The Turkish art market is only one facet of the country’s infatuation with its own blossoming culture but with little public sector support for the arts, a local university’s decision to sell its Contemporary art collection this Winter brought a storm of outrage and uncertainty. The International Herald Tribune follows up on the sale. Was their a silver lining in getting these works in the hands of private collectors who might prove to be better custodians?
The IHT spoke to an art consultant who preferred to remain anonymous:
“The prices in the catalog were fairly good,” the consultant said, “and that grabbed the attention of many small-scale art buyers.” […]
“The Nejad” is a predominately blue and black abstract composition by Nejad Melih Devrim. The 200 by 300 centimeter, or roughly 7 by 10 foot, oil painting fetched the highest price of the auction: 1,400,000 lira, or $779,000.
Its buyer was Nezih Barut, the billionaire chairman of the biotechnology and drug firm Abdi Ibrahim who said this week by telephone that he was displaying the work on his office wall.
“The Nejad,” was one of four pieces he acquired at the auction, including two others by Mr. Devrim and one by Mr. Arslan. […]
Mr. Barut said he was outbid for “Updating Kapital,” considered a masterpiece by Mr. Arslan, a mixed media drawing on paper that shows a handshake by men wearing colorful national flags on their sleeves and a background of corporate logos and dog-faced men in business suits. It was sold to an unidentified buyer for 500,000 lira. (Mr. Arslan had been the subject of a retrospective at santralistanbul in 2009, and this image had been used on the catalog cover, increasing its potential value.) […]
Another Turkish collector, the textile magnate Oner Kocabeyoglu, bought a dozen paintings at the auction, spending more than 1.3 million lira.
An avid collector of works from the École de Paris artists, he said had “tried really hard” to buy the entire collection before Bilgi decided to auction it. The Tate Modern was also said to have inquired.
Despite the controversy, the auction “helped the art world of Istanbul,” he said during an interview, by reminding people of Turkish modern art and confirming its value. “The paintings have a better home now: It’s very important they sell it to somebody who will give it a high level of attention,” he said.