Despite reactions university holds controversial auction
ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Yüksel Arslan, Updating Kapital
Istanbul Bilgi University auctioned off a collection including paintings that had been donated to the university in Istanbul at Nişantaşı’s Sofa Hotel Feb. 17. The auction raised eyebrows as some of the paintings were given by Turkish artists to the Contemporary Arts Museum at the university as donations and gifts, daily Hürriyet reported. The decision to sell the artworks was also criticized heavily by arts and culture circles in Turkey. However despite attracting lots of negative reactions from every part of the arts and culture industry, the auction was conducted without any problems.
Although artists gathered, collected signatures and started campaigns, nothing managed to stop the auction. The auction included a total of 145 artworks and 69 of them belonged to the Istanbul Bilgi University collection. Nejat Melih Devrim’s “Abstract Composition” sold for 1.4 million Turkish Liras. Other artworks sold at the auction included a work by Yüksel Arslan that sold for 500,000 liras and Fikret Mualla’s “Retrospective,” which sold for 160,000 liras. Canan Tolon’s “Abstract Composition” sold for 95,000 liras.
The university previously stated that out of 69 artworks, only four had been gifts or donations to the university collection and added that not all of the paintings had been given by Turkish artists to the Contemporary Arts Museum at the university as donations and gifts. The gift and donation artworks included Arslan’s “Arture” and “Auto-portait,” Nil Yalter’s “Headless women, Belly Dancer,” and Hakkı Anlı’s “Abstract Composition,” said a university statement.
According to legislation, a private museum cannot sell artworks it has bought or acquired because the artworks that enter museum collections form an “inventory” and the Culture Ministry certifies the works as an inventory. However, the Bilgi University museum did not certify them as an “inventory” so they could be sold in the future, according an earlier daily Radikal article.
Reactions against the auction
Artists had started a petition against the sale and met at Cezayir Restaurant in Istanbul to discuss the matter. Around 50 professionals from Istanbul’s art circles formed a platform, which released a written statement demanding a public explanation about works from the recently closed Santral Istanbul Contemporary Arts Museum.
The public relations head of the university, Elvan Omay, said: “A part of the museum has been turned into classrooms due to new departments opening in the university. However the museum has not closed and will not close.”
The foyer of the museum will continue to host exhibitions and arts and culture events. The statement also said the classrooms might be used as an exhibition venue when needed.
The auction primarily consists of paintings the university had bought. The artworks have been approved for sale by the Culture Ministry, and those that do not have approval are to be preserved in the museum.