS ART AND DESIGN.
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.