Known widely as the father of conceptual art in the Philippines, Roberto Chabet (ACC 1968) touched many lives through his work as an avant-garde artist, teacher, curator and museum director. Chabet created a body of work that pushed the boundaries of artistic tradition and encouraged his students and contemporaries to create beyond fixed meaning.
In 1968 Chabet traveled to the United States, Europe, and Mexico on an ACC fellowship to survey museum procedures and collections, and to observe contemporary arts developments. ACC’s connection to Chabet continues with a project grant to King Kong Art Projects, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting Philippine art and artists. Founded in 2010 as a research and development project for The Chabet Archive, King Kong’s work is at the forefront of the development of conservation practices in the Philippines. With a large archive of Chabet’s artwork and ephemera, archivist Gail Vicente has the unique job of preserving the legacy of a prolific multimedia artist. Gail is accompanied by MM Yu, another Filipino artist and documentarian who has been instrumental in photographing Chabet’s work. They have traveled from Manila to New York City for two months where ACC has connected them with Martha Singer, an independent conservator. Aiming to establish a conservation plan for Chabet’s installation artworks, MM and Gail have been visiting museums such as the Guggenheim and Whitney and connecting with practicing conservators and archivists. As they think critically about how best to document and preserve Chabet’s work, MM and Gail have been creating an expansive network and learning hands-on from Ms. Singer's professional expertise. At the end of their fellowship they will present their findings to the same researchers, conservators and museum professionals and unveil new plans for the preservation of the Roberto Chabet collection at King Kong Art Projects.
As an intern at ACC’s New York office this summer, I was excited to shadow the King Kong team for a day in the blistering July heat. While working on an archival project documenting ACC’s collection of art created and donated by grantees, I’ve gained an appreciation of the scope of talent of the ACC family. Watching Ms. Singer lead a condition report workshop on some of the very pieces I have been documenting by Tadashi Kawamata (ACC 1984), Kimpei Nakamura (ACC 1970), and Tu Pei Shih (ACC 2009), I learned practical skills from the conservation field. MM took extensive photographs as we discovered the multi-layered surprise of Tu Pei Shih’s “Another Beautiful Day.” Like many of Chabet’s installations, Tu’s work uses multiple mediums that allowed Gail and MM to see how they could formulate a condition report for diverse materials.
Janine Biunno shows us one of the photographs in the cold storage room
In the afternoon I accompanied Martha, Gail and MM to the archive of The Noguchi Museum (ACC 2010-2012) to meet with archivist Janine Biunno, where they exchanged ideas about archival practices and managing collections. Ms. Biunno took us on a fascinating tour of the archive’s cold storage room where we saw Noguchi’s personal documents, photographs, and even an item of his clothing! MM and Gail were very excited to hear about Ms. Biunno’s involvement in a group of artist foundation archivists that shares questions and advice and are looking to connect with them in the future. Gail commented, “All of the experts we have met so far have been very generous with their knowledge and expertise; just knowing that there is a support system available for us is not only useful, but it gives us the assurance to continue what we are doing.”
Upon reflecting on their experiences thus far, and how their work will have a larger impact on King Kong and the conservation world in the Philippines, Gail and MM remarked that there is now more clarity in their goals and methods. Their exposure to the conservation world through Ms. Singer's guidance improved “the way [they] think about conservation and archiving and how [they] function as an organization.” They are looking forward to sharing the knowledge they have gained upon their return and hope that the skills they have gained will “reintroduce and reinforce new perspectives in conservation and archiving practices in Manila.”
Gail Vicente in front of the Noguchi Foundation offices
Note: Sophia Ginsburg is an intern in ACC's New York office for the summer of 2019. She shadowed King Kong Art for a day and has shared her experience and insight.
Photo below: From left to right: Janine Biunno, Martha Singer, and Gail Vicente