The New York Times Magazine can’t seem to decide how it feels about the so-called Turkish art boom chronicled over the weekend. On the one hand, the story makes some overblown claims about the size and importance of the Turkish art market; on the other hand, Turkey is experiencing an unsustainable art bubble.
Meanwhile, there’s an obvious and important parallel between Turkish Contemporary art and Chinese (or even Indian) Contemporary art. In all of these cases, foreign collectors were the frist market for artists from these emerging/forming art markets.
Wealthy indigenous buyers followed later repatriating work from the diaspora. Turkey is going through this process at an accelerated rate. But it is important to recognize that foreign collectors remain very important to the Chinese Contemporary market still. They also play a meaningful role in India, Indonesia and the Philippine Contemporary markets.
This is a life few Turks will ever know. In this conservative Muslim country of 80 million, the artists have minimal influence on social and political life at home. But they will someday export contemporary Turkish culture to the world. They have grown up during a relatively free and prosperous time in Turkey and make up an artistic elite that has more in common with their counterparts in other nations than with their own countrymen. In conversation they can easily shift from Turkish to European to American pop culture. As one young woman put it, “I know Chicago politics better than I know my own municipality.”
Most of these artists now congregate in Beyoglu, the old European quarter, which for a long time existed in a state of spooky, decaying glamour. The elite wouldn’t go to Beyoglu at night. As Turkey’s economy exploded, kebab shops turned into conspicuously European cafes, squatter buildings bloomed into boutique hotels and high rents drove the poor to the city’s periphery. Art galleries popped up in unexpected places. The nouveau riche and old-guard elite realized that rich people should have art collections, and the art market spiked. All of a sudden, Turkey’s versions of the Rockefellers and Whitneys wanted to slap their names on old buildings and fill them with art. […]
Istanbul’s art boom won’t last forever. The economic crisis in the West and political instability in the East have caused the market to soften a bit, gallerists say. More important, perhaps, a majority of the buyers of Turkish art are Turks. And some of those new collectors know very little about art.
The Istanbul Art-Boom Bubble (New York Times)