View of “Fairest of the Fair,” 2019.

View of “Fairest of the Fair,” 2019.

“Fairest of the Fair”

Bellas Artes Projects

Curated by Inti Guerrero, the exhibition “Fairest of the Fair” revisited the Manila Carnival (1908–39), an exposition sponsored by the early-twentieth-century American colonial administration of the Philippines. Each edition culminated with Queens of Carnival, a showcase of Filipina women in an era when the colonial order manifested itself in a visual culture that borrowed heavily from both monarchy and exoticism.

Guerrero’s show pivoted around a collection of photo postcards taken in Manila at the turn of the twentieth century. Some in sepia, others colorized, the studio portraits capture pageant contestants decked out in exquisite ensembles. Through this regalia and detailed finery, the Filipina woman claims her place as a cosmopolitan citizen of a modern world facilitated by photography and its attendant aspect of self-fashioning. One of the prints was enlarged to human proportions,

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