Places / Turkey

Nazli Gürlek about Turkey’s art scene: “Among all, what I find most appealing is that you can still see things here that anyone else can’t”.

Photo by Yusuf Sayman

INTERVIEW: Nazli Gürlek, art critic and curator of “DIYALOG”: Art from Turkey project at VIENNAFAIR, talks about Istanbul and Turkey´s art scene. We asked her how art is collected and curated in Turkey and what we can expect from VIENNAFAIR and the Turkey Day on Friday, September 21, when she´ll speak about trends in Turkey´s art scene.

What characterises Istanbul’s art scene and what makes it special? What are the current trends and changes in Turkey´s art scene?
Istanbul increasing in activity and becoming an attractive spot is due to individual artistic efforts mainly, and a few private initiatiors with devotion to contemporary art. That the effects of such fast development in a relatively small art scene are complex is clear.
Among all, what I find most appealing is that you can still see things here that anyone else can’t. The special blend for me comes with a new sense of community fueled by a young generation of professionals, seeking to engage with the land’s history in an honest way, and stand next to what their predecessors have done in the past. Generations and styles have been apart for decades, but no reason why they should still be so.

Istanbul Biennale has become a hotspot. What contributed to this development?
Since it started in 1987, the Biennale certainly fueled the scene a lot as it helped make it more international. But it’s never the Biennale alone as an exhibition that is the centre of attention. Its history goes hand in hand with the development of the contemporary artistic infrastructure in the city. So what the city has to offer in terms of art and culture plays a big role in it.
For what made it different than other Biennalis is, I think, beside the engagement with the local, what others would call being “experimental”. When such a large scale exhibition features names that are young and unknown next to all-time stars, you see that it regards the quality and originality of the work rather than fame or age.

What are the characteristics of Turkey´s collector scene? How do people collect and how is art curated in Turkey?
Well, curating is a relatively new profession, and is growing due to the necessity of quality exhibitions.
The public sector and government on the other hand have not really been crossing paths with art so far. So collecting has also been enclosed in a rather private realm. A small minority of collectors follow the new trends and initiatives closely both on a local and international level, and contribute to the scene with what they have, which is very promising.

Are there any taboos? In terms of modern art and pornographical elements for example, do Turkish artists have to be afraid of (political) consequences?
Nothing particularly unusual really, if you compare it to any other part of the world.

What is your reference to Vienna? Why are you doing this program in Vienna now?
A good combination of factors! When I was proposed by the artistic directors to curate the program I did not think twice. Not only because art from Turkey still has things that are untold, but I also think there is a lot of conformity in my profession and you have to work against it all the time. So you’ll see that the program tries to bring together pretty much the unknown and the known in a balance. And beside art works and galleries, there are institutions, museums, artist-run spaces and art publications that are presented as well, so hopefully it all gets in a context.
On the other hand, I was impressed by the fair’s intention to expand its sight to what is new to them and explore the unexplored, as well as to give space to what is non-sellable. It think that occasions like this are good test sites to see what we do works well, and what is to be improved.

Last but not least, can you briefly explain who the ladies and gentlemen you will talk to on Friday 21 Sept. are?
It’s a cross-generational bunch of inspirational ladies and gentlemen, insiders that will lead you to the scene. Osman Erden, the president of AICA Turkey; two institutional curators Başak Doğa Temür from Arter and Simon Rees from MAK; Zeynep Öz, co-founder of SPOT education program for collectors; Agah Uğur, Borusan Holding CEO and an influential collector; Esra Aysun, director of the Museum of Innocence; Merve Çağlar from SAHA Association; and Canan Dağdelen, artist and lecturer at the University of Applied Arts of Vienna.

Additional info:

VIENNA TALK, Booth H21, Turkey Day, Friday 21 September, 3:00pm

Vienna Talks presents a far-reaching spectrum of interdisciplinary talks with high-profile representatives from the contemporary art scene and the fields of architecture, cultural management, literature, philosophy, and music. Vienna Talks is the platform for discussions, place for collectors and art professionals to share their knowledge.

“DIYALOG”: Art from Turkey

OMV event: conversations on contemporary Turkish art scene and market
How its contemporary art might not have the same visuality or concerns as contemporary art works coming out from the countries with modernist tradition but produces new and exciting outcomes and reincarnations.

Format: Conversations with moderator, slide shows
Nazli Gurlek (curator of the “DIYALOG”: Art from Turkey)
Time of each panel: 30 min

On collecting
Osman Erden (President AICA Turkey)
Zeynep Oz (Founder of SPOT education program for collectors)
Agah Ugur (Borusan Holding CEO, Collector)

On institutions
Esra Aysun (Director Museum of Innocence, Soros Foundation Turkey Coordinator)
Merve Cağlar (SAHA Association)
Simon Rees (Head of Museum Management and Curatorial Development, MAK, Vienna)

On curating
Canan Dağdelen (Artist, Lecturer at the University of Applied Arts, Vienna)
Başak Doğa Temür (ARTER, curator)

Check out VIENNAFAIR program as well as Nazli Gürlek´s blog!

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