Turkey’s contemporary art scene worried but hopeful

Turkey’s contemporary art scene worried but hopeful

Hatice Utkan Özden
Turkey’s contemporary art scene worried but hopeful

While Turkey’s struggle against the COVID-19 virus brings more rigid actions for social life, the arts and culture scene is trying to survive with what they have in hand. On the other hand, Turkey’s contemporary art scene stays positive and active amid the COVID-19 crisis.
Galleries conduct and organize online exhibition tours and museums started their museum from home virtual and online programs.

However, how this will continue and what will happen is everyone’s concern.

On the other hand, everyone is trying to survive in this time of crisis and support each other. Up to now, despite the huge death toll numbers, we know that Europe has allocated lots of money for arts and culture. In recent news, France indicated they have prepared aid packages for arts and culture, just like Germany. However, considering the whole crisis does not have a single side and the loss of other EU countries, the situation gets worse.

Meanwhile, hardships bring new ways to discover life and art and the viewer is discovering new ways of seeing and understanding art. Even though there are many online exhibitions and many different activities, such as concerts, movies, and small one-man theater shows, the reality does not change: The fact is everyone is staying at home and maybe this is the time that everyone needs art more than art. As April is the Arts, Culture and Creativity Month, the need for arts and culture is obvious for public health.

Among all the hardships, Turkish art galleries are doing online live artist talks, online exhibition tours, while museums are holding to their digital platforms for showing art. However, everyone is also concerned about the economic sides and think about their future business and employment.

Turkey’s contemporary art scene worried but hopeful

Berkay Tuncay, "Human, how strange, so vulgar, such a masterpiece and yet so primitive," Virtual exhibition view, courtesy of Sanatorium

On the other hand, canceled and postponed art fairs raise concerns. Commenting on the canceled fairs and art events, Zilberman Gallery owner, Moiz Zilberman, said, the annulling of most of the fairs was alarming, however, it also gives hope to have Art Basel Hong Kong’s online viewing rooms because this brings visibility for art galleries. Digital platforms are the most important thing during this time, according to Zilberman.

“As Zilberman Gallery, it is good for us to reach out to the digital platforms and reach our collector. We see the viewers are following these platforms. This is a way to be visible in global terms. But, of course, like everyone, we are worried about the economic effects,” added the gallery owner.

Mixer Gallery director Bengü Gün is also hopeful, she said, they have already planned their future exhibition on an online platform.

“We are considering both best and worst scenarios and keep working. We are also working on the next exhibition. We do know there will be economic hardships, especially for young artists, art institutions and art professionals. In Europe, there are many aid packages for arts and culture, hope we will also see an aid package,” said Gün.

The founder of Step İstanbul art event, Rabia Bakıcı Güreli, said that she is worried about the current situation but on the other hand, there is the fact that this shows that we need to change some of our habits in terms of business. “We are witnessing a real digital revolution and I believe this will bring positive developments.”

We must go on for education and arts

Curator, academic, and writer Professor Marcus Graf thinks despite all crises and inconveniences that we experience right now, we must go on.

“We must create and share our work. Whatever we do, we have to continue. Also, our field of art and culture must find alternative ways of producing, presenting and sharing. Theatre Plays are online, a music concert is online... So, visual artists and art managers should find ways to exhibit works of art.”

The online is another experience and artworks seen in the studio or the gallery cause a different psycho-visual impact. Though instead of seeing nothing at all, seeing art on a screen is a good alternative, according to Graf.

He also said “let us not forget” that there is no space and time in the online world. Now people from all over Turkey can join in the art scene of Istanbul and follow galleries and artists, Graf said, adding that in the end, currently, we all are having online education at schools and universities and he has his own online lessons at Yeditepe University, adding that not only for university, but he is also doing online artist talks and more.

“I have done online artist talk with artist Yusuf Aygeç,” he added.

Most curators are keen on conducting online experienced exhibitions. “For me, the most important thing is to reach the audience. In one of my recent curated shows at Are Projects located in Antalya, I have worked on virtual exhibiting techniques and not only because of COVID-19 but to engage everyone. The exhibition is still open.” According to Bayık, a curator needs to think in the digital field.
The hardest impact of the crisis may be seen on the artists. Berkay Tuncay, who has an online exhibition at Sanatorium Gallery, said artists might experience hard times dues to the economic problems.

“Think of a new artist, who hadn’t done any solo show, how they will continue to do art. We all must think about how artists will continue their lives,” he said.