In search of Istanbul: Turkish contemporary art comes to MAK Vienna – picture feast

The MAK brought contemporary works from Istanbul to Vienna as Turkish art continues to assert its European presence.

“Signs Taken in Wonder: Searching for Contemporary Istanbul”, ran from 22 January to 21 April 2013, at the MAK Exhibition Hall, Vienna. The first comprehensive overview of Turkish art in Austria, the exhibition provided a glimpse of the Istanbul art scene and its connections to Europe.

Murat Gök, 'Border (Hammok)', 2010. Image courtesy the artist and PİLOT Gallery.

Murat Gök, ‘Border (Hammok)’, 2010. Image courtesy the artist and PİLOT Gallery.

According to online magazine Domus, Signs Taken in Wonder” included works that reflected upon the city of Istanbul, and provided a snapshot of contemporary art production in the context of the city. The exhibition, which focused on the subject of narration in contemporary art, included the work of 33 Turkish and international artists born between the 1930s and the 1980s who have been inspired by Istanbul.

Yeşim Akdeniz, 'you & me (villa malaparte)', 2008. Image courtesy Rıdvan Bayrakoğlu.

Yeşim Akdeniz, ‘you & me (villa malaparte)’, 2008. Image courtesy Rıdvan Bayrakoğlu.

The display included painting, sculpture, installation, photography and video, echoing MAK’s mission of creating dialogue and exchange between various disciplines, such as applied art, design, architecture and the visual arts. The exhibition was accompanied by an educational programme, including film screenings, exhibition tours, panel discussions, artist talks and workshops.

Cevdet Erek, 're-Illumination', 2013. Exhibition view, MAK Vienna. Image courtesy MAK and Katrin Wißkirchen.

Cevdet Erek, ‘re-Illumination’, 2013, exhibition view MAK Vienna. Image courtesy MAK and Katrin Wißkirchen.

Snapshot of Istanbul art

A site-specific installation by 2012 Nam June Paik awardee Cevdet Erek formed the centrepiece of “Signs Taken in Wonder”, exploring the metaphorical meanings of daylight and architecture, according to the exhibition press release. Istanbul-born Emre Hüner also chose to work with installation, contributing his work A Little Larger than the Entire Universe (2012), a mixed media work bringing together found objects and original work which was recently shown at Manifesta 9 in Belgium.

Cengiz Çekil, 'Tanned Jackets', 1994. Image courtesy Cengiz Çekil.

Cengiz Çekil, ‘Tanned Jackets’, 1994. Image courtesy Cengiz Çekil.

Female artists Füsun Onur and CANAN provided a feminist perspective to art practice in Turkey, showing works which combined traditional means of production such as textile and ceramic decoration with contemporary media like video.

Füsun Onur, 'Miracle (Symphonic Poem)', 2013, exhibition view, MAK Vienna. Image courtesy MAK and Katrin Wißkirchen.

Füsun Onur, ‘Miracle (Symphonic Poem)’, 2013, exhibition view, MAK Vienna. Image courtesy MAK and Katrin Wißkirchen.

Art transcending borders

In exhibiting Turkish and international artists whose works are thematically connected, “Signs Taken in Wonder” highlighted the recognition that the Turkish art scene has been gaining internationally in the past few years. Berlin-based Tanas gallery, dedicated to showcasing Turkish contemporary art, opened its doors in 2008, and institutions such as Centre Pompidou and the Tate Modern house works by renowned Turkish artists like Hale Tenger and Selma Gürbüz, respectively. London auction house Sotheby’s has dedicated an entire sales category to Turkish contemporary art since 2009.

Halil Altındere, 'Homage to Serge Gainsbourg', 2005. Image courtesy PİLOT Gallery.

Halil Altındere, ‘Homage to Serge Gainsbourg’, 2005. Image courtesy PİLOT Gallery.

A growing art scene

Denizhan Özer, artistic director of the Art Bosphorus Contemporary Art Fair, told the Hurriyet Daily News that “the perception and understanding of contemporary art is growing in Turkey as well as throughout the world“. In-country events such as the newly launched All Arts Istanbul and the established Contemporary Istanbul aim to “put Istanbul onto the international art fair circuit” and introduce a new generation of collectors to contemporary Turkish art, according to The Art Newspaper. The Istanbul Biennial has built an international cultural network since 1987, and the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art has supported contemporary Turkish art since 2004. Upcoming private galleries and art spaces such as the Sakıp Sabancı Museum, Arter and SALT have been attracting attention to art.

Watch the video to get an overview of “Signs Taken in Wonder: Searching for Contemporary Istanbul”, from The New Contemporary on Vimeo.

“Signs Taken in Wonder”  included the work of


Related Topics: Turkish contemporary art, contemporary art events in Istanbul, art world trends - Asia expands

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