10th Contemporary Istanbul

Text and pictures by Arie Amaya-Akkermans

The 10th edition of Contemporary Istanbul, the city’s older art fair, debuted on Wednesday night at its traditional venue in central Istanbul, gathering all of the important names in Turkish art under one venue, from the youngest figures to the most established, alongside collectors, professionals, the press and on the following days, enormous crowds.


Seza Paker at Galerist

The focus of Turkish galleries –about 30% of the fair and the biggest chunk of the potential market- seems to be on younger artists that do not have yet a stable collector pool. Some Turkish superstars at the fair: The booth of ArtSümer, presenting three local artists –Gözde Ilkin, Onur Gülifdan and Serkan Demir, the magic of it being that each artist is shown each day in a solo presentation; a large painting of Yağiz Özgen at Sanatorium, one of Turkey’s few truly contemporary painters; the paper works of Devran Murasoğlu selling like hotcakes at PG Art Gallery, and a drawing of Seza Paker, a pioneering figure in conceptual art, showing at Galerist.


Dealer Piril Arikonmaz, from PG Art Gallery, keeping guests busy

The preview day it was a full house throughout, and the booths of PG Art and Sanatorium were bustling with visitors until the end of the day, a trend that would be maintained in the following days, even if the fair felt a bit less energetic.

International galleries make up the majority of exhibitors, making the show dynamic and eclectic; from Parisian gallery Lelong with their signature display of secondary market –Picasso, Calder, Hockney, to the Swiss space Analix Forever with regional names such as Mounir Fatmi or the Abraaj prize finalist Basir Mahmood.

And there’s also everything in between.

A small but varied focus section on Teheran, from the very young gallery Dastan’s Basement with their focus on drawing, showing the popular Narriman Farrokhi among others, to the very solid Aaran Art Gallery with the suitcases of Nasser Bakhshi.
Some of the most refreshing conceptual art in the show was somewhere near Teheran focus, at Moscow’s Galerie Iragui, showing young artists from Russia. Elsewhere in the fair, Western European galleries were popular with mainstream work appealing to the new wealthy of Istanbul, with Turkey-focused themes coming from the West, hyperrealist sculptures and a lot, a lot of colors.


Ivan Navarro at Borusan Contemporary

The curated new media section, ‘Plug In’, was exciting for a country like Turkey where this kind of work is not sellable yet, beginning with a famous work of Ivan Navarro, from the local Borusan Contemporary, a private collection focusing on electronic and new media art, but overall the section was presenting mostly Turkish artists.

At night it was difficult to count all the parties and private dinners that people were hopping to, official and otherwise, and everybody seemed to end up at Soho House late-night parties, with local artists and a dealer as DJs.

The energy of the preview night slowed down in the coming days but dealers were not unhappy, yet there is a common denominator of the feedback from galleries: A lot of new wealth in the country, but not a lot of new wealth coming into art. As a kind of a ritual, collectors –and occasional buyers, that don’t visit the galleries too often, always come to the fair and quite often ready to spend.

With two full days more to go, so far so good the fair still gathers a big crowds and delivers two things, a bird eye’s view of the current state of contemporary art in Turkey and a taste of what Turkish collectors are looking at and bringing home, when they’re not busy with their local market.

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10th Contemporary Istanbul
12 – 15 November 2015
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