Discover Contemporary Istanbul, the Art Fair Where East and West Meet

Courtesy Contemporary Istanbul
Courtesy Contemporary Istanbul
As Contemporary Istanbul opens for its 12th edition, we spoke with new fair director, Kamiar Maleki about what we can expect and why art fairs are important sites for supporting emerging talent as well as critical reflection.

Culture Trip (CT): How have you approached overseeing Contemporary Istanbul (CI) as its new director?

Kamiar Maleki (KM): It has been an amazing privilege to become the director of CI. When considering the history and culture of the city and the influence CI has had in creating, nurturing and building the art market in Turkey, it was important to put CI on the map in the regional sense but also to make us known internationally. This also applies to the art we bring in – I always wanted to retain a strong regional focus while also gathering some of the best art from around the world to make it more accessible for the Turkish art lover.

Entrance of Contemporary Istanbul 2017 designed by Tabanlıoğlu Architects © Freire Barnes/Culture Trip

We brought in the award winning Istanbul-based Tabanlıoğlu Architects to redesign the fair and introduced the CI Park as a new art experience. New media and technology play an important role in our fair and we are proud to continue working with our fabulous Turkish curators to bring in the best of the region.

The flow of the fair is important, the collectors and the galleries and the art they show are all vitally important. You will hopefully see a great improvement on an already amazing fair.

Mehmet Sinan Kuran, Fiftysixdoublezero, 2016 Courtesy the artist and Pg Art Gallery

CT: With a number of galleries participating in the fair for the first time, what can we expect from the 12th edition?

KM: I love working with galleries from the region and I am pleased to welcome a wide range of exhibiting galleries, such as: Plan B, Nicodim Gallery, INDA Galéria, and EASTWARDS PROSPECTUS; our first African galleries, SMAC Gallery and Gallery 1957; and other young project spaces by fiery and ambitious art managers like Maximillian William.

Contemporary Istanbul 2017 © Freire Barnes/Culture Trip

CT: Why did you want to incorporate an outdoor sculptural element?

KM: It is important to make great art more accessible to the Turkish public, not just for four days, but throughout the year. This was the brainchild of Professor Hasan Bülent Kahraman who used the design of Tabanlıoğlu Architects as his point of departure in designing the exhibition, titled The Fifth Element. We hope to do many more projects like this.

Murat Germen, Obscure Lucida, 2017 Courtesy of the artist and Mixer Arts

CT: Can you talk a little about the New-Media Section, Plugin, which spotlights the importance of technology?

KM: Curated by Ceren and Irmak Arkman for the third time, Plugin is now in its fifth year and is dedicated to new media art at the intersection of science and technology. This year, the curated exhibition is titled Natura Nova and examines conceptions of space, time and culture and the impact of digital technology, also aiming to speculate what the future may hold. We are excited to present work from participating artists, including: Félix Luque, Memo Akten, onformative, Ryoichi Kurokawa, Semiconductor, Joanie Lemercier, Lia, FIELD, Sougwen Chung, İdil İlkin, Aziz + Cucher and Quayola. There are also two talks in this year’s CI Dialogues programme dedicated to the topic of Art & Technology.

Ardan Özmenglu, Rihanna, 2017 Courtesy the artist and Siyah Beyaz Gallery

CT: Since the fair’s inception, how has it transformed over the years?

KM: It has started to showcase an increasingly high quality and variety of work and over the years we have tried to build it up to be one of the leading fairs in the world. There are many new developments this year for the fair’s 12th edition, such as the architectural design and CI Park by Tabanlıoğlu Architects, The Fifth Element outdoor sculpture exhibition and a wealth of new exhibiting galleries from around the world.

Contemporary Istanbul 2017 © Freire Barnes/Culture Trip

CT: What does it mean to host an international art fair in Turkey?

KM: Turkey is a unique and dynamic centre point between East and West, a historical country that incorporates trade, culture, and history. It is incredibly important for the region to be continuously represented through events such as CI, and the country alone will attract many tourists as it is a natural destination in itself.

Michelangelo Pistoletto, I1 Rispetto, 2016 Courtesy the artist and Galleria Continua. Photo: Philippe Servent

CT: In today’s current global climate, what role do you think the art fair can play?

KM: I like to call us cultural ambassadors for the city and, more widely, the country. We attract collectors and sponsors who will continuously invest in and bring much needed tourism to the region. We are here to support and nurture the art community and to boost the interest for many more people to come.

Contemporary Istanbul 2017 © Freire Barnes/Culture Trip

CT: How might CI challenge opinion of art and collecting?

KM: We aim to showcase a range of different art, from new media to sculpture, from interactive to virtual reality, and wish to introduce our Turkish art lovers to a great variety of art. The beauty of art is that it is in the eye of the beholder and it will always pose a challenge and hopefully promote healthy discussion.

Frances Goodman, Wide Eyed, 2017 Courtesy the artist and SMAC Gallery

CT: How does CI interact with Istanbul’s art scene?

KM: We want to be fully immersed in Istanbul’s art scene. In creating the week full of art this year, our aim is to create a moment of cultural significance which then stretches beyond this one week – I would love to broaden our CI Dialogues to continue throughout the year to introduce our public to various factors of collecting and even dealing with logistical issues. We want to attract more major museum shows, and in general make art more available and accessible to the public.

Contemporary Istanbul 2017 © Freire Barnes/Culture Trip

CT: After CI what would you recommend a first-time visitor to Istanbul experience?

KM: This week is full of art. We would recommend you to visit the Istanbul Biennial, of which this year’s theme is A Good Neighbour, curated by our friends Elmgreen and Dragset with IKSV’s backing. The Sakip Sabanci Museum is hosting Ai Weiwei for his first exhibition in this region. The Elgiz Museum will open an exhibition of highlights from the Elgiz collection and many other cultural institutions around the city will also be participating in this week full of art. Of course on top of these cultural events you have all the traditional tourist attractions of this beautiful city.

Contemporary Istanbul is on until Sunday September 17, 2017. Find more details here.