Artweeks@Akaretler, a bi-annual art exhibition taking place in Besiktas’ row houses in Istanbul, celebrates its new edition between September 8-19, 2021.
Artweeks@Akaretler helps establish Istanbul as a hub of arts and culture in the region, in addition to reigniting the relationship between local and international artists after a long hiatus from the pandemic.
“Artweeks@Akaretler is an activity that takes place twice a year. Our first edition took place in September 2019,” says Sabiha Kurtulmus, the organiser. “Covid caused cancellations of many activities; many international art fairs and travels did not take place. So we held our fourth edition in October 2020. After a long break, we are preparing to join art lovers again.”
Kurtulmus is a veteran of the art world, having worked in the sector for decades. “I started out as [Turkish artist] Bedri Baykam’s assistant. Throughout the years I’ve been a manager, journalist, consultant and gallery owner, going on for about 26 years,’ she reminisces.
The first time she tried her hand at an art space was 7 Arts Factory with partners Murat and Evrim Tumer, with the consultancy of [doyenne of the industry, curator] Beral Madra. Then in 2007 she partnered with Ebru Erberdi and opened Eskonsept gallery. As of 2010, she is the sole owner of Merkur Gallery.
According to Kurtulmus, Artweeks@Akaretler has from the start been bringing together the different dynamics of art in an organic manner. “Akaretler Siraevler’s historic texture and proximity to each other allows attendees a pleasurable point of view,” she says.
Akaretler Row Houses were built in 1875 by architect Sarkis Balyan upon the instruction of Sultan Abdulaziz. At the time, the buildings were used by high-ranking officials of Dolmabahce Palace. The buildings were restored by Bilgili Holding and won an award by Urban Land Institute (ULI) in 2009.
“Our event is for 10 days. Our first edition coincided with the Istanbul Biennial and Contemporary Istanbul and we amassed a big crowd,” she continues. “This has shown us that Istanbul is open to and curious about different art activities.”
Artweeks@Akaretler gained the support of UBS, the main sponsor for Art Basel after its third edition. Kurtulmus is proud of this fact: “The first art activity that UBS has supported in Turkey is Artweeks@Akaretler, and that success makes us very happy.”
The fifth edition of Artweeks@Akaretler, between September 8-19, will boast 15 galleries, selections from a collector’s collection, two solo exhibitions, one independent art area and one art publication throughout six buildings.
“Each gallery will bring their own artists’ selection to the event,” Kurtulmus tells TRT World in an email interview, “and there will be a selection of Yildiz Holding’s collection at Akaretler as well. We are welcoming Galeri Nev Istanbul and Zilberman for the first time to this edition.”
One of the solo exhibitions is by Serife Bilgili Ercanturk, an artist who also happens to be the vice president of the executive board of Bilgili Holding, the organiser of Artweeks@Akaretler.
She tells TRT World that she has worked in a multitude of sectors, including textile, fashion, furniture, import and export. “But for the last 25 years of my 40 years of work, I have been in the construction sector,” she says.
Bilgili Ercanturk says she has always put her work and family life first, and never took any time for herself. Then, in 2017, “I experienced a miracle,” she said. Pressed to explain, she says she was gravely ill and recovered from an operation during that time, which made her reconsider her priorities.
“I realised I had to spend time on myself and focused on painting, my biggest dream,” Bilgili Ercanturk tells TRT World in an email interview. Adding that she has had no technical knowledge of painting, she adds that “the construction sector is a world of colours, harmony, balance and rapport. I was in the sector for years and got a strong sense of what was necessary. I started painting with what I knew and felt.”
She says she met with an artist she loved, Ahmet Oran, on the first day she started painting. “He saw my first painting and inquired about the techniques I used and the training I received. I had no knowledge, but starting from that point on with the guidance of Ahmet Oran my art path was open,” she adds modestly.
As someone who has enjoyed going to museums and exhibitions, Bilgili Ercanturk points out that while she has become an artist through luck, she wants her artwork to benefit children and that she will continue to support youth by donating her proceeds for their education. “My artwork has always been used for the benefit of children, and it will continue to be so,” she says.
Bilgili Ercanturk is dedicating her latest solo show at Artweeks@Akaretler to women in general and Afghan women in particular, who she says have seen their fair share of injustice and discrimination: “We live in a very lucky environment, in this geography. We have come so far thanks to Turkey’s infrastructure and education processes… We are in the middle of the 21st century and right now there are so many people left behind. At this point what we have to do is open their path, show them the light. That’s why I dedicate my show to them.”
Thumbnail image: Rumeysa Alptekin, Hunter Bird, 2021, acrylic over wood, 54x90x4 cm
Headline image: Gozde Ilkin, Confession and Confusion, 2019, painting and stitching on duvet 121x195 cm