santralistanbul Museum Moves to Auction Off Its Collection (Istanbul, Turkey)
via Today’s Zaman
Istanbul’s art circles were fuming on Friday with the shocking news that 150 works of art from the collection of the recently closed santralistanbul Museum of Contemporary Art were set to hit the auction block in an upcoming art sale in Istanbul. News of the upcoming auction came on Thursday evening, causing outrage among artists and art lovers alike in social media in Turkey.
The santralistanbul complex, part of the Istanbul Bilgi University campus, was set up in 2007 in Istanbul’s Eyüp neighborhood. Housed in a 20th century power plant, the complex featured a museum of contemporary art, an energy museum and a cultural and educational center. The government had rented the power plant to Bilgi University on the condition that the building be used as an energy museum and contemporary art museum. However, several units in the complex, including the contemporary arts museum and the Tamirane club, closed their doors in 2012. Rumors that the museum’s collection was to be auctioned off also spread in 2012 but were denied by the school’s management after hearing the reactions of some artists whose work was included in the collection.
The auction, scheduled for Feb. 17 at Sofa Hotel, will feature works by numerous prominent artists including Nejad Devrim, Selim Turan, Fikret Mualla, Mübin Orhon, Hakkı Anlı, Yüksel Arslan, Nil Yalter, Ayşe Erkmen, Seyhan Topuz, Mehmet Güleryüz, Neşe Erdok, Selma Gürbüz and Canan Tolon.
In the process of decommissioning santralistanbul, formerly one of Istanbul’s most celebrated new cultural institutions, the Istanbul Bilgi University has betrayed the trust of the art world by putting the works in its collection up for auction. Since its opening in 2007,santralistanbul hosted exhibitions from the Centre Pompidou in Paris, to the Center for Art and Media (ZKM) in Karlsruhe, to the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León (MUSAC), and organized ambitious local exhibitions. However, after a rather contentious change of management, the university has recently decided to dissolve the “santralistanbul Museum of Contemporary Art” and put its collection up for auction.
This museum [of contemporary art] was among the commitments Bilgi University made in order to add this piece of land to its campus to house santralistanbul. Doesn’t the fact that the museum currently only exists symbolically [as the santralistanbul Energy Museum, the only part remaining open] cast a shadow over the legitimacy of the campus area allotted to Bilgi University by the government?
The auction house Macka Mezat that has taken over breaking up the collection makes no reference to the origin of the works, and refers to the sale as follows: “The private collection comprises important works by prominent Turkish modern and contemporary artists.”
The question is whether works donated or sold at rock-bottom prices to a museum collection that would represent the heart and soul of histories of art in Turkey should be reverted to the private domain. These works were turned over to what was upheld as a public institution that would not only provide good custodianship but also scholarship in the context of an academic institution. Neither has materialized. This is not a simple case of deaccessioning. It is a direct attack on Turkey’s artistic commons.
We declare that we will push back through forming public opinion until Istanbul Bilgi University finds a way to keep this treasure trove within the public realm.
Please consider signing this petition: #BilgiUniversity must keep its art collection in the public realm