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When in Istanbul. . .


Sept. 14 

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The art world's moveable feast takes up residence in Istanbul this week, as the opening of the 12th Istanbul Biennial, Sept. 17-Nov. 13, 2011, corresponds with the launch of a new art fair, Art Beat Istanbul, Sept. 14-18, 2011. Also on the schedule are the inauguration of several new galleries. Rampa Istanbul presents an exhibition of works by Ergin Çavuşoǧlu; art dealer and curator Suzanne Egeran opens Galeri Manâ, a two-story contemporary art space in the Topphane gallery district; and Kerimcan Güleryüz, a founder of X-ist gallery, unveils The Empire Project, a nonprofit devoted to showing Turkish contemporary art. Plus more.

12th Istanbul Biennial, “Untitled,” 2011
Sept. 17-Nov. 13, 2011
Art and politics is the theme of the 12th Istanbul Biennial, which promises to present artworks that are both formally innovative and politically outspoken. It takes as its point of departure the work of the Cuban American artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres (1957–1996), whose work was able to “integrate high modernist, minimal and conceptual references with themes of everyday life.” The festival, which is organized by Jens Hoffmann and Adriano Pedrosa, embraces Gonzalez-Torres’ idea that the world can be made a better place, and that art can be a catalyst for change.

To paraphrase Gonzalez-Torres, the 12th Istanbul Biennial is “Untitled” because meaning is always changing in time and space. The biennial consists of five group exhibitions and more than 50 solo presentations, all housed in a single venue, Antrepo 3 and 5 exhibition halls. Each of the group shows (“Untitled (Abstraction),” “Untitled (Ross),” “Untitled (Passport),” “Untitled (History)” and “Untitled (Death by Gun)”) departs from a specific work by Gonzalez-Torres. Visitors are encouraged to become active readers, not just silent recipients.

Participating artists, whose names have still not been officially released, include Allora & Calzadilla, Kutlug Ataman, Mark Bradford, Tom Burr, Matt Collishaw, Claire Fontaine, Mona Hatoum, Ernesto Neto, Rivane Neuenschwander, Raymond Pettibon, Mungo Thompson and Elmgreen and Dragset.

Art Beat Istanbul
Sept. 14-18, 2011
Launched to parallel the 12th Istanbul Biennial, Art Beat Istanbul is a new contemporary art fair organized by Turkish contemporary art mover and shaker Arhan Kayar. The fair is designed as a platform for Istanbul’s vibrant art scene and an essential gathering point for collectors, artists and art professionals from across Turkey, the Middle East, Europe, the U.S. and beyond.

In its first year, Art Beat Istanbul presents 27 galleries, including 44A, Artsumer, Galerist, Soda and X-ist, at the Lüfti Kirdar Convention and Exhibition Center. The fair includes a dedicated project space, where galleries will present installation work, and a prestigious talks and events program. Almost 40 artists are lined up for project spaces, including Haluk Akakçe, Tracey Emin and Bjørn Melhus.

Rampa Istanbul
Rampa Istanbul, one of the largest galleries in Istanbul, was opened last year by the leading Turkish art patrons Arif and Leyla Tara Suyabatmaz. The new exhibition, which has just opened, is by the Bulgaria-born, London-based artist Ergin Çavuşoǧlu and called “Alterity,” Sept. 12-Nov. 5, 2011.

Galeri Manâ
London-based art advisor and curator Suzanne Egeran (a 1994 grad of Barnard College) opens Galeri Manâ in Istanbul with a pair of solo exhibitions by Nasan Tur and Lewis Baltz. Other artists included in the gallery program are Kutlug Ataman, Mel Bochner, Diana Al Hadid and Tamar Halpern.  

The Empire Project
A new nonprofit space devoted to Turkish contemporary art, The Empire Project in Istanbul debuts with “Human,” a group show including works by Rasha Kahil, Halil Koyutürk, Sean Lee, Manolo Menéndez, Gözde Türkkan and Gökşin Varan. The Empire Project is founded by Kerimcan Güleryüz, the ownerof X-ist, one of Istanbul’s top contemporary art galleries.

Borusan Contemporary
The new Borusan Contemporary opens on Sept. 17, 2011, in a 100-year-old building called in Turkish “Perili” -- the “Haunted Mansion.” The inaugural presentation features selections from the collection of more than 600 artworks belonging to Borusan Holdings, a Turkish conglomerate that started collecting in the 1980s. The space is currently open on weekends only.

The nonprofit exhibition space SALT – "salt" means "simple" or "clear" in Turkish – was founded in 2006, when Garanti Bank combined into one organization its three existing art institutions, the Platform Garanti Contemporary Art Center, the Ottoman Bank Museum, and the Garanti Gallery. Three shows open this month in conjunction with the Istanbul Biennial: "Becoming Istanbul," "90," and "The Making of Beyoǧlu," Sept. 13-Dec. 31, 2011.

Istanbul Museum of Modern Art
The seven-year-old Istanbul Museum of Modern Art, opened in 2004 in a converted warehouse in Tophane on the Bosporus, presents the ambitious exhibition, “Dream and Reality, Modern and Contemporary Women Artists from Turkey,” Sept. 16, 2011-Jan. 22, 2012. The show is organized by curators Fatmagül Berktay, Levent Çalikoǧlu, Zeynep İnankur and Burcu Pelvanoǧlu, who promise an exhibition that “offers a new, alternative perspective on the sociocultural history of Turkey.” Approximately 80 artists are included.

Galerie Zilberman
Founded in 2008 by Moiz Zilberman in the Mysyr Apartment Building, Istanbul’s “gallery center,” Galerie Zilberman is presenting “Ping Pong” by the Baghdad-born, Helsinki-based artist Adel Abidin. The video installation shows two players “in an endless, heated match” with a nude woman as outsider and victim. One of the artists in the Iraq pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennale, Abidin has showed in New York at Location One and White Box, and at Anne De Villepoix in Paris.

“That’s Fucking Awesome,” a ten-year retrospective of MentalKlinik, “an infamous duo from Istanbul,” i.e. Yasemin Baydar and Birol Demir, opens as a “pop-up” show at the Haskoy Yarn Factory. The show is organized by Jerome Sans, curator of the Ullens Center in Beijing. The question asked: “Are you ready to become their patient?”

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