Discovering Syria’s cultural richness
Hatice Utkan Özden
A new exhibition at Plato Sanat, part of Ayvansaray University in Balat, hosts a selection of paintings by contemporary Syrian artists from the Kaleemat Collection. This time Turkey can discover Syria through art, without prejudice and without war.
“’A Place Close By’ Contemporary Syrian Painting from the Kaleemat Collection” was curated by Professor Marcus Graf, who discovered Adnan Alahmad’s Kaleemat Gallery at last year’s Contemporary Istanbul. “They were participating in the fair with a selection of Syrian artists,” the professor said.
He was fascinated with some of the works and he realized that as an art historian, he knew very little about art in his neighboring country of Syria.
As Graf learned, Mr. Alahmad is not only a gallery owner, but a collector, publisher and expert on art from the Middle East. They decided to do a show together at Plato Sanat about Syrian art.
According to Graf, the collection matters a great deal, “because it protects the works from being destroyed through the chaos of wars and disasters. In this sense, Adnan Alahmad is not only a supporter but also a protector, or even a savior of the works he has collected during the years’’ said Graf. He added that the collection adds visibility and recognition to Syrian contemporary art.
Even though we know about Syria through war, Graf said Syria is far more complex than the news headlines. It not only has a rich and important history, but a strong contemporary art scene as well, he also said.
A Place Close By reflects the state of Syrian painting today and brings together artists from different generations and different styles. In this sense, the show underlines that aside from cultural richness and historical significance, Syria has a lot to offer in various fields of contemporary art.
Graf also mentioned an important point about how Turkey approached its neighbor via the 15th Istanbul Biennial.
“Syria is Turkey’s neighbor. The recent Istanbul biennial discussed how to be a good one and how to live together in times of personal, political and global crises, so it matters what your neighbor is doing. At the same time, Syria’s cultural heritage is shared with
Turkey’s and therefore, it is highly interesting to see
what parallels and differences exist between their art worlds,” he said, referring to the biennial.
Although it focuses on painting, the collection hosts artists of various disciplines and gives insight to the richness of Syrian contemporary art.
The Plato Sanat show presents 13 artists and provides only a small glimpse of the collection. While Adnan Alahmad has intended to share his collection with interested audiences, the collection supports the communication of Syrian art.