Juan Eu Konek

Young Filipino Artist Wins at Florence Biennale 2023

By Gene Alcantara 

Ariosto Dale Bagtas, aka Dale Bagtas, a multi-awarded young 27 year old artist from Bulacan, Philippines, has won two awards at the XIV Florence Biennale 2023:  the Visitors Award, Second Prize, and Mixed Media, Fourth Prize, with his entry, “Redemption of Humanity”, a painting in acrylic and mixed media on canvas measuring 137 x 173 x 8 cm.

The XIV Florence Biennale is a biannual International Exhibition of Contemporary Art and Design held from 14 to 22 October 2023 at the Spadolini and the Cavaniglia Pavilions of the Fortezza da Basso in Florence, Italy.  With the theme, “I AM YOU, Individual and Collective Identities in Contemporary Art and Design” the exhibition attracted entries from around the world, 21 of which were by Filipinos from the Philippines and from Europe.

All the entries to the Biennale competed in the categories of Ceramic Art, Drawing, Calligraphy and Printmaking, Installation Art, Jewellery Art, Mixed Media, New Media Art, Painting, Performance Art, Photography, Sculpture, Textile & Fiber Art, and Video Art among other things.

Bagtas’ entry spoke of the “tremendous possibilities of beauty, that each of us contains something that is irreducibly good, as we are all part of the grand fabric of the universe.”  He explained that his painting shows himself, in accordance with the theme, as a white spot in the middle, with dots which represent people around the world, their different cultures and religions.  He said that the upper part shows the light above and people’s beliefs in their God, and the dark part below are those who suffer, but they are guided by the light above.  Bagtas attests that we are a part of the whole, as well as a whole corresponding with other wholes, as if saying:  “I am you, and you are me, and together, we will wake up from the dark and begin to see.”

Bagtas received two medals and two certificates from the Biennale.  After the awarding Bagtas was approached by gallery owners in Florence and other parts of Europe, wanting photos with him and to know the price of his painting, clearly a sign of interest in the young Filipino’s works.

Bagtas and his father, Aris Bagtas, were stunned by the young man’s two awards and both cried briefly, promising to go to church the following day to say thanks.  Meanwhile the young Bagtas said, “Thank God for the blessing and for looking after the group”.  He meant the other artists who waved Filipino flags during the awarding ceremony.

Aris Bagtas, also a well known artist, said that, “Filipino artists are now competing with the best in the world.”

A number of the artists go on to other countries in Europe to hold further exhibits.

Meantime video art of Filipino children by Rebie Remoso, another Filipino artist, was given Special Commendation from the Jury.