Fears over Istanbul Biennial
Organisers rethink plans to use Taksim Square and Gezi Park, sites of ongoing anti-government protests
By Gareth Harris and Cristina Ruiz. From Art Basel daily edition
Published online: 11 June 2013
The organisers of the Istanbul Biennial are reconsidering plans to use Taksim Square and Gezi Park, sites of ongoing anti-government protests, as venues for the 13th edition (“Mom, Am I Barbarian?”, 14 September-10 November). “We are still considering including [them]. However, it is too early to discuss the details,” says Fulya Erdemci, the curator of the biennial.
The unrest was sparked last month by a police crackdown on activists demonstrating against the planned redevelopment of Gezi Park, which was cited as a possible location in a statement released by the biennial earlier this year. The Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is determined to press ahead with the controversial scheme, which includes rebuilding an Ottoman-era military barracks in the area.
The organisers stress that the biennial will go ahead despite the dissent, which has spread to the Turkish capital, Ankara, and the southern city of Adana. Erdemci says the event “will take place as planned, though we are also taking on board what is happening [in Istanbul]”. However, some participating artists, who prefer to remain anonymous, fear that the biennial could be cancelled.
The dealer Kerimcan Güleryüz, who runs the Istanbul-based Empire Project gallery, says: “Things should get really interesting when the biennial starts. I expect to see a lot of works influenced by the uprising; police violence should be in the forefront.” His father, the high-profile artist Mehmet Güleryüz, was caught up in the violence.
As with the Arab Spring, the uprising has sparked a flood of graffiti art. “There is a remarkable visual and linguistic outburst. No institution could contain or harness that experience,” says Vasif Kortun, the research director of Istanbul’s non-profit Salt gallery.
Sandy Angus, the co-founder of a new art fair, ArtInternational Istanbul, which is due to launch in September, says he is “confident the current problems will be resolved”.
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