Turkey’s young artists living without support

Turkey’s young artists living without support

Turkey’s young artists living without support

Few companies and institutions cultivate young talent.

The Istanbul Biennial drew large numbers of visitors while the Contemporary Istanbul Fair celebrated record sales. But as Turkish contemporary art becomes increasingly popular internationally, young artists are still struggling to make a living.

Few companies and institutions cultivate young talent by injecting funds, with only a small number of individuals receiving support from such establishments. And as there is very little support from the state for budding artists, traditionally these individuals are sustained by their families.

Artists in Turkey do not have many choices. One option is to work with a gallery as the “artist in residence,” while continuing to receive support from their family until their reputation is sufficiently developed that they can afford to support themselves. But competition for such positions is tough.

For those who do not have family support or the option of becoming a gallery artist, life can be difficult.
“When developing artists do not receive support and cannot be creative due to financial restraints, they are forced to try different jobs in order to earn money,” said Tunca Subaşı, a young contemporary artist. He has just opened his own studio in Kadıköy, the heart of Istanbul’s art world, and has signed a deal with Pi Artworks gallery.


Due to financial
restrains, young artists
are forced to try
different jobs in order to
earn money

Subaşı said it was hard to make ends meet simply by selling paintings and creative pieces. “It is important for emerging artists to reach out to collectors and international collections.” Subaşı added that it was almost impossible for a young artist to find a place in the market without first opening a solo exhibition and, prior to this, gaining representation from a gallery.

But Subaşı also suggested an alternative for artists who do not receive any support from the galleries, family or state. “Sometimes artists unite and open their own venue through individual initiatives,” he said.
 “During 2010 and as part of the culture capital projects, a huge budget was allocated to the arts and for cultural events,” said artist Burçak Konukman, who specializes in performance and video art. Nevertheless, the problem which exists in Turkey is that no one can discuss the public budget, which allows the private sector to take the lead and hold all the power, he added.

In an environment like this, it is essential that artists get in touch with private sector players, said Konukman. Even though there are some wealthy institutions providing open workshops and project-based schemes, he said these only provided temporary gains for artists.


I know many people
who work in other
jobs but they still create.
It is a question of

Many artists work a second job if they do not have any additional support, he said, but added that those who did not have the backing of their families were generally unable to continue creating.

Exhibiting to raise awareness
Berkay Tuncay, who displayed his work at the ArtBeat fair in Istanbul, said artists should open exhibitions to promote their work.

“There are very few companies or institutions providing funds and you have to be very lucky to receive them,” he said. “We should always remember we are living in a consumer-driven society. Instead of catering toward what is in fashion, artists should focus on problematic issues,” said Ahmet Sarı, who entered the art scene with exhibitions at a number of different galleries.

“I do not think institutions give support to the artists without any cost to the individual,” Sarı said. “It might be a good idea for an artist to follow his or her own system. But there are galleries not compatible with the identity of the artist.”

Discussing her work with Pi Artworks, Merve Şendil said she was both confident and excited to be working with the gallery, as she felt the space was closely related to her own style.


Many artists work a
second job if they do not
have any additional support
but they are unable
to continue creating

“I know there are many people who cannot earn any money from art at the beginning but are still making it. I know people who work in other jobs but still create,” said Ekin Saçlıoğlu, a young acclaimed artist who made her mark at the X-Ist Gallery. For her, art is not something impossible to do when dealing with financial constraints. “It is a question of existence,” she said.

Saçlıoğlu said she did not receive any institutional support and added that making the decision to accept money from an external party could sometimes compromise artistic freedom, leading to a relationship based on dependence.

Sümer Sayın, a young artist studying abroad, noted the situation in Europe or the United States, saying: “With the exception of France as well as the Scandinavian countries, the problem persists. In Turkey we have very limited funds.”

However, it is impossible to talk about institutionalized and sustainable internships where the artist can profit, Sayın said.