After 2018 in Contemporary Art
We are again leaving behind a year full of interesting exhibitions, sensational events and impressive records both in Turkey and in the world. As an annual Art50.net tradition, we asked some of the most distinguished members of our art community their top art events of the year and their expectations from 2019.
İnci Aksoy, Ekav Foundation, Ekavarttv Founding Director
In my opinion, it would be most appropriate to start talking about the top global art events of 2018 from Banksy who has recently been in the headlines rather often. Once the work titled The Girl with the Red Balloon was sold at 1.4 million pounds at the auction, it destroyed itself. Thanks to this scandal, we saw once more the genius of this successful artist whose identity is still a mystery to us. Another event was the sale of David Hockney’s work at 90.3 million dollars, the highest amount ever paid for the work of a living artist. This can be interpreted as an indication of how the art market is able to generate profits for the future.
As an important new media artist from Turkey, Refik Anadol’s installation at the Walt Disney Concert Hall covering this iconic building’s façade with images from the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra’s digital archives and the successful presentation of such a large-scale project by a young artist like him was a source of pride in the name of our country. Similarly, my favorite exhibition in 2018 in Turkey has been Refik Anadol’s solo exhibition “Melting Memories” taking place at the Pilevneli Gallery. Refik Anadol is a globally successful young artist capable of turning any kind of data into visual wonders. Moreover, he has a particular importance for me, as I was the first collector to buy a work from his first exhibition seven years ago. I am happy that EKAV Foundation has a work by Refik Anadol in its collection.
I am sure 2019 will introduce us to the newest blessings of the super-speed technological developments. As we look at Istanbul’s culture and art calendar, we see that it has become comparable to several European cities with its traditionally established fairs, exhibitions and events like Contemporary Istanbul. This is a very pleasing development both for the economy and for the culture and arts community. I wish Istanbul becomes a center for contemporary art alongside New York and London in the years to come.
Banu Çarmıklı, Collector and Art Writer
In my view, the first of the top three global art events of the year was the self-destruction of Banksy’s million-dollar painting following its sale. It will stay in our memories as an art historical moment and an example of clever advertising. The sale of David Hockney’s Pool with Two Figures was another of the most talked about art events of 2018. The sales price of the artwork sold at the Christie’s for 90 million dollars became the highest amount ever paid for the work of a living artist. On the other hand, this year Obama inaugurated his own portrait. The Barack and Michelle Obama portraits by the Afro-American artist Kehinde Wiley were among this year’s most talked about subjects as well.
I think the return of the gypsy girl mosaic to Turkey was the most important art event of the year in our country in terms of claiming back our cultural heritage. Seeing the missing parts of the Zeugma Mosaics coming back here and taking their place in the museum is a great source of joy. Another pleasing development was to learn that AKM (Atatürk Cultural Center) would become active again. Finally, 2018 was also the Year of Troy. Places in Çanakkale with important historical remains were literally invaded by foreign visitors throughout 2018.
My favorite exhibitions in Turkey were “Parajanov with Sarkis” at the Pera Museum, “The Russian Avant-garde” at the Sabancı Museum and several gallery exhibitions by young artists.
Regarding my expectations from 2019: I observe that artists are even more highly motivated and produce much better work during this difficult period. Many artists inaugurate exhibitions at important domestic and international art spaces. I think that in 2019, new projects will continue to happen one after another. Although the world is going through difficult times, I believe that with art’s power to unite and heal we will overcome everything.
Azra Tüzünoğlu, Pilot Gallery, Founding Director
I think the most important event of 2018 was the reflection of the #metoo movement in the art world. With this movement’s propagation, the works of several talented female artists in their middle ages who were not fully appreciated in their younger years, began to be featured in important museums and biennials, and perhaps for the first time. Of course I do not know if this is a short-term relief of consciousness, or the sign that we will be seeing more works by female artists at important institutions in the long run.
My favorite exhibition of 2018 was “Post Zang Tumb Tuuum. Art Life Politics: Italia 1918-1943.” taking place at Fondazione Prada in Milan. On the other hand, Christo-Jean Claude’s London Mastaba at the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park was the best public space project. The Tadao Ando show at Paris Centre Pompidou and the exhibitions at the Dutch and Swedish Pavillions of the Venice Architecture Biennale were among the successful projects of this year in architecture.
In 2019, I expect that the art events in our country can continue to happen.
Ömer Özyürek, Collector
For me, the top-three art events of 2018 in the world were the 16th Venice Architecture Biennale, the activities of the Cape Town Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art and Hilma af Klint’s exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum. The biennials in Venice have always been organizations with considerable influence on the developments in the art world. As my interest in art has an architectural focus, the Venice Architecture Biennale has always been very interesting for me, and again in this edition it was a great opportunity to see works by artists from all over the world that manifested strong architectural influences. On the other hand, the architecture of the Cape Town Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art inaugurated in late 2017 and establishing its place in the world’s art radar in 2018 is so exciting; it is almost breath taking. As a brilliant synthesis of the old and the new, this temple of art is one of the greatest examples of how art reaches everywhere in the world also thanks to its permanent contemporary art collection. Finally, Hilma af Klint’s ongoing exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum is absolutely mesmerizing. The artist who lived in 1862-1944 left a legacy paving the way for abstract, or even minimalist and geometric abstract art much earlier than legendary names like Kandinsky, Malevich and Mondrian. I could not visit it even if I wanted to so badly, but I tried to inform myself online about the exhibition and the works as much as I could.
Regarding Turkey, I think the top-three art events were the Füreya retrospective, Hakan and Banu Çarmıklı’s collection show and the Sabancı Museum’s “Russian Avant-garde” exhibition. Although it was inaugurated in late 2017, the Füreya exhibition had a deep influence on me with the way it revived an almost forgotten artist and gave it the public attention it deserved. The Çarmıklı collection show, on the other hand, was very valuable as a family devoted to art chose not to keep their collection to themselves but to share it with the public. The project illustrated that a collection was not exclusively composed of paintings, that a great collection could be built even almost with no paintings and, perhaps most importantly, that there was a common theme behind the entire collection that they themselves established and remained loyal to. Finally, Sabancı Museum has been organizing exhibitions introducing us to globally famous artists for years, and offer the viewers the opportunity to see in Istanbul the works of those names that they could perhaps never have the chance to see again. Similarly, this year they organized an outstanding exhibition featuring Russian Avant-garde artists. One cannot get enough of it; I will visit it at least a few more times.
In 2019, I expect contemporary art production to continue. The recession we have been experiencing in the art market in recent years might continue for a while. Yet I feel that artists have come to terms with this situation and returned to their productive phase, leaving behind those difficult times that bothered them for the last few years. In the coming five-year period starting from 2019, I expect that art will begin to receive growing attention again. I am also excited and hopeful thanks to the upcoming inaugurations of both Koç Museum and Eskişehir Odunpazarı Modern Museum if everything goes as planned.
Ayşegül Sönmez, Writer
I think the top global event of 2018 was Jay-Z and Beyoncé’ shooting their video at the Louvre. I interpreted it as a critique of Colonialism and a request for the writing of a new art history. I even wrote a detailed article on this subject in Cumhuriyet newspaper. Another such event was the reference the defense attorney Tora Pekin made to Oscar Wilde’s The Ballad of Reading Gaol in his final defense speech during the Cumhuriyet trial.
In Turkey, the exhibition of the year was “The Universe Flickers” ongoing at Salt Beyoğlu. For the first time, Salt hosted an event that eroded its status as an exhibition space. The exhibition’s relationship to the memory of the space was unique; I had never remembered this strongly that the place was once a residential building. I could not leave the exhibition!
My expectation from 2019 is to see all the imprisoned intellectuals free.
Beyza Boynudelik, Artist
I assume this year’s most talked about art event in the world has been Banksy’s auction show. Although half of the work was destroyed by the paper-cutting mechanism that became active the moment it was sold, the real question was whether this act was a reaction to the auction sales, or a desire to become part of the history of auctions with a new scandal. Moreover, as much as I could follow from digital publications, the 33rd São Paulo Biennial in Brazil stood out among several high-quality biennials and festivals that took place this year. Spreading its message with the motto “turn off the auto mode”, the biennial intended to encourage people to go out and participate to life instead of watching it from static telephone or computer screens. For me, this attitude that we can interpret as a reaction against the approaching dystopian future, put this biennial to a different place compared to others. Among large-scale exhibitions, the highlight was the Bruce Nauman retrospective with two parts taking place at the MoMA, New York due to end in 2019. This show where we witnessed the artist’s journey starting from the 60s, focused on the body and the language and the artist’s technical drawing side that remained secondary. What made this retrospective important for me was that it offered such a broad narrative scope about recent art history. Finally, I think the movie At Eternity’s Gate by Julian Schnabel, starring Willem Dafoe as Van Gogh earned its place in the history of cinema as well as of the art events in 2018, as a successful work offering a non-cliché perspective on Van Gogh.
One of the top art events in Turkey was the addition of Göbeklitepe in Şanlıurfa to Unesco World Heritage List. Considered “history’s ground zero”, Göbeklitepe is in fact the strongest evidence for the validity of the definition “the cradle of civilizations” often used in reference to these lands. Another top event was the death of Ara Güler; his productivity, his colorful personality, the quality of the images he left behind and his testimony of the world art history as well as to our social history, make this loss quite important, as it marks the end of an era in photography. The third is the completion of AKM’s demolition. This place that witnessed our artistic and social history at least as much as our personal histories is associated with mixed emotions in each and every one of us. We are all waiting impatiently to see the substituting space, the events it will host and the symbolisms it will entail. In addition, there have been several impressive exhibitions in the country. From Base at Galata Greek School as an opportunity for the newly graduates to the exhibitions of Canan and Can Aytekin at Arter; from Başak Bugay’s exhibition at the Milli Reasürans Art Gallery to “A Day at Hotel” assembled by Erinç Seymen and Pilevneli’s recently inaugurated selection in Mecidiyeköy, 2018 was quite satisfying for the viewers. But my favorite was Nermin Er’s show at Galeri Nev.
What everyone already says about 2019 is that in terms of economy, it will be harder on us compared to 2018. This means that maintaining their studio spaces and preserving their living standards will be even harder for the artists. On the other hand, we see the opening of as many new galleries as those closing down. Despite this unpredictable and half-dark picture, we all have upcoming projects and exhibition programs, and our enthusiasm for production and new experiments lives on. It seems like the artists will continue to adopt an organizational structure based on collective awareness and collaboration as they did in 2017 and 2018. We need to stay united to sustain our motivation. Although economic challenges are there, I have no doubt high-quality works will continue to emerge. On top of that, there are too many newly graduated artists. Perhaps the solution lies in turning one’s face to both domestic and international art spheres.
Genco Gülan, Artist
In my opinion, the most important art event of 2018 was the simultaneous demolition of AKM and Istanbul Modern buildings in spring. As I already expressed in my article “The Magnificent Downfall of Modernism”, this became a milestone in the history of Turkish Modernization. Now we have to focus on the upcoming matches.
My solo exhibition “Flying Paintings” taking place at Antonina Art Gallery in the fall of 2018 has been nominated as the exhibition of the year. With this marathon-like project where all works travelled to four continents and more than twenty countries, we were able to realize a series of firsts in the name of art. I want to thank once more everyone who contributed to the project’s realization.
In 2019, I expect the International Space Station to open its gates to art and the artists.
Aylin Seçkin, Academician
In my view, the first top global art event of 2018 was the sale of Jenny Saville’s Propped, a work first shown in 1992 at a graduation exhibition in Edinburgh, at almost 10 million pounds going well above the estimated 3-4 million pounds on October 5th at the Sotheby’s contemporary art auction in London. Saville entered the Saatchi Collection in 1994 and participated to the “Young British Artists” exhibitions alongside Sarah Lucas and Damien Hirst. The second event is the remote-triggered self-destruction of Banksy’s The Girl with the Red Balloon after its sale at over 1 million pounds at the same auction. Although I could not make sense of it at first as one of the people in the room that evening, most people in the market were already sharing Banksy’s genius all over social media. We all talked about it a lot and I do not know exactly why. Yet knowing that the Art Newspaper critique Roberta Smith was also uncomfortable about this frame-up was a relief. Finally, the most outstanding exhibitions of 2018 were the New Museum’s Sarah Lucas show, Whitney Museum’s Andy Warhol show, Paris Fondation Louis Vuitton’s Basquiat exhibition and São Paulo Art Museum’s “Afro-Atlantic Histories”, an exhibition about slavery.
In Turkey, the restoration of the Old Liquor Factory and its emergence as a new 5000-square meter exhibition space for Pilevneli Gallery was crucial; it currently stands out as Turkey’s largest gallery space. The building’s Art Deco style is an architectural beauty in its own right. Another important event for Turkey was the exhibition of works by Ipek Duben from Pi Artworks at Frieze London in “Social Work”, a special section dedicated to the works of eight female artists. The panel organized with the same title at the Frieze Talks received a lot of public attention as well. The participating galleries and their featured artists were ACA Galleries, New York & Weiss Berlin with Faith Ringgold; Apalazzogallery, Brescia with Sonia Boyce; England & Co., London with Tina Keane; Pippy Houldsworth, London with Mary Kelly; Galerie Lelong & Co. New York with Nancy Spero; Pi Artworks, London with İpek Duben; Richard Saltoun Gallery, London with Helen Chadwick and Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town with Berni Searle. In addition, the Çarmıklı collection exhibition “First Round” was an interesting endeavor as it was the first time such a collection appeared with such a broad selection at an exhibition space open to the public. The event that took place in March 6-12 at the Galata Greek School featured over 100 works in various disciplines that allowed us a multi-layered reading of the latest period of the local contemporary art scene.
In 2018, my favorite exhibitions in Turkey were Erkut Terliksiz’s show at x-ist and Refik Anadol’s show at the Pilevneli Gallery.
In 2019, I highly anticipate projects by young artists’ initiatives and the Mamut Art Project contest exhibition. There also a series of young artists who will have their second exhibitions this year. The Turkish Pavillion at the Venice Biennale featuring İnci Eviner and the 16th Istanbul Biennial curated by Montpellier Contemporain’s Director Nicolas Bourriaud with the theme “Seventh Continent” are other art events I will be excitedly waiting for. Finally, my Auction Simulation project that was tested for the first time in the world at Bilgi University Auction Lab will develop further in 2019 and will reach a larger number of art enthusiasts.
Kültigin Kağan Akbulut, Writer
I think the most important art event of 2018 in Turkey was our witnessing of the art institutions shaking themselves off and having to think about everything from scratch in the face of the economic crisis. At first, this seems to be a negative thing. However, realizing that the golden days are over and that new tactics need to be invented is extremely important. This year, we genuinely began to think about workshops, small-scale exhibitions, initiatives and new publishing strategies. In my view, we will be doing even more so in the years to come.
Of course, this year there have been some exciting exhibitions too. But sadly, I think nothing happened that opened up new horizons, that we may later remember as “there was such and such exhibition in 2018”. In my opinion, this is because many people pulled themselves back culturally.
I expect and hope that in 2019 routines get broken and new initiatives are born.