15th Istanbul Biennial
Notes from the 15th Istanbul Biennial press conference held on September 12, 2017:
The 15th edition of the Istanbul Biennial will start on September 16, welcoming all art enthusiasts on a free entrance basis. Thanks to IKSV’s funding, 30 of the 56 participating artists produced new works for the biennial that is also celebrating its 30th anniversary. Referring to the biennial as “a liberal creative platform and a breathing space for artists and art enthusiasts alike”, Bülent Eczacıbaşı, the President of IKSV, added that their efforts were directed towards “creating the ideal conditions so that intercultural dialogues can emerge and cultures can freely interact”.
Speaking on behalf of Koç Holding, the biennial’s main sponsor since 2007, the President Ömer M. Koç emphasized the biennial’s steady audience growth: “in the years our sponsorship started, the biennial’s audience was expressed in tens of thousands; but since 2013, also thanks to our growing support, it reached four hundred thousand”. He continued that, as Koç Group, they considered arts and culture to be one of the most important elements of social development, and touching upon the biennial’s theme, “A Good Neighbor”, he said: “We live in a world where borders become more and more questionable every day, and in difficult times marked by increased war and tension. What we currently need most is to listen more carefully to the language of art that takes its strength from culture and universal values”.
The curators Elmgreen and Dragset made important remarks on the biennial’s theme as well. The duo emphasized that people’s ways of living together were different from and much richer than the relations between the governments and politicians representing them. Referring to the example of Trump’s wall project at the Mexican border, they added that both Turkey and the world at large were going through difficult times in terms of neighboring relations. Explaining that the artists who produced new works for the biennial visited Istanbul several times and reacted to its architectural and sociocultural texture, the curators observed that most people went to their childhood memories when asked about who the good neighbor was, where they found the ultimate peace and security. Consequently, the works that emerged tackled less macro-level subjects, focusing on the artists’ personal life experiences.
On the other hand, Zeyno Pekünlü, the Coordinator of Public Programs, approached the theme from a more ecological point of view. She focused on the marine life in the seas surrounding Istanbul, its stray animals and trees. Pekünlü made the exciting announcement that this year’s program not only featured seminars but also events such as cooking sessions and music workshops that would allow the participants to interact.
15th Istanbul Biennial
The most anticipated art event of this fall is surely the 15th Istanbul Biennial curated by the famous artistic duo Elgreem & Dragset, taking place between September 16 and November 12 with the theme ‘A Good Neighbour’. Referred to by Newsweek as ‘one of the top 5 exhibitions of 2017 worth travelling for’ and by NY Observer as ‘one of the top 10 global art events of 2017’ the event is going to be free entrance thanks to Koç Holding’s sponsorship.
The Scandinavian curators Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset aim at studying how people with different identities and lifestyles approach belongingness and privacy departing from concepts of a good neighbour and home, with a particular emphasis on women and feminism. The international outdoor campaign that the biennial’s graphic designer Rupert Smyth realized in collaboration with the artists is also worthy of attention. The artworks exhibited on the billboards of cultural institutions from several countries in combination with 40 different questions on what a good neighbour is, examine the transformation the concepts of home and neighborhood went through all around the world. The biennial’s consulting committee is composed of Adriano Pedrosa, one of the event’s former curators, Curator Başak Şenova, Artist İnci Eviner, Whitechapel Gallery Director Iwona Blazwick and Curator Ute Meta Bauer.
The biennial extends to 6 different venues, namely Istanbul Modern, Pera Museum, Galata Greek Primary School, Ark Kültür, Küçük Mustafa Paşa Hamam and Artist’s Collective Studio (an artist studio rearranged for the event). The participant list with 55 artists from 32 countries is equally exciting. The participants from Turkey show great variety: a master like Candeğer Furtun; the internationally renowned artists Burçak Bingöl, Volkan Arslan and Ali Taptık; the young and emerging Gözde İlkin and Alper Aydın; dancer and performer Tuğçe Tuna; Yoğunluk artist collective; and Erkan Özgen and Bilal Yılmaz, artists based in Turkey’s more peripheral locations.
International highlights include Olaf Metzel with his sculptures and installations on public space; Monica Bonvicini with her multidimensional works on surveillance, power relations and gender, also known with her stairs in chains at Istanbul Modern and considered one of the artists with the best career performance of the last two decades; Louise Bourgeois, who became an icon in feminist art history with her sculpture, Mother; Berlinde De Bruyckere with her sculptures on human body, life and pain; Adel Abdessemed, questioning the notions of violence, terror and state with happenings around daily objects; and Xiao Yu, one of the rising stars of contemporary art in Asia.
The public program under Zeyno Pekünlü’s coordination will offer the art enthusiasts an opportunity to participate to talks and workshops on the biennial’s common theme.