On Collecting and Legal Aspects of Art Market in Turkey with Mehmet Ali Bakanay
Mehmet Ali Bakanay is a law practitioner, collector and one of the consultants of Art International. In addition to being active in the artworld as an artlover and collector, he has the opportunity to closely watch legal aspects of the art market. We had a fun conversation with Bakanay on topics ranging from his art collection to the artists he follows, from existing cultural laws in Turkey to the art world ecosystem. Bakanay’s point of views on art and the legal aspects of the art world will be intrigue the art lovers. Happy reading!
You lead a wide-ranging lifestyle that includes both art and law. Could you briefly tell us about yourself? How did your interest in art came about?
After completing my masters degree in New York University (NYU) law school, I completed my Ph.D. in Law Faculty of Amsterdam in the subject of copyrights and brand patent law. Currently, I am one of the partners of an international law firm. Moreover, I am on the board of directors of a group of communication companies called Rekigroup. I am also a member of art jurisprudence Platform in International Bar Association. For two years now, I am on the board of directors of Art International Fair. (AI)
I have been buying pictures, drawings and prints of my favorite artists starting from an early age. Or I would ask my family to give these to me as present. Eventually, as I got older, this started to transform into a more conscious collecting. Starting on 2005, I started buying in a more serious way.
What does your art collection signify for you? What are some of the artists you would like to add to your collection?
My collection expresses me in fact…In consists of certain excerpts from my life… That is why it is unique to me. It changes, develops…takes risks…it is highly dynamic.
I am rather interested in conceptual works. Generally I try to collect diptych works. Therefore, I follow conceptual artists. I can give you many names that I would like to add to my collection, but examples from the most recent artists I follow would be Meiro Koizumi and Yang Ah Ham. In particular, their video works interest me.
In your busy schedule how much time are you able to set aside for art? Are there any art events that you do not miss? What are some of the publications you follow?
I set aside quite some time for art…but this happens organically, on its own. I read, research and see, of course.
In general, I do not miss the exhibitions of the galleries I follow, be it in Turkey or abroad… Every year I get invited to Rijks Academy Open Studio… I try to visit Amsterdam especially for this. I follow the scene in Far East…Korea and Taiwan in particular. I attend fairs only if the artists I follow are participating in them… Otherwise, I do not visit fairs since they have a shopping mall-effect on me.
In Turkey, I definitely follow Depo, SALT, Arter and Rampa Gallery. In addition, I follow publications such as Yapı Kredi Publishing Sanat Dünyamız, Art Asia Pacific, Canvas, Art in America and various online media.
Your support of the young artists is widely known. In your collection, you have a large number of works from young artists. In your opinion, why are young artists important? What can be done to support them?
I believe supporting young artists starts with buying their works. Buy the works you believe, trust, understand…that is the way that the market grows…There is no investing in art without buying.
Of course, being able to discover new talents gives a collector a great pleasure. Next to renown artists, I also buy the works of artists whose works I believe in, but have not yet enter the market. For me, what matters is the unity of the whole collection. Therefore I consider each work before buying. A good work becomes important for me. Especially, with young artists, I am able to follow the production process more closely and I can easily dive in to the process, so I enjoy it more. Mine maybe a selfish feeling.
What initiated you interest in the legal aspects of art? Has it always been an area you were interested in, or did it come about as an extension of your interest in art?
In fact, we can say that it was the absence of the execution of legal aspects of art. No, it was not something I have always been interested in…I guess it grew as an extension of my interest in art.
If we were to talk about the Turkish art market, what are some of the social, political and legal factors that prevent the market from growing? Are you taking an active role in the legal arrangements prepared for the growth of the market?
I believe that a consciousness of art is not yet fully established. The number of collectors in Turkey is increasing daily. Naturally, it is debatable what percent of this number is visionary and what percent is buying for investment purposes. The fact that the number is increasing is adding a value to Turkish Art in international platforms. Because the increasing number of collectors is helping the art market grow, which is a positive thing. I can give Charles Saatchi’s worldwide publicity about “Young British Artist”, or Peggy Guggenheim’s role in American Abstract Expressionism as examples in this case. I really hope that we can have such important and visionary collectors in Turkey as well.
It is a proven fact that art is an investment method, and a good investment method indeed. Therefore, it would be “naïve” for a collector to claim that s/he is not regarding collecting as an investment method. That is why, the subject that should be discussed is “what kind of an art” we are investing in. This is what determines the expertise and vision of a collector. Because the artists direct the history of art, the artists who create with faith despite everything and everyone. And it is the protectors of art, patrons or collectors who carry them to this day by “taking the risk” of believing in them. That is the reason why it is imperative for a collector to create his/her own vision when collecting. One should follow new art institutions. Because to understand the changes in art and be able to follow it and to have a vision that is always up to date is only possible through these. Without attaining such a vision, I do not think it is possible to catch the future. The corporate collections in Turkey have taken very important and pioneering steps in this context. I hope we see such developments in private collections as well and that it would be possible to prevent similar collections form forming.
From Bakanay Collection: Hera Büyüktaşçıyan (installationOn the other hand, one of the important topics is the regulation of execution of royalty right for artists. The law of Intellectual and Artistic Property is sadly a very outdated law. The works of art are defined as “Fine Arts”. However, in contemporary arts mediums vary so widely that this definition is no longer adequate. So, what is not defined as fine art according to the existing law will not be protected?
Moreover, there are some problems regarding insurance laws… It is still problematic to insure an installation in Turkey. For example, will the insurance value of an installation made with chewing gum equal to the cost of the gum?
In fact, professional groups as well as laws are very important. Making them work legally will be one of the greatest supports for art in Turkey. There many political prohibitions, the main one of which is censorship…that is a separate and long discussion topic in itself.
For a while now in Turkey, there have been many good collections formed by corporations. Most of them are making useful contributions to art from different perspectives. I think it is vital to increase the number of corporate collections in Turkey. New and right formations about this would always be useful.
First piece you acquired: My first work of art was an ink piece from Abidin Dino’s Istanbul series that was given to me as a gift by my grandmother who bought it from an auction house in France. It is fairly naïve work which still remains in my office. It does not have much to do with my current collection, but it matters to me.
The piece you would like to own the most: A work of art that I made for a competition in primary school. I received a degree for it but unfortunately it was lost after the exhibition.
The type of art that intrigues you: Conceptual art.
The meaning of art for you: Therapy.