Istanbul’s Contemporary Art Scene in Three Parts: A Star is Born, The Glorious Pursuit, The Real Stripped Bare

Guest Author of April 2013: Fatos Ustek

In what recalls a three-movement composition, London-based curator and art critic Fatos Ustek analysis the fast booming and the paradoxes insinuating the landscape of contemporary art in Istanbul. Ustek discloses a breath-taking view on new museums, alternative or artist-run spaces, galleries, and auctions which have started to pullulate in Turkeys’ largest city within the last ten years; while at the same time offering a critical stance on this too often market-driven mushrooming of initiatives dedicated to contemporary art. Particularly poignant is the section that the author dedicates to museums or public institutions, a rather young and uprooted system, which rests upon the same paradigms established in the private sector, which eventually sum up in the saleability of a work of art. Ustek leaves the reader with an unresolved dilemma and invites to keep our eyes wide open on the future developments of Istanbul’s contemporary art scene as she wonders: “If Istanbul is a new model for Europe or the next New York or London does not behold an answer, right now. It will all depend on the building up on its infrastructure and strengthening its relationship with the tradition of relating to art.” Especially the closing phrase reminds us of a recurrent risk which is shared by different cities or contexts which by means of a sudden eruption started investing and working towards the contemporary art system: The lack of a sedimented relationship to art production and exhibition could provoke a bubble which as fast and unexpected as it was created will one day eventually burst.

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