Contemporary Turkish Art



While Phillips and Saatchi diversify their experiments with art from emerging countries and the art of investing in Contemporary art, Bonhams of London has decided to venture into new territory as well.

A well-established Contemporary art trendsetter city, London is playing a new card with the latest exhibition of Contemporary art at the Saatchi Gallery: Confessions of Dangerous Minds, Contemporary Art from Turkey was set up in collaboration with the auctioneer Phillips de Pury & Company (open until 30 April 2011). The exhibition opened the day after Phillips’ themed BRIC sale (Brazil, Russia, India, China) failed to live up to expectations with estimates often too high (55% unsold, 15 April 2011) and a total sales revenue of £596,000 (one tenth of the £5.8m total generated by the same sale a year earlier).

Heart of the Turkish Contemporary art market: London, Dubai and Istanbul
Contemporary Turkish art, generally sold in Dubai and in London, is particularly dynamic with specialised sales held at Sotheby’s and now at Bonhams, which has opened its sales repertoire to this category for the first time this year. In total, the specialised sales organised by these two auctioneers in April 2011 generated £2.7m ($3.3m) of which £856,000 for Bonhams on 5 April with 66% of lots unsold and £1.9m for Sotheby’s with 34% unsold.
The best results of the Bonhams sale notably rewarded Ömer ULUÇ and Erol AKYAVAS (1932-1999) whose painting End of Encounter fetched £460,000 ($741,000), his second best auction result behind a 7-figure best in Istanbul on 7 March 2010 for his large format Encerclement (TRY 2,105,000, or $1.3m).
Works by Ömer Uluç fetched £57,000 at Bonhams (roughly $92,000, twice the estimate) and £40,000 two days later at Sotheby’s (Heves Kusu (Bird of Desire) ), approx. $65,000). In Istanbul, his best paintings fetch between $100,000 and $400,000 (at Antik AS and Beyaz Pazarlama ve Muzayedecilik).
For its first venture into the Turkish field, Bonhams managed to obtain two high quality recent works by Bedri BAYKAM, each of which generated around $48,000 (La Sirene (The Mermaid) and La Bohemia of Christiania (Hans Jaeger and the Others). With fewer works by Baykam, Sotheby’s responded by offering a superb collage by Azade KÖKER, entitled Kuzey Ormani (The North Woods) which fetched £28,000 ($45,600), a better result than the artist could expect to generate in either Dubai or Istanbul.

The bidding picked up considerably for some of the works proposed at Sotheby’s including Whispering Wall II by Burhan DOGANÇAY that reached £230,000 ($375,000, the artist’s fourth best result) and an untitled work by Orhon MÜBIN which fetched the artist’s third best result at £200,000 ($326,000) from the series Hommage to Delacroix. The painter Taner CEYLAN obtained a new auction record at Sotheby’s with 1879 (From the Lost Painting Series) which fetched £190,000 ($310,000, vs. an estimate of £50,000 – £70,000).

The Dubaian market, traditionally strong for Contemporary Turkish art, is currently being overtaken by London in this segment of the market. In fact, the best result for a Turkish artist at the Modern and Contemporary Arab, Iranian and Turkish Art sale organised on 19 April by Christie’s Dubai was a new record at $45,000 for Kezban Arca BATIBEKI’s Duel I+II (from the Pulp Fiction: The sequel series). That was not a bad result, especially as it doubled its estimated price range ($25,000 – $35,000); however it was still a long way behind the sale’s top result from its star lot: a sculpture entitled Message/Messenger by the young Saudi artist Abdulnasser GHAREM which went under the hammer at a massive $700,000 versus a pre-sale estimate of $70,000 – $100,000.

The fast-growing Turkish art market therefore seems to have migrated from the United Arab Emirates and Turkey towards Western Europe. A highly dynamic market, it also has the advantage of offering thousands of affordable works at prices under $10,000 for signatures like Murat GERMEN, Arslan SÜKAN, Mehmet Ali UYSAL, Mustafa ÖZBAKIR, Mehmet ULUSEL, amongst others.