The Financial Times looks for the roots of Turkey’s Contemporary art explosion. In a country with little state support for the arts, banks were the traditional patrons of painters. That is, they were until private collectors with substantial holdings in the hundreds and thousands of works jumped into the role that is usually played by public institutions. Then, in the space of a decade, galleries grew by nearly a hnundred fold:
Kerimcan Guleryuz of Istanbul’s Gallery x-ist agrees that the millennium was the turning point for Turkish modern and contemporary art. “Until then, there were no real galleries, no museums, no collectors,” he says. Turkish collector Ahmet Kocabiyik – chairman of Borusan Holding company and owner of more than 600 contemporary works by such leading Turkish figures as Ayse Erkmen, known for her subtle architectural interventions, and painter Ekrem Yalcindag, – also marvels at the pace of change: “Ten years ago there were merely three or four galleries in Istanbul. Today this number exceeds 250.”
So what happened? In 2001, the trend for private collectors to open non-profit contemporary art spaces took off with the launch of the Proje4L-Istanbul Contemporary Art Museum, founded by architect Can Elgiz and his wife Sevda, where established Turkish modern artists such as Erol Akyavas and Omer Uluc took their place alongside international big-hitters such as Cindy Sherman and Tracey Emin.
But the mécène-led museum really hit its stride with the trailblazing private-sector art project, Istanbul Modern, housed in a former 19th-century warehouse on Karakoy quay. The museum, launched in 2004, is the brainchild of the Turkish pharmaceutical company, the Eczacibasi Holding group. The chair of the museum board, Oya Eczacibasi, along with her husband Bulent, donates works to the 1,000-strong contemporary Turkish art collection.
Turkey’s Booming Arts Scene (Financial Times)