Turks see art as good investment but also path to prestige

Wed May 15, 2013 1:49pm EDT
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By Asli Kandemir

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey's contemporary art scene is buzzing. Collectors pay millions for the hottest works at exclusive auctions, high-end galleries are springing up by the dozen, and more and more Turkish artists are holding exhibitions abroad.

The clients are the usual family magnates and super-rich - Istanbul ranks fifth in the world on the Forbes list of billionaires. But they also include an expanding class of young professionals looking for investment opportunities and a touch of prestige.

The boom in Turkey's modern art market has coincided with a decade of steady economic growth. Since a financial meltdown brought the Turkish banking sector to its knees in 2001, the economy has more than doubled in size and per capita income has tripled in nominal terms.

"There are many young professionals who make good money and really want to have a piece of art in their home," said painter Yigit Yazici as he sipped an espresso at his studio in Istanbul's upmarket Nisantasi district.

Traditionally, patronage of the arts in Turkey was left to wealthy industrialist families.

The Sakip Sabanci Museum, owned by the Sabanci family, opened in Istanbul in 2002. Two years later, the Eczacibasi family launched the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art, followed by Suna and Inan Kirac Foundation's Pera Museum in 2005.

The launch of Istanbul's International Contemporary Art Exhibition, known as the Istanbul Biennial, in 1987 introduced many once-skeptical Turks to contemporary forms of painting and sculpture.

But it was the opening of the Istanbul Modern - Turkey's first modern art museum - nine years ago that really changed the scene by creating a space for contemporary artists that combined permanent and temporary exhibitions, a photography gallery and educational and social programs.   Continued...

Turkish artist Yigit Yazici (R) fixes one of his artworks at his studio in Istanbul April 17, 2013. REUTERS/Murad Sezer