Contemporary Istanbul

Arts & CultureNovember 1, 2015
Contemporary Istanbul

One of the most popular culture and arts events in the city, Contemporary Istanbul celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. The fair will take place, as always, at Istanbul Convention and Exhibition Centre (ICEC) from November 12th to 15th. Directed by Marcus Graf, Prof. for Art History at Yeditepe University, writer and curator, the art fair will host 102 galleries from 28 cities across 24 countries for its 10th edition. There will be 102 participating galleries including 23 that are participating for the first time, having been selected by CI Artistic Advisor Marc-Olivier Wahler and the Selection Committee members – collector and curator Freda Rozenbaum- Uziyel, The Empire Project founder Kerimcan Güleryüz and collector Nathalie Mamane Cohen. We reviewed the programme of Contemporary Istanbul, which is more than an art fair where you can shop, and inquired about the fair to the participating galleries.

Not to be missed!

Australia China Art Foundation (Shanghai, China), DAM Gallery (Berlin), LICHT FELD Gallery (Basel), Galeri Zilberman (Istanbul).


CI Focus section which focuses on a specific geographic region each year— will present outstanding galleries from Tehran such as Assar Gallery, Aaran Gallery, Dastan’s Basement, Lajevardi Foundation, Shirin Gallery and The Mobarqa Collection with works by established artists from Iran.

Not to be missed!

Nasser Bakhshi from Aaran Gallery; Babak Roshaninejad from Assar Gallery; Moreshin Allahyari from Lajevardi Foundation.


Taking Contemporary Istanbul further than being an event with the sole purpose of shopping for art works, CI Dialogues with its talks and conferences bring the people specialised in their fields together to make us adopt a different viewpoint regarding art.

Not to be missed!

Moderated by Roxane Zand, Deputy Chairman of Sotheby’s Middle East and Gulf Region, the panel titled “Iranian Art NOW” will host talks about modern and contemporary Iranian art and the current art scene in Tehran. Moderated by Ayşegül Sönmez, the founder of Sanatatak, the panel titled “Art Criticism in Times of Multiple Dangers and Crisis” where opinions and solution suggestions will be shared with regards to the crisis contemporary art criticism has been going through.


Being a Contemporary Istanbul formation, CI-Editions is putting emphasis on the importance of art editions, which present an important field in art’s production. It is aiming at offering an effective way to distribute art works to a wider audience and especially to make it possible for the young collectors to buy art works. It understands itself as a publishing house, not as a gallery, which produces editions of low (3 – 10), middle (10 – 50) and high numbered editions (+100) and keeps the prices low for attracting new collectors.


What does Contemporary Istanbul mean to Ankara based gallery Siyah Beyaz? Could you please briefly evaluate the current case of the art scene in Ankara?

Contemporary Istanbul is an art fair we both supported during its foundation process and have been participating without a break since the very beginning. This is a place where we meet collectors, artists and friends from Istanbul besides viewing a lot of local and international selections. In short, this is where we take a breath during our exhibition season. Thanks to the fair, we have created a rich portfolio of collectors from abroad. Our artists receive invitations for shows, too – which is the best part of it.

They have been trying to ‘make a village’ out of Ankara for a long time. As a result, a bunch of people are devotedly struggling to continue the art scene there. We’ve been running the same place for 32 years now.

Which artists will you present in your booth at CI?

Our Contemporary Istanbul booth is very vibrant this year: Post-it and neon works by Ardan Özmenoğlu, acryclic on canvas & nature paintings by Piotr Klemensiewicz, colorful and fun paintings by Nihat Kemankaşlı, performance photography by Joana Kohen, video art by Aykut Cömert, hyper realistic paintings by Uğur Güler, shadow plays by Tuğberk Selçuk. We paid the most attention to combine different media and present a wide range of works to the audience during the selection process.


Most of the selection you prepared for the 10th edition of Contemporary Istanbul consists of surrealist works. What was the reason behind that choice? We, as a gallery, are following surrealist works close since they convey what the artist wants to tell in a complete and free way as well as providing opportunity to set many scenes and details in a single frame. We wanted to forget about the stress caused by globalization, take a break in our fast lives where we cannot even find time and aim at presenting a show that puts a smile on people’s faces despite the unhappiness experienced by the whole humanity today. I hope we have been able to succeed.

What distinguishes Contemporary Istanbul from the other art events for you?

International art fairs have a prominent place in terms of providing us with the opportunity to experience the works by artists from different cultures at a single place and time. It’s great that these kind of group presentations offer the chance to get to know new artists and to discover the stages reached in the art field. They also distribute art works to a wider audience contributing to win new collectors and art lovers. Moreover, the workshops, talks and conferences at the fair establish a platform where the audience can share their opinions in order to learn more about art.


Iran is having an amazing period in terms of contemporary art. What can you say about this? Do you think “the Irandeal” will affect it positively?

Iranian contemporary art scene has been very vibrant since the end of Iran-Iraq war. After election of President Rouhani more galleries have opened up. There are exhibitions of Iranian art in all corners of the world. In the past one year alone, we have had three artists, two of whom are in their 80s but have a contemporary outlook and practice, exhibited at Guggenheim New York and Davis Museum Boston, not to mention Shirin Neshat’s solo exhibition at Hirshorn Museum. Also young artists like Barbad Golshiri- Baktash Sarang- Shahryar Hatami- Newsha Tavakolian-have a very strong presence in the international scene. And yes, the deal with the U.S has already resulted in better times for all of us. We have been hosting groups of travelers and collectors in the past two years and we are sure more people are willing and planning to come over.

This year Contemporary Istanbul is focusing on the contemporary art scene of Tehran. What do you expect from it?

One of the reasons we want to come to Istanbul and be a part of Contemporary Istanbul is to try and change the perception about the Iranian art scene. We, as galleries, have not been isolated despite the hard times during Ahmadinejad’s administration.


What does Contemporary Istanbul mean to you, as a gallery from Berlin, a city where more than 5% of the population consists of Turkish people?

Modern Berlin is a very open international city and unthinkable without its multifaceted Turkish community. We have very good Turkish artists here. It’s been 10 years since I last was in Istanbul and I’m very excited to see how the city has changed in this time. Of course I’m looking forward to connecting with new collectors and with Turkish gallerists. I also find this year’s focus on Tehran particularly fascinating. Perhaps this will also help to forge new links in the art world of the entire region.

Which artists will you present in your booth at CI? How did you make the selection?

The gallery’s emphasis is on abstract art and this will be reflected in the booth presentation. We will be showing new works by Arne Schreiber that feature manually repeated lines painted on canvas as well as wooden steles by Katinka Pilscheur, which feature monochrome varnished works. Pilscheur uses industrial varnish fabricated by well-known car brands, but also nail polish by Chanel or YSL. Both artists are exhibiting in Turkey for the first time. The booth is completed by a selection of photographs by Ingo Mittelstaedt, who lived in Turkey during his student days, and Jeanno Gaussi, a Kabul-born artist. Gaussi will be showing a skateboard mounted on metal and bearing an Oriental design. In this piece she merges childhood memories of Afghanistan and India with Western youth culture.


What is your motivation behind to participate to the Contemporary Istanbul?

Coming to Istanbul means to me being open to other cultures, other practices. It means also to share the idea that many changes may happen through the art. The world is suffering today and so many things are happening in Turkey and in countries next to this country. We need to see through the artists, we need to try to understand what they feel and how they can change the world. Of course I do expect to meet new collectors, new institutions, critics… I am expecting to learn from the people I will meet with.

How did you make the selection of the works you present in your booth at CI?

The works presented comes after a discussion with Turkish people involved in the art and with our artists. Our artists, Lang/Baumann, Gaillar & Claude, Robert Devriendt are known in their country but not so much in Istanbul. This is why we want to share our passion for these artists with the public of CI.


You participated the Contemporary Istanbul before, what are your thoughts on it and what are your expectations from this year’s fair? How did your gallery change since last year?

This is our 3rd year at CI, and the fair is always one of the top one for our gallery, every year we meet with our Turkish collectors that we see as well in Miami and New York during the other fairs, so it feels great to reconnect each year with them. Since last year we have signed Julian Lennon which works will be on display at our booth, we are also very exited to show the new “Neon” works of Melisa Mizrakli, which the artists have been working on the whole year around and also the Up in the Air series from Antoine Rose, showing Manhattan shot from an helicopter by night, the series is a huge success in New York and should do very well in Istanbul as well.

How do you see the difference between the collectors in Turkey and the US?

Turkey and America are pretty similar in terms of collecting arts, our most successful artists in the US are the same ones as in Istanbul. This is a global market. Photography is booming now in America and we see the same trend coming into Istanbul with collectors who never purchased a photograph before, stepping in and collecting works from Moby, Drew Tal or Antoine Rose. So overall, what’s happening first in New York, happens in Istanbul afterwards.


You are a platform for emerging international artists, with a particular referebvnce to Turkey. What does Contemporary Istanbul mean to you?
Contemporary Istanbul is a very important fair for us. Not only will it be our first fair, but also it will be the first time Ihsan Oturmak will be exhibiting as a solo artist in Turkey. We think Contemporary Istanbul is the perfect place for such an occasion. Due to the fact that we are very confident of our artist selection and his works we expect a very positive outcome.

How did you decide to present promising artist Oturmak’s works in the fair?

CI being quite focused on the local market, we thought it would be strategic to participate as a London based gallery, but representing a Turkish artist that never exhibited his works before.

Author: Dilan Ayyıldız