Contemporary Istanbul mulls over how to improve our art market

Contemporary Istanbul mulls over how to improve our art market

Contemporary Istanbul will take place between Sept. 20 and 23 this year for the 13th time, with Akbank Sanat as its main sponsor.

The fair coincides with the 4th Istanbul Design Biennial, which will be held between Sept. 22 and Nov. 4 under the organization of Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV). Next year, on the other hand, Contemporary Istanbul will take place on the same week as the 16th Istanbul Biennial.

I recently met Contemporary Istanbul’s chair Ali Güreli and talked about the fair. According to Güreli, art market is a sector that is affected quite a lot by political and economic developments in the world.

Despite ups and down in the sector, the art market achieved an increase of around 17-18 percent in its total sales in the last 10 years. The art market sales volume was $68 billion in 2014 and fell to $56 billion two years later in 2016, but in 2017, it rose to $64 billion. “What accomplishes this growth is in fact the Asian market,” Güreli said.

The United States is the largest market for the arts, accounting for 34 percent of total global sales. As of the end of 2016, China overtook Britain as the world’s second largest art market. “In 2018, it is inevitable that the China market grows further,” Güreli says, adding that the art market is going through a difficult time in Turkey.

Nowadays, art works are being sold in fairs, rather than galleries, according to Güreli. And the figures that he presents prove this. The number of contemporary art fairs in 2000 was around 20, whereas this figure exceeded 280 in 2018.

Güreli said he recently attended the Tbilisi Art Fair in Georgia. “This is a competition. Cities compete against each other. Biennials and exhibitions feed one another. And art lovers benefit from this synergy,” he said.

But İKSV does not seem to agree with this view of Güreli. When asked what they thought about the dates of Istanbul Biennial and Istanbul Contemporary coinciding, İKSV said: “During the biennial period, many other art institutions also hold organizations. This is of course pleasing, but as a foundation that is non-profit-seeking and is working for the benefit of the public, we are not holding cooperation with private galleries or fairs within the scope of the biennial.”

According to İKSV, the purpose and vision of biennials and fairs are very different. So it’s not very right to talk about a synergy between them, according to İKSV.

If I went back to my conversation with Güreli, he talked about what Contemporary Istanbul did in an attempt to strengthen and develop the art market in Turkey. Contemporary Istanbul officials held a meeting with Finance Minister Naci Ağbal and Culture and Tourism Minister Numan Kurtulmuş, which led the Value Added Tax on art works to fall to one percent. This will vitalize the art market.

Additionally, there are joint works that Contemporary Istanbul officials are running together with the Turkish Exporters’ Assembly (TİM). The works run with the Association of Service Exporters, established under the roof of TİM, aim to get art works recognized as exportable products and create a source of financial support for galleries wanting to participate in foreign fairs.

Another important initiation undertaken by Contemporary Istanbul is the Gallery Support Program. Launched in 2017, the program aims to improve Turkey’s art environment and foster its relationships with other countries through art.

Gila Benmayor,