Eight Turkish artists to collect right now

Eda Kehale Argun, Christie’s representative consultant in Istanbul, and specialist Marie-Claire Thijsen select eight artists with growing reputations — all of whom feature in the Post-War & Contemporary Art Day Sale in London and First Open Online


Rasi̇m Aksan (b. 1984), Live a Life You Will Remember, 2022 (detail). Coloured pencil and acrylic on paper. 18¾ x 20½ in (47.5 x 52 cm). Sold for £20,160 on 18 October 2022 at Christie’s Online .image-preview-container .image-preview:before { background: rgba(0,0,0,0); }

Coinciding with Frieze Week in London and the 17th Istanbul Biennial is Istanbul Calling, a charitable initiative spearheaded by Christie’s and the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV) to celebrate the latter’s 50th anniversary and benefit its new Young Artists Fund.

A selection of 23 artworks donated by established and emerging contemporary artists with connections to Turkey will be offered across two auctions at Christie’s in London: the Post-War and Contemporary Art Day Sale (14 October 2022) and First Open: Post-War and Contemporary Art Online (4-18 October 2022).

‘Christie’s is delighted to collaborate with İKSV to raise funds for such an important initiative — one that supports young artists in their careers,’ says specialist Marie-Claire Thijsen. ‘It is incredible to see so many artists contribute to Istanbul Calling, and we look forward to showcasing the exhibition in the context of Frieze Week.’

Here, we take a closer look at eight of those contributing artists.

Burçak Bingöl

In recent years, Burçak Bingöl’s ceramic artworks have been acquired by such celebrated institutions as New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and the MOCAK Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow.

She has also had a string of solo exhibitions at Zilberman Gallery in Berlin and Istanbul. In 2022, she participated in the Artist Residency and Commissions Programme at Tate St Ives in Cornwall, where her forthcoming solo show, Minor Vibrations on Earth, opens in the same week as the auction.

Burçak Bingöl (b. 1976), Avatar: Istanbul Root — Surrender, 2022. Glazed ceramic, in five parts. Overall: 78¾ x 37⅜ in (200 x 95 cm). Sold for £16,380 on 14 October 2022 at Christie’s in London

Drawing on the rich ceramic history of her homeland, Bingöl explores the continued disintegration, transformation and reconstruction of cultural traditions and identities in Turkey, as well as the fluid exchange of imagery, ideas, people and goods that has occurred throughout its history. Through her intensive process of tracing, copying and reworking materials and objects, she challenges both Eastern and Western artmaking traditions.

Made specifically for this auction, Avatar: İstanbul Root — Surrender (2022) explores the relationship between ‘root’, ‘body’ and ‘belonging’ through the history, literature and flora of Istanbul. It features text from Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar’s novel Teslim and images of flowers that Bingöl collected from parks around Istanbul and then glazed onto ceramic panels inside the outline of her own silhouette.

It is part of Bingöl’s ‘Avatar’ series, inspired by the conditions of the Covid pandemic, which prevented humans from exploring the outside world, while our online avatars could roam freely across the globe.

Hera Büyüktaşçıyan

Born in Istanbul in 1984, Hera Büyüktaşçıyan is best known for poetic works — spanning sculpture, site-specific installation, drawing and film — that expand on themes of heritage, ancestral ritual, memory, space and time. Her most recent works focus on ‘unstable spaces’ and architectural fragments that tell of silenced or forgotten socio-political stories, crystallising the link between past and present.

The work being offered at Christie’s, for instance, comprises four graphite frottage drawings that incorporate cutouts from archival photographs of Byzantine neighbourhoods in Istanbul that have been destroyed, rebuilt and repurposed many times throughout history.

As Büyüktaşçıyan has said, ‘Encountering a space almost feels like weaving a tapestry that allows you to draw and manifest various layers through form.’

Hera Büyüktaşçıyan (b. 1984), Soma Vol. I, 2022. Graphite and printed paper collage on paper, in four parts. Each: 16½ x 11⅝ in (42 x 29.5 cm). Sold for £12,600 on 14 October 2022 at Christie’s in London

Since graduating from Marmara University in 2006, Büyüktaşçıyan has exhibited works at the Venice Biennale, the Biennale of Sydney and the British Museum in London, among other institutions.

Her profile received a boost when she won the Emerging Artist Prize at the Toronto Biennial of Art in 2019. She currently has work on show at Tate Modern in London and the Biennale Matter of Art in Prague (until 23 October). With a solo show at Tate St Ives in the pipeline, Büyüktaşçıyan could prove a savvy investment.

Rasim Aksan

Rasim Aksan has established a reputation as one of Turkey’s most revered Hyperrealist painters. He began with isolated images — a wilted flower, a pair of hands, a lone cat — before turning to intricate, fantastical compositions that raise questions about ethical codes, cultural heritage and our social interactions.

These surreal, staged interiors draw on everything from Japanese printmaking and Egyptian hieroglyphics to classical European sculpture and the artist’s own extensive archive of original photography and online found images.

Rasi̇m Aksan (b. 1984), Live a Life You Will Remember, 2022. Coloured pencil and acrylic on paper. 18¾ x 20½ in (47.5 x 52 cm). Sold for £20,160 on 18 October 2022 at Christie’s Online

Live a Life You Will Remember (2022) is a brilliant example. Donated by the artist, courtesy of Galerist in Istanbul, it depicts a recently vacated bedroom filled with historical, religious and contemporary cultural symbols. With no clear narrative thread, Aksan invites viewers to weave their own visual story.

Aksan’s art features in many of Turkey’s most prominent private and institutional collections, including the Koç Foundation’s Arter Museum, where another work from his ‘Live a Life You Will Remember’ series is currently on view. He has also been the subject of multiple exhibitions at Galerist.

Aslı Çavuşoğlu

Aslı Çavuşoğlu has made her name creating conceptual works that examine the ways in which cultural and historical facts are presented, transformed and interpreted by individuals. Working across diverse media, she addresses silenced narratives, while also highlighting the precarious and subjective nature of shared histories and identities.

Executed between 2019 and 2022, Not Equal To [USA]  examines the role of language as a mediating force. Each of its eight frames contains two sheets of restored paper on which is written a pair of words or phrases that have divergent political meanings. Between each pair is an ‘equals’ sign, positioning the two words as synonyms.

Aslı Çavuşoğlu (b. 1982), Not Equal To [USA], 2019-2022. Squid ink on paper, in eight parts. Each: 16½ x 23⅝ in (42 x 60 cm). Sold for £10,080 on 18 October 2022 at Christie’s Online

A closer look, however, reveals that all is not as it seems. The diagonal seam that joins the pieces of paper together bisects the equals sign, transforming it into a symbol signifying ‘not equal to (≠)’. At the same time, although the seam functions as a line of division, it is also a place of repair: the artist has employed traditional paper-repairing techniques to join the divided halves.

In recent years, Çavuşoğlu has had solo shows at MASS MoCA in Massachusetts and the New Museum in New York, as well as group exhibitions at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris and Castello di Rivoli in Turin. Her work can be found in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the British Museum in London. A new solo show, TunState, will open at Associazione Barriera in Turin during Artissima in November.

Yağız Özgen

Since graduating with a BFA from the Fine Arts Faculty of Istanbul’s Marmara University in 2009, Yağız Özgen has completed an MFA and PhD at the same institution, held four solo exhibitions at Sanatorium gallery in Istanbul, and participated in the artist residency programme of Borusan Art Centre in Istanbul.

Yağız Özgen (b. 1987), Stars, Dust and Gas near NGC 3572 #3, 2022. Acrylic on canvas. 63 x 50⅜ in (160 x 128 cm). Sold for £6,300 on 18 October 2022 at Christie’s Online

His visual analysis of online astronomical resources, notably the NASA-supported web archives, explores the complex relationships between objects and symbols, movement and descriptions, language and the universe. The palette of Stars, Dust and Gas near NGC 3572 #3, for instance, is based on the dominant colours of a telescopic photograph from NASA’s web archive depicting NGC 3572, an open cluster of stars in the Carina constellation.

Through his methodical application of acrylic paint, Özgen reassembles the chromatic atmosphere of an astronomical scene not usually visible to the naked eye. The result is a work of rich, incandescent colour arranged across an orderly pixelated grid.

İhsan Oturmak

İhsan Oturmak has garnered critical praise for his representational paintings addressing notions of progress, development and tradition in a rapidly modernising Turkish society. Rooted in the artist’s experience of growing up in the rural province of Diyarbakır in southeastern Turkey, they depict political and military subjects, as well as friendships, fall-outs and power struggles. Their titles often play a revealing role in the painterly narrative — as is the case with Illegal Excavation (2022).

İhsan Oturmak (b. 1987), Illegal Excavation, 2022. Oil on canvas. 55⅛ x 86⅝ in (140 x 220 cm). Sold for £7,560 on 18 October 2022 at Christie’s Online

Oturmak graduated from Marmara University in 2012 and participated in the artist residency programme at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris the following year. His works have since been exhibited at art events such as the Istanbul Design Biennial, and at international institutions including the Royal Academy in London.

Elif Uras

In her paintings and ceramic works, Elif Uras focuses on what she describes as ‘shifting notions of gender and class within the struggle between modernity and tradition’. In 2007, she turned her attention to Iznik, an ancient town in Turkey celebrated for its ceramic production under the Ottoman Empire, and particularly famous for its vibrant decorative tiles.

Today the artist works at the Iznik Foundation alongside female artisans trained in the Ottoman style. Together, they carry out tasks that were exclusively performed by men in Ottoman times.

Elif Uras (b. 1972), Pregnant Coil, 2022. Glazed painted stoneware. 24 x 12⅝ x 9⅞ in (61 x 32 x 25 cm). Sold for £25,200 on 14 October 2022 at Christie’s in London

Her sensuous ceramic vessels, such as Pregnant Coil (2022), merge traditional non-figurative Turkish patterns with Western figurative elements, in this case the female form.

Uras’s works have been exhibited at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, MoMA PS1 in New York and the Pera Museum in Istanbul, and can be found in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the V&A, where the companion piece to Pregnant Coil is held. In 2020 she was awarded an artist residency at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York.

Gözde İlkin

Gözde İlkin embroiders her stories, either by hand or machine, onto the surface of found domestic fabrics such as tablecloths, curtains and sheets. She draws inspiration from a wide range of sources to explore complex themes of identity and the relationship between the manmade and natural worlds.

Gözde İlkin (b. 1981), Kingdom, 2016. Acrylic and stitching on dyed and printed fabric. 30¾ x 46½ in (78 x 118 cm). Sold for £3,780 on 18 October 2022 at Christie’s Online

The scenery and forms in her ‘Organized Habitation’ series trace the transformative, healing effects that plants, animals and humans can have upon each other, and the ways in which they can coexist.

In Kingdom (2016) — which is part of that series — plant and animal forms intertwine harmoniously with the land. Painted in a rich, earthy brown, two figures scramble upon two flesh-toned outcrops with cracked, brain-like edges. The section resembling snakeskin could be interpreted as a rocky crag or another living organism lying dormant.

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Recent solo and group exhibitions of İlkin’s work have been held at MAC VAL (the Musée d’Art Contemporain du Val-de-Marne) in Paris, artSümer in Istanbul, and the Wellcome Collection in London. Her work is currently on show in Breaking Boundaries  at Super + Centercourt in Munich and Venice Stars Art and Embroidery  at Bündner Kunstmuseum Chur in Switzerland.

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