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  • Jan 15, 2014

Amidst Uncertainties at Home, Turkey to have a Permanent Venue at Venice Biennale

The Turkey Pavilion at Arsenale will be the country

Following a successful run at the 55th Venice Biennale this past year, the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV), which manages Turkey's biennial affairs, has signed the lease on a "permanent venue," ensuring the country's presence at the world-class art event for the next 20 years.

This announcement may come as surprise to those who got wind of the 41-year-old foundation's financial troubles in late 2013. In October, İKSV, which has maintained the historical Deniz Palas in Şişhane as its administrative headquarters since 2009, put the building up for sale in an effort to pay off its TL 40 million (USD 18 million) debt. Expressions of public outrage arose before the industrial group, Eczacıbaşı Holdings, a long-time supporter of İKSV, stepped in with a TL 46 million (USD 21 million) donation, both securing the building—which, in addition to İKSV 's offices, houses a cafe, restaurant, performance venue and design store—and assuming the remainder of what the foundation owed.

In a city where rampant redevelopment schemes are often to the detriment of important cultural landmarks—which are frequently refashioned into shopping malls and commercial centers—this show of support reads as a gesture of solidarity. "We see that the art-loving public care about İKSV," head of the executive committee of Eczacıbaşı Holdings, Bülent Eczacıbaşı, who also serves as Chairman of İKSV's board of directors, explained. For many, Deniz Palas not only houses an integral institution but the 19th-century building is itself a heritage site. "They do not want İKSV to dispose of assets that are part of its identity and expect the same sensitivity from İKSV’s administration," Eczacıbaşı said. 

Support from the private corporation comes at a time when the Turkish government's funding for arts and culture has been waning. Its financing of İKSV, for example, has dropped 50 percent over the last two years.

Meanwhile, the site of Turkey’s own international art event, the Istanbul Biennial, has also become a victim of urban redevelopment. Last May, private developer, Doğuş Holdings placed a bid of USD 702 million, earning the rights to privatize the Istanbul Salıpazarı Port Area, commonly known as “Galataport,” where Antrepo No. 3, the biennial’s main venue, was previously located. Construction of the development, which will include a tourist shopping complex for cruise-ship visitors, is already underway leaving the future site of exhibition unknown.

It is with the generous donation by more than 20 individuals and privately-owned organizations, that İKSV has been able to put the down payment on a long-term venue for the Turkey Pavilion at Venice. Among these benefactors are Öner Kocabeyoğlu, MAÇAKIZI, Tansa Mermerci Ekşioğlu, Polimeks İnşaat, SAHA Association, Taha Tatlıcı, T. Garanti Bankası AŞ, Vehbi Koç Foundation, Zafer Yıldırım, and Yıldız Holding AŞ. 

In June, Turkey will, for the first time ever, participate in the 14th International Architecture Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia, curated by the renowned Dutch Architect Rem Koolhaas, entitled "Fundamentals." Turkey's contribution will be realized under the direction of curator Murat Tabanlıoğlu and project coordinator Pelin Derviş.

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