Turkey has always been an important country for its art, history and architecture. However, the interest in art and antiques has recently increased in the country. Istanbul, the metropolis that has hosted numerous civilizations, presents a new cultural event: the Istanbul Art & Antiques Fair (IAAF). The fair, which welcomes thousands of art lovers to the Istanbul Congress Center Thursday through Sunday, will feature a large number of works of art and antiques, including examples from contemporary Turkish paintings and sculptures, works of the 1914 Generation artists and Group D, a collective of five artists.
The fair was launched with a VIP cocktail event on Feb. 19 and a recital by Turkish pianist Gülsin Onay. Starting Thursday, visitors can enjoy the three-day fair, which exhibits various collections belonging to art galleries, antique dealers, collectors and artists. The IAFF will also organize academic meetings within the scope of the fair.
Collections make mark on history
In addition to the works by Turkish artists, the works of foreign artists who present alternative understandings and techniques will also be displayed at the IAFF. For example, Ender Güzey Museum ARThill, the culture-art platform hosting international events along with works by Güzey, who is known as the only representative in Turkey’s holistic school of art, and Istanbul Museum of Graphic Arts (IMOGA), founded by artist Süleyman Saim Tekcan as the first authentic print museum, shed light on Turkish art history with the works in their collections, which left a deep legacy in Turkish painting.
Compiled from the valuable Erol Makzume Collection – which includes the works of competent orientalists such as Felix Ziem, Leonardo De Mango, Amedeo Preziosi and J. Warnia Zarzecki – the selection titled “Orientalism in Painting and Istanbul, the Gate of the East” is among the favorites at the fair, as well. "Filatrice di Perle," a masterpiece of Fausto Zonaro, one of the Ottoman palace painters during the Abdülhamid era, will also be at the fair.
Tekcan, who is also a consultant for the fair, shared with Daily Sabah his story about his journey in art and details of the fair. Noting every artist has a childhood period in which he or she meets the arts via play, he said: “When I was a child, we were playing with mud and making various sculptures. Maybe my journey started from these years.”
Spanish artist Pablo Picasso once said: “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” Citing this quote by the renowned cubist and surrealist painter, Tekcan said: “Even if we are all artists inside, the main process in the art world starts with education. At this point, I can say that my decision to become an artist started in my school years. The fact that I received training from very important teachers like Şinasi Barutçu and Refik Epikman, who had been sent abroad by Atatürk to receive art education and built this art field in Turkey when they returned home, had a great impact.”
Tekcan is a passionately committed artist who said he has never had difficulty performing his job. “As I cannot see any challenging side; I can only mention the good sides of living as an artist. As an artist and art educator, I have spent almost a lifetime in art. I am very fond of the arts because the process of creation, which is based on sharing and production, is always very enjoyable for me," Tekcan said.
Tekcan thinks artists should reflect themselves in every artwork. “While we were raised as artists, we were looking at many artists and making pictures close to their productions. However, after a certain time, we began to create our own art with our own identity. If you look at the work of an artist and if it reminds you of the work of another artist, then it is not right to say that this work belongs to this artist,” he said. He also touched on the creative process of the artist, implying that this process is not standard and can be a long or short period due to many variables. “In other words, there are times when the artist can instantly implement an idea in his or her mind. But the ideas may also have to mature for a long time to be shaped and expressed on canvas as well," he said.
The artist lastly talked about his own art practice. Saying that art is a mirror that reflects the artist’s life, Tekcan continued: “As an artist, we have experienced many periods which feature unique works. I can say that there are seven to eight periods in my art. Each of them is my favorite and a period from me, but my last period focusing on horses and civilizations drew more attention. Therefore, I am mostly known for my productions during this period.”
For Tekcan, art events like fairs and biennials have a great mission to bring art viewers and art together. “Art fairs are organized in many important centers of the world, and Istanbul is one of these centers. The fair-comers have a chance to read the situation of contemporary art with these events. On the other hand, the events make it possible for the participants to refresh their professional relationships. A direct dialogue between the artist and the audience is also another advantage. I sincerely wish that the art audience in our country could have more areas where they can encounter art," he said.
Focusing on the IAFF in particular, he continued: “I have witnessed the team behind the fair since the beginning of the process. They are getting ready for the event with great efforts. The fair will be organized for the first time this year. I am attending the fair with a selection of my works. I think that the fair will fill an important gap as it gives a place to antique selections along with works of art. There has not been such an event bringing these two areas together for a long time.”
In the antique and art sections of the fair, galleries and participants who are experts in their subject will attend the fair with their selections at the Istanbul Congress Center, which is one of the most prestigious venues in Istanbul. “Turkey is very rich in terms of antiques. The best examples of the old, vintage products will be exhibited with great art productions. There are some similar and distinct aspects of artworks and antiques. I think the event will enlighten the visitors in this regard," Tekcan said.
‘Filatrice di Perle’ takes its place at IAFF
Some works have a distinct meaning and place in our lives. We go after these works that contain stories that have left their mark on our minds and inner world throughout our lives. One of these works is “Filatrice di Perle,” the 1887 masterpiece by Zonaro, who was born in Masi-Padova in 1854. During his life in Istanbul, the Italian painter worked on the historical texture and daily life of the city as well as religious and social events such as holidays. Known as the most famous Italian painter to have come to our nation, Zonaro is known as one of the “chief painters” of the Ottoman period.
Zonaro brought all of his works to Istanbul when he came to the city in 1891. Although there was a great demand for his work “Filatrice di Perle,” he never wanted to sell it. Seeing that his masterpiece gained great popularity, he painted a smaller watercolor version of it, which is still included in the permanent collection of Galeria Ricci Oddi. After bringing the masterpiece to Istanbul, Zonaro hung it in the hall of the building dedicated to him by Sultan Abdülhamid II. Although everyone who saw the painting wanted to buy it, he kindly turned down all the offers. After his duty as “palace painter” ended, he took his masterpiece back to Italy. He passed away in San-Remo in 1929.
The masterpiece, purchased by a Turkish collector after a retrospective exhibition organized by his granddaughter Jolanda Meneguzzer Trevigne on behalf of the artist in 2004, is still one of the cultural and artistic assets of Turkey. “Filatrice di Perle" will be exhibited at the IAFF.