Turkey and the Istanbul Biennial
Visiting the Istanbul Biennial is like going on a treasure hunt.
In response to the demonstrations earlier this year, the Biennial's curator, Fulya Erdmci, withdrew the art works from public spaces and placed them in five "private buildings" throughout Istanbul which are open to the public and free to all.
After visiting many of the biennial spaces, my favorite artist is Maider Lopez, whose work is shown in two different Biennial sites. The first work we encountered was "The Traffic Jam" (2005), with photos and a video. Lopez choreographed a traffic jam in a small Basque village and shot the work from high above. The colorful cars are like paint pigments giving a unique design and form to her composition.
The video accompanying the photographs shows interviews with people who participated in the making of the art work. We learned that she put an ad in the newspaper and radio asking people to bring their cars to join this art project. Some car owners said it was a family affair, bringing their children and having a picnic in the countryside. There were many volunteers as part of her team trying to navigate cars into perfect positions, as in any traffic jam worldwide.
The second work we encountered of hers were photographs, diagrams and a written strategy of how to cross a very, very busy street in Turkey, titled "Making Ways" (2013). She gives the viewer 10 steps on how to cross a very busy street, that could also be used in cities all over the world, such as Rome and Cairo. A few of her important tips are: "Visualize the destination and make a plane," "Find the right moment," "Seek eye contact," and "Taking action is easier when a group is generated."
In Istanbul, all the museums and foundations that show contemporary art are privately owned by wealthy families and corporations that support the arts. Even the Sakip Sabanic Museum, which had a blockbuster show of Anish Kapoor, is privately owned, as is the Istanbul Modern.
An especially unique location is The Borusan Collection, an art-filled private office building during the week and private museum open to the public on the weekend. We have uncovered at least six private museums in Turkey, and it is worthwhile to make the effort to experience these collections.
I met many artists while visiting studios and seeing works in their galleries. One artist that I met said that she was imprisoned for six months because of her art. Another artist was brought to trial, but not convicted. What a contrast to the freedom an artist can enjoy in America!
The Four Seasons Bosphorus, with beautiful views of the water, is a fabulous place to stay in Istanbul. Dinner at Mikla is a glamorous experience—they have panoramic views of Istanbul and delicious food. For a casual authentic dining experience, try Iskele Restaurant, with gorgeous views of the water and bridge. Treat yourself to Turkish Air—voted Europe's best airline in 2013—if you want an incredible luxurious experience in their VIP lounge at Istanbul Atatürk Airport.
To view these and other Turkish foundations, you can visit our Directory.