Why is Eczacıbaşı selling Deniz Palas?
Recently the most debated matter in both economy and arts-culture life is the decision of Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV) to sell the Deniz Palas building it moved three years ago.
All hell broke loose when the head of the executive committee of Eczacıbaşı Holding and at the same time İKSV chair of the executive committee Bülent Eczacıbaşı announced they will sell Deniz Palas to pay the foundation’s debts.
It is indeed a meaningful reaction.
İKSV was founded 40 years ago by Bülent Eczacıbaşı’s father Nejat Eczacıbaşı and a group of art-loving friends and this establishment has truly served Istanbul with art and culture.
How colorless would Istanbul be if it were not for the İKSV’s cinema, music, theater festivals, concerts, exhibitions, the Istanbul Biennial and the Design Biennial?
We have met Leonard Cohen, Alvin Ailey, Carolyn Carlson, Gustavo Dudamel, Kevin Spacey and many other legendary names thanks to İKSV.
With only one word, İKSV is the most important color in the life of Istanbul residents.
How happy were we when the foundation moved to the 19th century gorgeous Deniz Palas there years ago in the Şişhane district, the rising star of Istanbul.
After a good restoration job, the building, with artworks donated by 23 artists, with famous soprano Leyla Gencer’s museum, with its performance arts center, with its design center, with its X restaurant with a view of the Golden Horn became an arts and culture shrine. However, the foundation was under heavy debt for years including the restoration of Deniz Palas.
From time to time, we would hear that it had difficulty paying the staff’s salaries.
When Bülent Eczacıbaşı took over the chairmanship of the executive board in 2010, we learned the 35 million Turkish Liras debt was extended to a 10-year period after deals with banks. The foundation was not in a financial crisis.
Then, recently, İKSV chairman Eczacıbaşı announced the decision, which was met with both sorrow and reaction from the arts and culture world.
Some said, “The asset of a foundation cannot be sold,” or that selling Deniz Palas was equivalent to “selling one’s soul.”
Eczacıbaşı is a businessperson. When you view the situation from his point of view, he is right when he is saying, “While the foundation has a heavy debt, it is not rational that we occupy an extremely valuable building.”
As a matter of fact, the building could be sold at a much higher price than what is said to be its cost of $20 million.
Şişhane is one of the most popular places in “urban transformation” recently. Deniz Palas could be made into an exceptionally luxurious hotel, for example. We know that a couple of groups are interested in the building which will be sold through a tender.
There are claims that the building could well be sold at a price between $50 and $70 million.
It indeed hurts that a culture and arts shrine may be turned into a luxury hotel, but exactly as a colleague has said, “We love Deniz Palas, but we love İKSV more.”
There is also another reality in the sale issue on the other side of the medallion that is not mentioned much. Financial support from the state to İKSV is constantly decreasing. It is quite possible that it will be totally diminished in coming years.
The view of the conservative segments to the arts and culture is quite different.
Nobody has forgotten the resolution prepared last May for the closure of State Theaters, State Operas and Ballet, the foundations of which were laid in the first years of the republic.
Consequently, one should not react too much to İKSV when it wants to guarantee itself by sacrificing Deniz Palas.