Artist withdraws work from Contemporary Istanbul

Artist withdraws work from Contemporary Istanbul

Artist withdraws work from Contemporary Istanbul Turkish artist Ali Elmacı has withdrawn a sculpture of his from the 11th Contemporary Istanbul art festival following an attack on it on Nov. 3.

Members of religious groups attacked the art fair late on Nov. 3 in protest over the sculpture that displayed the likeness of Sultan Abdulhamit, an Ottoman sultan known for his conservatism.

 “The swimsuit features the picture of our grandfather and ancestor, which offends us,” said one of the protesters, who said they were from the National Outlook (Millî Görüş) and Erbakan foundations.

The sculpture features a portrait of Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamit painted on a swimsuit.

The group of 20 to 30 people entered the fair area at the Istanbul Congress Center and Lütfi Kırdar International Congress and Exhibition Hall, chanting “Allahu Akbar.”

They said they would not leave the fair area unless the sculpture was removed. 

While trying to calm the group down by speaking to them, Elmacı said the group members provoked each other. “Sometime later, to prevent more tension and damage to the other artworks in the fair, which was already empty, we removed the sculpture,” he said. 

The artist said he was upset about the attack, saying: “You can be annoyed by an artwork but you cannot give such a reaction. I think that I didn’t do anything to deserve this and I am only performing my art.” 

In a written statement, the fair officials said they removed the sculpture upon the group’s demand as the fair was about to close but was later reinstalled after they left. The sculpture will be on display until the end of the fair, the statement said.  

On Nov. 4, however, Elmacı said he had chosen to withdraw the work, which is from the Chilean Isabel Croxatto Galleria, from the fair.

At the same time, Elmacı and Contemporary Istanbul CEO Ali Güreli filed a complaint against the group.