Art in İstanbul preparing for 2010

- There’s an art fair in the next hall. Shall we take a look?
- OK, but let’s make it quick.
- Alright, plus, maybe we can relax a little…

This conversation between a pair of fairgoers, both of them carrying bags that were so full they must have purchased a book from each pavilion at the İstanbul Book Fair, was an almost perfect embodiment of a remark by artist Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu: “Art should be functional.”

Similar conversation could be heard all around the TÜYAP Fair and Congress Center in Beylikdüzü over the weekend between art-loving fairgoers who wanted to escape the exhausting hubbub of the book fair, meaning Artist 2009, the 19th İstanbul Art Fair, proved to be functional for many of them.

Artist 2009, held in conjunction with the ongoing 28th İstanbul Book Fair, draws a small but enthusiastic crowd to its exhibitions, despite being somewhat overshadowed by the book fair. Held under the main theme “Towards the Capital of Culture” and spanning four exhibit halls, No. 7-10, at the TÜYAP fairground, Artist 2009 features pieces from the collections of 100 art galleries and art institutions from around the world.

The fair is also functional in providing a general view of the current art market: while some gallery owners complain that business is bad, some say there has been a bit of progress. But the overall view is that rather than classics, contemporary works of art are more in demand.

Hall 7, which houses the work of such artists as Muhsin Kut, who is celebrating the 50th year of his career with an exhibition at the fair, and Lale and Cengiz Akıncı, who are displaying their sculptures, paintings and ceramics in a mixed collection, is one of the most crowded halls at Artist 2009.

One art gallery that has drawn considerable interest at the fair is Artium, which is displaying 110 canvases by well-known Turkish artist Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu. Titled “Towards 100 Years” and aimed at introducing Bedri Rahmi to a young generation of art lovers, the show was compiled from the private collection of the artist’s son, Mehmet Eyüboğlu.

Another interesting exhibition at the fair is titled “Traditional Turkish Book Arts -- Present-day Masters.” Put together by the İstanbul 2010 European Capital of Culture Agency’s Directorate of Traditional Arts and on view in Hall 6, the exhibition is on display for the second year in a row as part of the İstanbul Art Fair. The exhibition offers samples of traditional Turkish and Ottoman book decoration arts and crafts such as calligraphy, gilding, ebru (paper marbling), bookbinding and the paper-cutting craft known as kat-i. The works on view were prepared specifically for the exhibition, aimed at “contributing to the sustainability of these arts and crafts through the work of present-day artists,” say the exhibit’s organizers. It includes 72 pieces by 50 artists.

The “216” artists initiative, named after the telephone code of İstanbul’s Asian side, where its members are based, takes part in Artist 2009 with a group exhibition called “Sistem Arızası” (System Failure), which aims to mix art into daily life.

The Koridor Contemporary Art Program, a London-based nonprofit initiative aimed at contributing in the contemporary art scene in Turkey and establishing dialogue between artists of the East and the West, is bringing together the works of 60 artists from 15 countries in its pavilion at Artist 2009. Titled “Yüz Yüze Diyaloglar” (Face-to-Face Dialogues) and curated by Denizhan Özer, the show features 100 paintings, sculptures, photographs, installations and videos.

Another group exhibit called “My Name is Casper,” billed as Turkey’s most comprehensive art exhibition, is the fruit of several sessions by 18 artist groups and 97 independent artists and is a must-see at Artist 2009. Artist 2009 runs until Nov. 8 at the TÜYAP Fair and Convention Center. The entrance fee is TL 5.

Musa İğrek, İstanbul

Today's Zaman