If you happen to be in Istanbul today, and are wondering what to do, drop by Contemporary Istanbul. Even if the venue is not quite right for the subject matter the selection of talent and work is something special. It’s especially encouraging to see contemporary Turkish art take its place right next to international artists without any dissonance. I’ve been a little distracted (in a good way) the last couple of years, so I haven’t had much chance to monitor what was going on art-wise locally to the extent I’d like to so it was particularly nice to bump into friends and artists like Emel Kurhan and Ahmet Polat, both of whom are enjoying international success. It’s particularly interesting to view art with other artists and discuss the work without pretence. It’s a fair, which means it’s every bit as much about transaction and collection as it is appreciation.
As art is incredibly subjective, there’s always a certain amount that could be described as grotesque and cynical and exploitative. However, there’s at least as much if not more that is incredibly thoughtful, provocative and beautifully executed. The problem with such an event is that it’s on such a scale that it can become overwhelming and make you wonder if you’ve seen enough. After a few hours your head starts to whirl and your eyes begin to burn. That wasn’t a problem, however, when I saw my friend Ahmet Polat’s work. I’m clearly unable to separate the artist from his work, but just as I began to worry that too much of the work was distant and cerebral, I saw some of the work excerpted from his book and exhibition Kemal’s Dream. One print was of a father kissing his daughter goodbye through the window of a bus. Something in me just popped. That’s the final image that stays with me. The feeling captured in this print overpowered me and made me understand what I appreciate in art — sincere storytelling that makes us realize what we live for and what we need to share.