Changing the rules of the game for Turkish contemporary art
Hatice Utkan ÖzdenOnce again this year the Bosphorus Summit in Istanbul focused on the importance of soft power and how it evolves. However, this time the participants also discussed the importance of contemporary art as a soft power. A participant and speaker at the summit, Ali Güreli, may be known as the founder and chairman of Contemporary Istanbul, but Güreli’s main target is to increase the circulation of contemporary art in every other area, be it internationally or nationally.
According to Güreli, this can only be made possible by making art a part of society. Speaking to the Hürriyet Daily News, Güreli said it was necessary to implement incentives and advantages in terms of taxation when buying art.
“We need to increase the creation of high-quality art and support artists. Another reason is to get rid of the problems in the art trade, such as taxes,” Güreli said.
It is no secret that in Turkey the high value-added tax (18 percent) is always a problem in purchasing art, as it both directly and indirectly affects artists and their creative process.
Support from local government authorities
Güreli said it was critical to create an infrastructure to support the creation of art. “The government or municipalities can make this possible by giving incentives and with this way, both public and private institutions would be able to support artists. We can have art management centers and artists’ residencies,” said Güreli, giving an example from Berlin, where municipalities have established artist residencies that welcome artists all year long and support them.
Local governments in Turkey could open such places to support art, he said.
Creating a corporate collection
It is important to emphasize the trading of art because the purchasing part of art is crucial in terms of maintaining a healthy chain in the market, said Güreli. “There are collectors and museums buying the art works. However, something is missing, and it is the support of institutions and them in creating a corporate collection.”
There are few corporate collections in Turkey, he added. “The best one we have seen is Borusan’s art collection. We see few other companies that have followed this approach, such as banks in Turkey.”
The reason for such a paucity of corporate collections is the lack of incentive and guidance, he said. When an institution buys an art piece, it cannot be classified in its inventory and pay its VAT in the long term. At the same time, when they buy a piece of art, they cannot even show it at a depreciation expense because a work does not have any place in the taxation process.
“If we look at Germany, the VAT for art pieces is 7 percent and in France it is 6 percent and in Gulf countries there is no tax. When compared to other countries, we come to the conclusion that 18 percent is very high,” Güreli said.
While positioning Contemporary Istanbul as a “global fair,” Güreli also noted the importance of the competition. For 10 years, the fair has become more than a five-day event to become an event of education.
The fair bears responsibility for people in society, necessitating that it become better each year, he said, while noting how hard it is for the event to compete with Gulf countries given the lack of taxes in the region.
Each art fair or art event is a unique opportunity to present a city in the best way and that is why there should be more incentives, according to Güreli.