Contemporary Istanbul: A $60 million sale success

Contemporary Istanbul: A $60 million sale success

It is no secret that despite the global economic crisis, in the luxury goods and contemporary art market, business is going swimmingly. 

Only 10 days ago, one of the significant names in Turkish contemporary art, Fahrelnissa Zeid’s painting named “Break of the Atom and Vegetal Life” was sold at a record price at Christie’s Auction House in Dubai.

The person who bought the painting at exactly 2.7 million dollars was Turkish collector Zafer Yıldırım.

The painting was auctioned by Zeid’s son residing in Amman. The new owner Zafer Yıldırım declared he bought it for “the painting to return to Turkey.” Yıldırım is a part owner of a mall that has become a local favorite in recent years, İstinye Park.

According to Ali Güreli, head of the Executive Board of Contemporary Istanbul, the eighth of which was held the year, the number of Turkish collectors who invest in contemporary art is rapidly increasing; international artists as well as local artists fall within the scope of interest of these collectors. 

As a matter of fact, at Contemporary Istanbul, which I had the opportunity to visit only this weekend, I have seen Picasso paintings worth 1.9 million euros, Andy Warhol’s at 900 thousand euros and Juan Miro’ worth 390 thousand euros.

Due to this interest of Turkish collectors, the number of international galleries participating in Contemporary Istanbul is rapidly on the rise. 

Back to Ali Güreli, he advised that there were a total of 95 galleries which participated in the fair, with 53 of them, in other words more than half, being foreign.

New York’s prestigious Marlborough Gallery, which was once a dream that would later come to grace Istanbul’s art scene in the first years of the fair, has been exhibiting fine art for here for two years.

Excitement builds as momentum leads up to the Marlborough Gallery’s hosting of Turkish artist Ahmet Gümüştekin in coming days in New York. One of the most important things that Contemporary Istanbul has offered Istanbul’s art lovers is: a significant door of opportunity, facilitating the forging of relationships among Turkish artists and their admirers while bringing foreign contemporary art to our doorstep.

After Contemporary Istanbul ended Sunday, I learned from my conversation with Ali Güreli that 75 thousand people had visited the fair, which was open to the public from Nov. 7 to 10. 

Among them were 170 industry-known collectors and tourists coming from abroad. It looks as if the globally increasing demand for Contemporary Istanbul is in parallel to Istanbul’s population. Visiting a contemporary art fair that sets the bar higher for outstanding global collectors is as attractive as spending a week end in a city like Istanbul.

Güreli said, “We had a slight concern whether or not there would be international demand for Contemporary Istanbul this year because of the Gezi incidents. It never was as we feared.”

He said 67 percent of the artwork exhibited a value of 91 million dollars in sales. No matter how you slice it, there is a 60 million-dollar-turnover in sales at hand.

This year, Russia was in the forefront of the “New Horizons” section of the exhibition.

According to what Ali Güreli told me, in next year’s fair to be conjointly held with Istanbul Design Biennial, it will be China, a rising contemporary art star, which will stand out.

Chinese artist Zeng Fanzhi’s painting named “The Last Supper” was sold at a record price of $23.3 million in Hong Kong a short while ago.

The Chinese artist, who alone equaled almost half of the four-day sale of Contemporary Istanbul, has won the title of the most expensive Asian artist. 

Would there be a Turkish collector able to buy a Fanzhi painting? I don’t know.