Contemporary Istanbul (September 14—17, 2017) is currently preparing for its 12th edition. The art fair, created by Chairman and Founder Ali Güreli, welcomed a new director last year, collector and art world aficionado Kamiar Maleki. Earlier this month, the 2017 fair’s participating galleries were announced, so we checked in with Maleki to learn more about what to expect this year and how Turkey stands out in the global art market.
WHITEWALL: You recently announced the list of participating galleries for the fair. Can you share some of the highlights from that list?
KAMIAR MALEKI: For the 12th edition of the Contemporary Istanbul, we wanted to bring in the best galleries of the region, and the best internationally. Every gallery brings its own dimension to the fair. We are extremely pleased with this initial list that is by no means completed. New galleries exhibiting with us are, for example, Victoria Miro from London (who is bringing in a strong presentation), Mihai Nicodim from the U.S. and Romania, Plan B from Romania and Germany. Also, we should talk about galleries like 1957 from Ghana and Smac from South Africa that will be participating for the first time. You can now see that this is a true international art fair.
WW: Who are the up-and-coming galleries and fair first-timers we should know of?
KM: Flowers Gallery, 1957, Smac, Vigo, Maximilian Willian, Vigo Gallery, Sophia Contemporary, Victoria Miro, Setareh Gallery, Gazelli Art House, Archeus Post Modern, amongst many more.
WW: What can we expect from the 12th edition? Is there any new programming or focus for this year?
KM: Our aim is to create a new DNA for Contemporary Istanbul to establish itself into its second decade. This year we have teamed up with Tabanlioglu Architects, which is the best architect group in Turkey, to bring to you a new and incredibly original look and feel to the fair. Together with our team, we aim to show you a part of Istanbul that is not open to just tourists. We have collaborations with Berlin, where we will be having sculpture parks within the city of Istanbul, and are creating tailor-made experiences and events for our visitors. During the same week, Ai Weiwei will have an exhibition in Sakıp Sabancı Museum.
WW: Late last year you were named director of the fair. What have you enjoyed thus far in joining the organization?
KM: You appreciate the work that goes behind the scene of organizing an art air. The work galleries do and everyone involved in planning and strategizing. As a collector, sometimes you are unaware of the effort that really goes behind the scenes to set up a fair or the work galleries do to attend a fair.
I have enjoyed becoming a diplomat for the city and country. I have taken over an already 11-year established fair and I have been very grateful for Mr. Gureli, the founder and chairman, to allow me to instill my vision on the fair, and together, hopefully, we will put Istanbul back on the map of must-visit places on the global art calendar.
WW: How has the political turmoil in Istanbul affected the city’s art community, and its relationship with the international art market?
KM: Of course we cannot deny that Istanbul has faced a very difficult year, but sadly, this is not just a local problem. This is a global problem. The political landscape has changed everywhere. What this does, however, is it makes us work harder for the city and community. Our aim is to collaborate with institutions, galleries, and even the biennial, to create a big moment of culture in Istanbul throughout this week full of art.
Collectors still travel to international fairs, but it is for the collectors based in Istanbul that we also want to make good art more accessible for.