Tale of the Taels. The Chan Lim Mid-Autumn Art Festival 2018

“Davao is closest to our hearts. Maybe this is why this is where we hold many of our ‘firsts’,” said Alex Chan Lim before the opening of the Mid-Autumn Art Festival at the SM City and SM Lanang Premier.

The Chan Lim family started exhibiting Asian-themed art and Chinese brush painting in 1995. In 2013 they brought the traveling art exhibit to Davao. The show, falling on an auspicious time in the Chinese calendar after the busy Kadayawan festivity, the first Mid-Autumn Art Festival was opened. It became an annual event in the city.


Porcelain taels is the new medium for the 2018 exhibit at SM Lanang Premier

In these series of Davao shows, the Chan Lim artists held their other firsts before it happened to the rest of the exhibits held nationwide—the first lantern exhibit, the plate exhibit, the first painting contest, the first simultaneous exhibit in two SM malls in one city, even the first press conference.

“Shows were simpler then with two-dimensional artworks. We like to push the envelope and come up with three-dimensional mediums. After each successful show, the concept gets copied across the country,” said Alex.

This year is no different. Among the 235-piece exhibit, which includes paintings on scrolls, Davao gets to admire the Chinese brush art in a new medium—on porcelain taels.

Back to back tael artwork by Dr. Felix Chan Lim

Artworks on two sides of a tael. By Dr. Alex Chan Lim


“Everything was home-made. My brother made the porcelain taels. From conception to exhibition, the process took two years. One year to test and fabricate the taels and another year for the family and students to complete the paintings,” said Alex.


A breathtaking piece by Dr. Felix Chan Lim

And another masterpiece by Dr. Felix Chan Lim

Beautiful scrolls


Where do they get all these original ideas for their exhibition?

Alex said, “In SM, we have done 34 big exhibits with different concepts and no duplications. We are very innovative. As a family, a lot of people are thinking what’s next for us. We’d like to do things differently. We also do phasing—when to bring an idea out and how to bring it out. We look at the market in each area and see if they are mature for the idea. Binabagay namin.”

Displayed at SM City Davao: three big fans by Chan Lim, family & students

…and the small fan. A gift from the patriarch

First time the patriarch did an on-the-spot painting in an workshop


Lucky. 9 kois in a lily pond


The whole family is involved in the conception. All the factors are considered: are the materials readily available? Can the the students, young and old, paint on the identified medium? Can it last forever? Can it be transported? If not, they drop the idea.

“We don’t have to introduce something new yearly. It’s all about mixing and matching our concepts in between. Pero marami pa kaming bala.”


Dr. Felix Chan Lim at the media painting workshop at SM City Davao


The sample paintings


Surprisingly, the artworks are never put on sale. So how do they sustain big, annual exhibits? And why do they keep on doing this?

Alex replied, “Kailangan nung financial aspect to sustain doing this many exhibits in so many places. Why are we doing it? It’s something that keeps the family bound together.”

“We are very blessed as a family in so many things—sa trabaho, sa mga anak namin, sa health namin. All of us put something in the bucket. Meron tayong pondo, gawin natin ‘to. This is the least we can do to give back to the community. It’s sharing our talents and innovation, having fun in the workshops, connecting with people. And as long as we have the funds, itutuloy namin ‘yan.” 

Let me add another first on their list. It’s the first time the Chan Lim patriarch did an on-the-spot painting. He painted a lucky nine kois in a lily pond on a small fan. It was his gift for me.

The Chan Lim Mid-Autumn Art Festival at SM Lanang Premier and SM City Davao will run until September 15, 2018.


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Also published in the SunStar Davao newspaper