"Obviously, SOMA has a rich Filipino cultural history, and to kind of see it having a renaissance, with so many of the people that I have known through so many different things in the City, throughout so many years, now kind of coming together and build and create this amazing spirit, it's pretty awesome. It's cool to see how far the network goes.”
Olivia Ongpin of Luna Rienne Gallery — and Undiscovered SF’s Arts Curator — explains how after years deeply entrenched in San Francisco’s arts scene, she’s refreshed by the energy of the Undiscovered SF night market — an infectious combination of Filipino traditions and Filipino-American culture.
“I thought it would be kind of cool to present art in a way that was a little bit more immediate as well. And so I proposed the live painting aspect, and talking to [Undiscovered SF Event Producer] Gina Rosales, we really liked the idea of doing portraits of the Filipino diaspora.”
She enjoys the unique challenges of curating one-night shows as part of a larger project, and takes pride in the specific task of presenting new and emerging artists to a broader audience.
“We’re building a gallery in Undiscovered, and every month the paintings from previous months live paintings can be viewed in the main hallway. Ideally, it's going to be an artists who are Filipino-American, who can live paint, and do portraits. So you kind of have to really reach into your network. And none of these artists that we're working with on the live paintings have we ever worked with before -- they've never shown in our gallery. So in keeping with that 'Undiscovered' theme of up-and-comers, people who don't show regularly, but are great at what they do.”
Olivia’s expert hand in stewarding and connecting artists with audiences is no doubt the result of years of her own hard work, but she reveals that her famous last name carries with it a deep and powerful connection to the arts — specifically to the Filipino people and their histories of resistance.
“So I have a gallery here in San Francisco, I have a cousin who has a gallery in London, and I have a Tita who has a gallery in The Philippines. One of our family’s ancestors is Damián Domingo, who is one of the more famous Filipino painters from the 19th century. So it's kind of cool to feel like, 'I'm meant to be doing this.' And kind of the most famous Ongpin, who is my great-great grandfather Román, he had an art supply store in Chinatown in The Philippines. But he was also a famous revolutionary and financier of the Katipunan -- so he would supposedly ship in books from Germany during the revolution, and inside the books would be guns, because the Germans were supporting the Filipino revolutionaries in the war against Spain, and then against the US. So the main street in Chinatown in Manila is named Ongpin, after him."
Olivia’s direct connections to the modern era of Filipino resistance and revolution help her understand her work at Undiscovered SF as more than just an art show.
“The cool thing about Undiscovered SF is that so many people are down for the cause -- it's fulfilling for them on that level of resistance as well as an artistic level. And I think that’s so important given the times that we’re living in. Art and independent ideas and perspectives and cultural celebrations are so important when there are so many forces in the world trying to contain or silence that kind of thinking and celebration.”