Out of 1,000: Filipino Artist Michael Villagante Wins Grand Prize at Italy's XIII Florence Biennale 2021 - Arts & Culture

His painting, “Ang Pagtahan,” was chosen out of 1,000 works.

Filipino visual artist Michael Garcia Villagante won a “Lorenzo il Magnifico” International Award, the grand prize at Italy’s XIII Florence Biennale 2021. The former graphic designer beat 400 other artists from 65 countries with his “Ang Pagtahan” painting. 

READ ALSO: Ronald Ventura On Filipino Art And Artists: ‘We Need To Embrace Our Own Iconography, Heritage, And How We View The World’

Inspired by Villagante’s wife and child, the piece was chosen out of 1,000 works displayed in an 11,000 square meter exhibition space. He told ABS-CBN’s TeleRadyo that the image of a mother holding her baby had ceased its crying, which represents the environment. 

“Dun sa bandang baba, yung limang lalaki, parang yun yung nagre-represent ng 5 kontinento,” he continues explaining the piece on the radio show. “Yung puso sa ibabaw ng lalaki, yun ang nagre-represent ng bansa.” 

(The five men below them represent the five continents. The heart above them means the country.)

Villagante won the top prize with a painting; however, The Florence Biennale “accepts all the techniques, currents and artistic tendencies” from ceramic art and jewelry art to installation art to performance art.

Multiple honors

When the pandemic hit, Villagante lost his job as a clothing designer due to his company shutting down. Fortunately, when the Florence Biennale organization invited him to compete, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts funded his travel.

However, the visual artist has achieved recognition in the local art scene. In 2012, Villagante was one of the grand prize winners of Metrobank’s “Fearless Young Artists” competition.

His oil-based painting titled “Sagad Hanggang Bato” boasted strong imagery of two humans, one of which had half a skull instead of a full face, and the other had crab claws reaching out of its face, seeming to attach the other figure. 

Other artists with the Young Artists award include Christopher L. Gomez (Painting, Water Media), Ronante S. Maratas (Oil-based Medium), and Alexander A. Tee (Sculpture), and Arch. Jonathan Dangue (Architecture).

Banner photo from @createphilippines on Instagram.

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