Guests at Contemporary Istanbul art fair.
Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer
Contemporary Istanbul’s (CI)15th edition, sponsored by Akbank, brings together leading galleries at the Lütfi Kırdar Convention and Exhibition Center with two days of VIP previews (May 4-5) followed by general admission (May 6-9). It is one of the premier annual art fairs in Turkey, situated at the meeting point of Europe and Asia in one of the great cities of the world, offering a platform for the city’s thriving art scene, growing art market and collector base, as well as serving as an access point to the best contemporary art from the wider region.
Notable for its unique position both geographically and culturally, it prides itself on bringing together galleries, artists and collectors from Turkey, the Caucasus, the Black Sea, Russia and the Middle East, as well as from Europe, America and Asia. The previous editions of CI had strong support from an international art audience of philanthropists, collectors and the public, strengthening the fair’s vision for a continued collaborative cultural arena in Istanbul. This fair addresses the healing power and seductive effect of contemporary art from a novel perspective, and will aim at cooperating with art institutions and galleries to deliver a sustainable art environment.
It focuses particularly on the creativity of Turkey’s art industry, with a special configuration dedicated to galleries from Turkey.
Propelled by the changing face of the reshaped art environment that has been altered due to the pandemic, and following the Virtual version in December 2020, CI is poised for the “Artist Day” (May 4-5), which will be celebrated with the staging of contemporary art performances, solo exhibitions and the works of all artists whose creations are exhibited by the galleries. Now in its 8th year, the digital and new media art Plug-in Istanbul section, will address the contemporary approaches to technology, science and art through the theme of “post-”. Ali Güreli, CI Chairman, commented on the 15th edition as follows: “Despite all the difficulties, Contemporary Istanbul continues on its way creating new opportunities. “In 2020, we launched Virtual Contemporary Istanbul, whilst our foundation, CIF, presented light art and digital art works for the first time in Istanbul with the support of IBB (Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality).
“In May, we will fulfill our responsibility to Istanbul and to the art market. The enthusiastic art environment that begins in May will be uniting, exciting and rejoiceful. We invite our artists, art galleries, academics, collectors and art enthusiasts to the 15th Contemporary Istanbul.” Virtual Contemporary Istanbul (VCI) was launched on December 21, 2020, and was live till January 6, 2021. Sponsored by Akbank, it was a step towards revolutionising the art fair model, with simulated tours and access to headline galleries and artists. Verified by global management consulting firm McKinsey & Co., Virtual CI was beta-tested by a pool of selected users including collectors, art enthusiasts and gallerists, that provided a seamless and tailored experience for art lovers and buyers.
The platform enabled visitors, galleries and artists to interact with each other, creating an opportunity for them to discuss their works with each other in a versatile and professional environment. Sponsored by Siemens Home Turkey curated by Esra Özkan, the Plug-in section, dedicated to digital and new media art, takes place this year with the participation of Ahmet Rüstem, Bevoid, Can Büyükberber, Ece Gözen, Enes Özenbaş & Ethem Cem, Hakan Sorar, Sofia Crespo H.o, Mert Kızılay & Hakan Gündüz, Maxim Zhestkov, Mario Klingemann, Nye Thompson, Onur Sönmez, Philipp Schmitt & Steffen weiß, Selin Balcı and Yonca Karakaş.
Other sponsors include leading automobile manufacturer Audi and the largest airline company in the world by number of passenger destinations, Turkish Airlines.
Güreli graduated from the Faculty of Business Administration at METU (Middle East Technical University, Ankara). He is the Founder and Chairman of Contemporary Istanbul, under whose leadership the fair has become one of Istanbul’s most prestigious art events. Preceding Contemporary Istanbul, he founded and was the chairman of the first contemporary art fair in Turkey, “Art Istanbul” (2001-2005). Also the founding partner of Istanbul Lütfi Kırdar International Convention and Exhibition Center (ICEC), he was its vice-chairman from 1993 to 2002 and played a key role in its management board.
One of the founders of TÜROB (Hotel Association of Turkey), he served as the President of the association from 1994 to 2001 and was the Board Member of The Marmara Hotels group (1989-2002). Currently the Chairman of the Board of The Sofa Hotels & Resorts, Board Member of The Turkish Tourism Investors Association (TYD) and Vice President of Entertainment and Cultural Services Committee of the Service Exporters Association (HIB), Güreli is also Executive Committee Member The Tourism Development and Education Foundation (TUGEV). It is his passion to enhance the position of Istanbul as a cultural and intellectual hub, where multiple dynamics embracing the Middle East and Europe converge. Under him, CI has expanded its global position and improved the international standing of both Turkish collectors and artists. Akbank has been supporting CI and been carrying out many projects in the field of arts and culture, through the years. CI, which introduces contemporary art to wider constituencies and occupies a primary position in the culture and art agenda has become, also thanks to the main sponsorship of Akbank, an art event of global resonance. Akbank has affirmed it will continue to support CI.
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