Sotheby’s First Contemporary Turkish Art Sale

Sotheby’s has announced that on Wednesday 4 March, 2009, it will stage the first dedicated sale of Turkish Contemporary Art in London. The 73 lots, comprising paintings, photographs, sculptures and installations by 53 artists, are estimated to raise in excess of £1.2 million. The selection of exceptional works represents the originality and dynamism of Turkish contemporary art, which is increasingly sought after, and includes rare and important works such as Erol Akyavas’s 1980 oil on canvas The Kiss (est. £25,000-£35,000) and Mubin Orhons’s 1961 oil on canvas Untitled (est. £60,000-£80,000).

AliCan Ertug, Sotheby’s Senior Vice President, Strategic Business Development, Middle East, comments: “The buoyant art scene in Istanbul and the ever-popular Istanbul Biennial have set the stage for this inaugural auction where Turkish Contemporary Art will make its debut on the international art market this March in London. We are delighted that this new sales category at Sotheby’s will be headed by Dalya Islam, whose experience in the field especially qualifies her for this sale.”

Sotheby’s Senior Specialist and Head of Sale, Dalya Islam, said: “Our inaugural dedicated sale of Turkish Modern and Contemporary Art in London is evidence of the incredible momentum in this particular area of art, containing as it does important works by some of the foremost artists from the Turkish scene. The energy that infuses this sale promises a bright future for this field.”

The foremost conceptual artists in Turkey will be represented in the sale, including an absolutely outstanding work by the hyperrealist artist Taner Ceylan – Spiritual (est. £30,000-£40,000) – as well as Hale Tenger’s Balloon Loan II and Invainers of the Lost Ark II, and Nazif Topcuoglu’s Lamentations (digital C-print mounted on foam-board, 2007, est. £6,000-8,000), which displays the influence of Titian on the artist. Hale Tenger’s work is more often than not politically charged, and in Balloon Loan II (Duratrans print on foam-board, 2005, est. £10,000-£15,000) Tenger captures the zeitgeist of a period in modern Turkish history with a photograph depicting a common pastime of that era. The loss of the brightly coloured balloons in this grey-blue world is deeply poignant imagery and a powerful symbol of the time.

Also included in the sale is Red VI by Seyhun Topuz, one of Turkey’s most exceptional sculptors. The 1989 fibreglass sculpture (pictured left, est. £20,000-
£30,000) is arguably one of her most successful standing sculptures and is an extremely desirable example of her talent. Topuz’s works are a harmonious balance of design and construct, elegance and presence. In Red VI her skill is implicit in a design which effortlessly evokes an awareness of the material itself, the space in which it exists and that which exists within it.

Works in other media
From Huseyin Alptekin’s Hotel Signs series, his lightbox Hotel October will be offered for sale (lightbox with steel wall-brackets, 2006, est. £12,000-£18,000). Inscribed in Cyrillic with the words Hotel October, the work references the transient nature of the global underclass, the experience of immigrants as they cross borders in Eastern Europe and Turkey. The work is a wry commentary on the realities of the refugee and the emigrant, and the laws of societies that force them underground. Alptekin, who passed away in 2007 (born 1957), exhibited at the Istanbul Museum of Contemporary Art, Turkey, in 2001, the XXIV Bienal de São Paulo, Brazil, in 1998 and the Fourth Istanbul Biennial in 1995.

Also featuring is Elif Uras’s Earth Mother Belly (pictured right) and Erinc Seymen’s Untitled. For Earth Mother Belly (2008, stonepaste body withpolychrome decoration, est. £6,000-8,000) Uras used traditional techniques learnt at the ancient potteries of Iznik, utilising time-honoured means to represent her experience of the established female role in Turkish society. Her delicate and quintessentially feminine work is nevertheless a powerful expression of emancipation. In Seymen’s Untitled (2008, sequins and embroidery on satin, est. £5,000-7,000) the contested profile portrait of Ottoman Emperor Sultan Yavuz Selim is camouflaged on a cow’s flank. The carpet-like rendering of the image in sequins addresses different eras of excess, while the shimmering surface and cow’s gaze challenge claimed hierarchies as well as the position of the viewer.

20th Century works
Among the works by Turkey’s modern masters is Mubin Orhon’s Untitled, 1961, oil on canvas (pictured right, est. £60,000-£80,000), Nejad Melih Devrim’s Untitled, 1955, oil on canvas (est. £30,000-£40,000) and a work by Fahrelnissa Zeid, Le Minautore, 1950-1960, oil on canvas (est. £50,000-£70,000) from a very specific period in the late ’50s when the artist’s focus moved away from practicing in her traditional geometric style to a more expressionist mode of depiction.