2020: A hard year for culture and arts in Turkey
2020 was undeniably the hardest one for culture and arts in Turkey, as it was all over the world, due to COVID-19 pandemic. The State Theaters (DT), State Opera and Ballet (DOB), the choirs affiliated with the Culture and Tourism Ministry, regional orchestras and movie theaters had to pull the plug on all their events in March when the virus was first seen in Turkey.
Opening the season on Sept. 17, 2019 but having had to close the curtains between March 14 and July 1 due to the pandemic, DT performed a total of 175 plays before with 2,655 performances.
Before the pandemic, DOB performed the epic opera titled “Göbeklitepe - Mabedin Hüznü” for the first time within the scope of the “2019 Year of Göbeklitepe” activities in order to contribute to the promotion of the cultural heritage of Göbeklitepe in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa, which is considered the zero point of history and has a history of 12,000 years.
On Feb. 20, with the participation of Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy, the “Göbeklitepe Opera” was presented to art lovers with a great stage show where opera and ballet were intertwined and it had received great appreciation from the audience.
DOB, which closed in March, took part in Eskişehir, Ephesus, Aspendos opera and festivals, while the Istanbul Opera Festival and Bodrum Kaleiçi Events were held under strict measures during the summer. It reached 8,763 viewers in national and international festivals in this process. Opening the curtains again in September under strict coronavirus measures, DOB presented works with a small number of artists to a limited audience.
Movie theater operators had to close the theaters this year due to the pandemic, too, and could not pay the rents of movie theaters in shopping malls as producers postponed the screening dates of domestic and foreign films.
Although movie theaters opened in August after their closure in March, this did not last long, and in November, movie theater owners reported that they would not be able to meet with their audiences because they had difficulty surviving.
The Culture Ministry announced that it will give a 15 million Turkish Lira support package under the name of “Domestic Film Screening Support” to movie theaters, except for the chain movie theaters, due to the fallout caused by COVID-19.
In 2020, 46 million liras of financial support were provided to 234 projects in the cinema sector. Compared to 2019, the support given to the sector was increased by 22 percent this year.
On the other hand, the VAT rates for congress, conference, seminar, concert, fair and amusement park entrance fees were reduced to 8 percent until the end of the year. The VAT rates for cinema, theater, opera, operetta, ballet, museum entrance fees were reduced to 1 percent until the end of the year, too.
The support given to private theaters by the ministry was increased to 21.5 million liras for the 2020-2021 season, taking into account the coronavirus conditions.
The cultural centers owned by the ministry and the halls of the State Theaters were made available to private theaters for symbolic fees.
[HH] Archaeological excavations continued
Despite the measures for the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020, the number of archaeological excavations and surveys exceeded 500. The number of excavations, included in the 12-month excavation program, was increased from 20 to 62.
This year works continued in all ancient cities in Turkey and thousands of artifacts have come to surface. A grave found in Hadrianaupolis in the Ezkipazar district of Karabük; Dorian headings, as well as the runic alphabet writings of the Phrygians found in Tieion in Zonguldak’s Çaycuma district; dozens of rock tombs in in three regions in the Ermenek district of Karaman and Roman god statues in the ancient city of Kibyra, known as the “city of Gladiators” in Gölhisar district of Burdur, were some of these important artifacts.
Works also continued this year to bring back artifacts smuggled from Turkey. The Isparta-origin tomb piece and a bronze bull returned home from England and the Lydian Inscription returned to Turkey from Italy.
The statue of “mother goddess” Kybele, which was believed to be the symbol of fertility in prehistoric times, was brought from the U.S. and reached its homeland after 50 years on Dec. 12, and started to be exhibited at the Istanbul Archeology Museum.
New museums were opened this year, too, and renovation work continued in existing museums. A first in Turkey, the world’s largest airport museum was opened to visitors on July 17, 2020 in Istanbul Airport.
The restoration and display works of the Ankara Painting and Sculpture Museum have come to an end and it is set to open on Dec. 27.
Also this year, the “www.sanalmuze.gov.tr” website, which is offered free of charge by the Culture and Tourism Ministry to see the real 3D models of museums and archaeological sites on the internet and to introduce the cultural heritage in a virtual environment, was opened to access. Thirty-three museums in the country were presented to art lovers in the virtual environment and have so far reached 11.5 million visitors.