Istanbul Biennial 2011

Istanbul Biennial 2011

(September 15, 2011) Christina Dideriksen for COMPANY

You’ve done Venice and Miami is already on your calendar; maybe it is time for a fall trip to the Middle East. It might seem an unlikely destination, but with all the political and social upheaval in the region, art is flourishing. 

Did this summer's popular exhibition in the Iraq Pavilion at the Venice Biennale perk your interest?   Plenty more is headed our way. The third incarnation of Abu Dhabi Art opens this November, Art Dubai will launch its fifth edition in March, and this Saturday marks the opening for the 12th Istanbul Biennial.

The Istanbul Biennial hosts five group exhibitions and more than 50 solo presentations. At today’s opening ceremony chairman of the İKSV board, Bülent Eczacıbaşı, put it best as he said, “At the beginning of the 2000s, the number of private museums in our city could be counted on one hand; now we count them by the dozens. Moreover, the number of exhibitions taking place in Istanbul, home to more than 100 art galleries, is rising steadily every year. This increase in the production and consumption of art over the last decade fills us with hope for what we can achieve in the decade ahead.”

Curators Jens Hoffmann and Adriano Pedrosa have put together an impressive collection of artists from around the globe. If you do make it to Istanbul before November, we hope you seek out some of them.

I’m particularly interested in Kutluğ Ataman: Mesopotamian Dramaturgies. The first cycle of the series was supported by Turkey's Vehbi Koç Foundation and was previously exhibited in Rome. "Mayhem" initiates the second cycle of the series:

In this recent phase on the path of reflection he follows, Ataman points out that not only are individuals and communities constructs, but geography and history are also. They are all fabricated, re-shaped and reincarnated from within themselves....Mesopotamian Dramaturgies revisits the recent history of this geography—the "cradle of civilizations" that has witnessed the birth of many cultures and nations—to focus on Turkey's adventure in modernization and the dichotomies between the Orient and the Occident, modernity and tradition, global and local. Mesopotamian Dramaturgies explores the difficulties in creating spaces for negotiation and transcending these dualities particularly in a geography where relationship with modernity is infused with tension. Ataman defines Mesopotamia as a gray zone where the formulas developed in the so-called "centres" are constantly transformed and blurred and he revisits the highly charged history of the region through his own artistic language that intertwines reality and fiction in a unique way.

Also on my radar is the Istanbul Modern’s exhibit “Dream and Reality: Modern and Contemporary Women Artists From Turkey” running through January. The exhibition title alone was enough to intrigue me, taken from a romance novel written in 1891 by Fatima Aliye and Ahmet Midhat. The novel Dream and Reality is written in two parts. The first, “Dream” was written by Fatima under the penname “A Woman,” while male author Ahmet’s “Reality” needed no penname. For an area of the world where women have historically been overlooked, this combination of unknown artists of the past and emerging artists of today should be fascinating. 

While you’re in the region, swing by Art Beat Istanbul the inaugural fair launches along side the Biennial. The fair will feature contemporary art galleries from Istanbul and beyond. 

 Not to be overlooked is artist, Ardan Özmenoğlu’s show, “I am not a Biennial Artist,” whose blunt title says it all. Arden interprets objects and icons that are part of traditional daily life and popular culture, and presents them to the audience with an irreverent eye. Arden also challenges the art system and the concept of being “a biennial artist.” Her inspiration? The letter of rejection she received for her application to Istanbul Biennial, now prominently on display. 

Keep up with the art of the Middle East with Art of the MidEast.com.

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