Contemporary fair animates the art sector in Ankara, the capital of Turkey

The seventh edition of ARTANKARA, an international contemporary art fair, was launched in the Turkish capital Ankara on March 29 with a preview, an awards ceremony and an opening concert. Hosting 107 art galleries and nearly 1,000 artists at the Ankara Congress, the fair will remain open to visitors until April 3.

After the coronavirus pandemic hit the art industry like many others, the market experienced a huge recession. The industry tried to avoid this recession through numerous activities and online platforms. Now, ARTANKARA supports the sector by organizing the first physical fair of 2021 in Turkey. Strict measures specified by the Ministry of Health, including disinfection and limiting the number of visitors, have been put in place for the show.

ARTANKARA is held at Ankara Congresium. (Photo by Dilara Aslan)

Many important personalities, including Deputy Minister of Culture and Tourism Özgül Özkan Yavuz, Mayor of Ankara Mansur Yavaş, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Faruk Kaymakçı and Deputy Minister of Interior Tayyip Sabri Erdil, attended the opening ceremony of the event. Speaking at the ceremony, Yavuz said, “We have come together on the occasion of the art that unites us and heals us after a long time. The Greek physician Hippocrates said that “life is short, art is eternal”. For this reason, we try to continue many activities.

After the speeches, the fair’s traditional honorary prizes were awarded to their owners. The National Museum of Art and Sculpture in Ankara, which houses some of the most valuable works in Turkish art history, received the “Honorary Award of the ARTANKARA Institution”. While the late businessman Mehmet Balkan received the “Contribution to Art Award”, the Turkish painter Mehmet Güleryüz received the “Artist Honor Award”.

A work of art by Cem Sağbil depicting the interwoven concepts of Apollo from Western culture and Dionysus from the East is seen in this photo, Ankara, Turkey, March 30, 2021 (Photo by Dilara Aslan)

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ARTANKARA presents a myriad of impressive paintings, sculptures, glassware and installations. The fair also presents workshops and conferences where personalities from the art world share their knowledge and experience.

What works await enthusiasts?

Ranging from paintings, glass and wood art, installations, iron, marble and stone sculptures and even fabrics, a variety of works of art to be discovered at the fair. But who is at this year’s edition and what works await enthusiasts? Let’s explore together.

The Art for Goodness Association is one of the main participants of the fair. Aiming to contribute to the development of art in Turkey since 2016, the association presented three projects and works at the fair. The association’s first project is “One Year in Passage” and it offers more advanced education to new graduates of Mimar Sinan University of Fine Arts in Istanbul. He then commissioned the “Impressions of Anatolia” project, which supported the training of young artists in the fine arts faculties of Anatolian universities. The association also founded the “Atelier Cer” project with the participation of professional artists. Thus, the association exhibits 49 works of art students as well as professionals at ARTANKARA.

Şevket Sönmez, 'Rüya' ('Dream'), oil painting on canvas, 125 by 125 centimeters.

Şevket Sönmez, “Rüya” (“Dream”), oil painting on canvas, 125 by 125 centimeters.

Among these works, the oil painting by artist Şevket Sönmez titled “Rüya” (“Dream”) captures attention as it depicts a famous photo of Princess Diana sleeping at the gala of the exhibition “Splendors of the Gonzaga ”. After falling asleep on a chair at the event, she earned the nickname “Sleeping Beauty”. And Sönmez portrays this scene so vividly that it takes you back to the 1980s.

Tolga Turan’s wire sculpture reminded me of a similar work I was lucky enough to see last year. The association’s works were exhibited at Step Istanbul, an arts event organized with the aim of contributing to accessible art, in November last year. One of these works was Özge Günaydın’s “Sameness”, made up of 10 small bronze sculptures. The sculptures have been very successful in communicating a problem of modern people. The artist showed how authenticity and originality fade and people become like peas in a pod in modern times. The shape of the wire sculpture from Turan resembles the bronze figures of Günaydın invoking similar feelings in me.

Ahmet Algül also presents three works on the association’s stand at ARTANKARA. Algül’s works titled “Yerin Yüzü” (“Face of the Earth”), “Karlı Tepe” (“Snowy Hill” and “Sakinlik” (“Tranquility”) are all prepared on medium density fibreboard with a quite unique style combining a kind of photographic precision with geometric shapes.If the works offer a piece of nature, they also highlight their artificial and anthropic side by suggesting a balance and order with the shapes.

Ahmet Algül, “Yerin Yüzü” (“Face of the Earth”), mixed media on medium density fibreboard.

Ahmet Algül, “Yerin Yüzü” (“Face of the Earth”), mixed media on medium density fibreboard.

Besides the works of the Art for Goodness Association, the impressive works of Cem Sağbil, artist winner of the Artist of the Year award from the Sanat Kurumu Association in 2007 and owning several works abroad, instantly attracts attention.

“The cultures native to Anatolian lands are my main goal. It is the land of the mother goddesses, ”Sağbil told the Daily Sabah of her works which include sculptures of the Anatolian mother goddess Cybele and Aegean mythology.

Sağbil’s exhibition revolves around different periods of his 40 years of artistic life. Most of the works are made from bronze casting and lost wax techniques that were applied in antiquity. “But art is a concept. I am not limited to specific material and I can express myself in any way. What is important is to convey the idea to people and to express myself, ”he underlined.

Various sculptures of mother goddesses by artist Cem Sağbil are seen in this photo at ARTANKARA Contemporary Art Fair, Ankara, Turkey, March 30, 2021 (Photo by Dilara Aslan)

Various sculptures of mother goddesses by artist Cem Sağbil are seen in this photo at ARTANKARA Contemporary Art Fair, Ankara, Turkey, March 30, 2021 (Photo by Dilara Aslan)

Sağbil, who lived and educated in Germany for 20-25 years, has also organized solo exhibitions abroad, including in Karlsruhe, Stuttgart, Berlin, as well as in Paris, Boston and Nicosia (Lefkoşa).

He pointed out that he is the only Turkish artist to have bronze sculptures exhibited outdoors in the middle of Paris.

“I work on the concepts of being Western and Eastern as well as on dualism. Everything exists with its opposites, ”he said, adding that his latest work also focuses on mother nature and her fertility. “We have to be in harmony with nature and stop killing it to change it to be compatible with humans. We saw the power of nature again when a tiny virus hit the whole world. “

Speaking on one of his sculptures that attracted much attention at the fair – a man resisting a piece of cracked glass – Sağbil spoke of the need to resist external pressure.

Smithereens in the frozen ice of the Tuz Buz Gallery are seen in this photo at the ARTANKARA Contemporary Art Fair, Ankara, Turkey, March 30, 2021 (Photo by Dilara Aslan)

Smithereens in the frozen ice of the Tuz Buz Gallery are seen in this photo at the ARTANKARA Contemporary Art Fair, Ankara, Turkey, March 30, 2021 (Photo by Dilara Aslan)

Besides solo artists and galleries, the fair also hosts museums, the art departments of several universities, companies producing art materials, independent projects and institutions providing art education.

As part of this, the Ankara Metropolitan Municipality has opened a gallery made up of the works of several women who teach art in the professional courses of the municipality’s department of cultural and social affairs, an official told Daily Sabah.

“We determine a theme and work on that theme for a year – this year the theme is women. If the fair had not been delayed due to COVID-19, it would have coincided with Women’s Day week on March 8, ”the official explained, recalling that last year’s theme was Ankara but that this year’s theme has been chosen to raise awareness of developments and incidents. lived by women. Works representing women are either individual works or collective works and are added to the municipality’s collection.

The fair’s galleries are not only made up of local artists, but also include artists from different parts of the world. For example, the Ukrainian and Mexican embassies in Turkey have also opened their galleries with works of art by their local artists. Among the artists at the Mexican Embassy is Kathrina Rupit, currently based in Dublin, Ireland, who began her career in street art at the age of 13 in Mexico. She is inspired by Mexico and her daily life combined with her perception of current issues. The artist uses recycled materials in his works to raise awareness of the environment.

Picasso sketches of the “Demoiselles d'Avignon” at ARTANKARA.  (Photo by Dilara Aslan)

Picasso sketches of the “Demoiselles d’Avignon” at ARTANKARA. (Photo by Dilara Aslan)

Among the many galleries, another interesting place was the Tuz Buz gallery, which exhibited frozen ice crumbs with the motto “the fate of the cycle is spiraling”. According to artist Caner Yedikardeş, accompanied by crackles and clashes, each represents a reunion with a moment or a memory frozen in the spiral with the movement of water. The crumbs may be the remains of porcelain dishes, but hide a traffic accident or the traces of an earthquake experienced a long time ago. Broken glasses from a bottle can come from a quarrel, someone’s company, or loneliness.

Visitors to the fair were also amazed to find original works by renowned artists Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Jackson Pollock on the booth of Istanbul’s prominent Selvin Gallery. The owner and curator of the gallery, Selvin Cuhruk Gafuroğlu, sells Picasso’s work, believed to be from the 1930s, for 34,000 euros ($ 39,886). The piece is a sketch of Picasso’s painting “Les Jeunes Filles d’Avignon”.

Sharon P. Juarez