Haluk Akakçe, 1970–2023
By Anna Lentchner
On the morning of October 9, Turkish multimedia artist Haluk Akakçe passed away in his Istanbul home at age 53. An influential artist of the 2000s and 2010s for his paintings, digital animations, and sculptural installations, Akakçe was undergoing treatment for lung cancer and had recently awoken from a nine-day coma.
Akakçe was born in Ankara in 1970 and graduated from Bilkent University with a BFA in architecture in 1993. He then moved to London, where he received an MA from the Royal College of Art before studying video and performance at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, from which he received his MFA in 1995. There, he won first place for the American Art Institute of Architects’ Chicago Student Award in Interior Architecture. Although Akakçe did not end up working in the industry, he would carry this architectural knowledge into his future artistic practice, incorporating structural elements into his designs and video and sound installations, which often depicted abstract figures and spatial transformation.
In 1997, Akakçe moved to New York City, where he first exhibited his work at the Drawing Center. A year later, he was included in the 6th International Istanbul Biennial, and by the early 2000s, Akakçe began regularly exhibiting his drawings, animated videos, and installations in international galleries and collectives, such as MoMA PS1, New Museum, Deitch Projects, and Whitney Museum; and Tate Britain, The Drawing Room, Delfina Studio Trust, and Institute of Contemporary Arts in London; as well as the São Paulo Biennial in 2002. He was celebrated in a 2003 Frieze magazine feature that described his digital animations The Measure of All Things (2000), The Birth of Art (2003), and Snow Black (2003) as elegant and evocative: “[he creates] a world of seemingly endless possibility, where one need not subscribe to inherited patterns of behaviour, where it seems one may become anything simply by believing in its possibility.”
Akakçe was renowned for this sense of world-building, which permeated his work regardless of its medium. In his 2007 solo show at Deitch Projects in New York, “They Call It Love, I Call It Madness,” for instance, he projected several single-channel videos of colorful, swirling geometric patterns onto the walls alongside several acrylic-on-cardboard drawings and mixed-media, sculptural paintings. This mass amalgamation of material, subjects, and styles was emblematic of Akakçe’s practice.
On October 10, Nevzat Bayazit Akakçe, the artist’s wife, publicized his death on his Instagram, writing: “Haluki, who has always been very liberal about being on time, surprised us by leaving early,” along with the details of his funeral and memorial service.
His works are in the collections of numerous international museums including the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York), The British Council Collection, Fondation Louis Vuitton (Paris), Hoffman Collection (Berlin), Istanbul Modern and the Odunpazari Modern Museum in Eskişehir, where they are on view in the exhibition “Under Two Suns” through July 28, 2024.
Anna Lentchner is assistant editor at ArtAsiaPacific.