Turkey becoming major hub for contemporary art

10th, 2012
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Turkey’s ever-growing art scene was again flourishing in many fields, from fine arts to cinema and literature, in the year we’re preparing to leave behind.

Yet, as it has been the case for decades, 2011 was again a year in which almost all major cultural events took place in İstanbul, Turkey’s cultural capital, save for several international festivals in Antalya, Ankara and İzmir.

The most significant of the art events Turkey offered to the international art community in the past year was arguably the 12th İstanbul Biennial, a two-month exhibition that generated hype not only among Turkish art connoisseurs and the local art community, but also in international media, with leading press publications, including The New York Times and The Economist, publishing detailed reviews of the event.

From mid-September to mid-November, “Untitled (12th İstanbul Biennial), 2011” presented more than 500 works of art in five group exhibitions and more than 50 solo presentations in an assorted selection co-curated by Adriano Pedrosa and Jens Hoffmann under several themes inspired by the works of late Cuban-American artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres.

While Britain’s The Independent billed the event as “the art calendar’s most enticing event — even above Venice,” The Guardian, another leading British daily, declared that İstanbul was “now up there with Venice and São Paulo as the art biennials that matter,” adding that the biennial was the most telling sign of “the rise of İstanbul as a cultural power.”

Germany’s leading daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, Der Tagesspiegel magazine and the French daily Liberation also praised the exhibition in their reviews.

Around 700 international journalists and art critics descended on İstanbul during the first days of the biennial to get an insight into the event that drew more than 110,000 visitors in total before wrapping up on Nov. 13.

 

Contemporary art on the rise

One other eagerly anticipated international event on the city’s ever-growing contemporary art scene was Contemporary İstanbul, the city’s annual international art fair that marked its sixth edition in late November at the Lütfi Kırdar Convention Center.

With the total value of the works showcased amounting to TL 80 million, CI’11 hosted 90 international galleries, 42 of which were from overseas, and which altogether presented 3,000 works of art in a multitude of disciplines — including painting, sculpture, photography, installation, video art and new media art — by 526 artists.

CI expanded its scope considerably in 2011; the event’s 2010 edition exhibited a total of 2,000 works by 420 artists. The international appeal of the fair also expanded in its sixth edition, with artists from 22 countries participating in 2011 as opposed to representatives from 14 countries in the 2010 fair.

Contemporary İstanbul 2011 attracted a record 62,000 art lovers and 2,100 collectors, beating last year’s count by 20 percent. Seventy-five percent of the works on display were sold over the fair’s five-day period.

Literature under spotlight

In yet another major leap forward in the cultural sphere, the annual TÜYAP İstanbul Book Fair turned international in its 30th edition in 2011 and hosted Egypt as its inaugural country of honor.

Egyptian Culture Minister Emad Abu-Ghazi was in İstanbul on Nov. 12 to inaugurate the fair with his Turkish counterpart, Ertuğrul Günay. The 30th TÜYAP International İstanbul Book Fair, under “Hope: Dream or Reality?” as its main theme, ran for nine days, during which it presented thousands of publications and hosted 610 publishers, copyright agencies and nongovernmental organizations from 35 countries. The 30 international authors in attendance included Spain’s Eduardo Mendoza, Egypt’s Gamal el-Ghitani, Germany’s Uwe Timm, and Mathias Enard and David Boratav from France, among others. Bestselling novelists Tess Gerritsen and Simon Beckett also attended and signed their books for fairgoers. The nine-day event drew a total of 450,000 fairgoers before it ended on Nov. 20.

The İstanbul Book Fair was not the only international event on İstanbul’s literary calendar in 2011; the annual İstanbul Tanpınar Literature Festival (İTEF), Turkey’s only international literature festival, marked its third edition from Oct. 3-6, drawing around 6,500 literature buffs, according to figures compiled by the Anatolia news agency. Under the theme of “City and Food,” the festival hosted 54 authors from 13 countries — including the UK, France, Italy, Israel and Finland — for a series of readings, dinner parties and panel discussions.

Resource: Today’s Zaman

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