(by Simone Perotti)
“There is so much creativity here. A young population, that has only recently opened itself to art and to the West. ” Ferdan Yusufi is a striking woman, dressed in a very original manner, with long wavy hair, a scarf wound around her neck held by a bracelet with gems, while her legs are sheathed in embroidered stockings. A true art dealer in most typical New York sense of the term.
But the point is that we are in Istanbul, a city that has a particularity, one that we noticed even while we were visiting the beautiful Istanbul Modern, the Art Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art on the banks of the Bosphorus, in Tophane. Contemporary art, as those who come from the Western world intend it, has been in Turkey for just a few decades. Ferdan says more or less since the year 2000. “More or less at that time things changed a great deal. Schools and art academies sprung up, and even universities took an active part in an authentic rebirth.” Until just recently, here there was no Cimabue, Canaletto, Michelangelo and later Ligabue and Guttuso. Turkish artists, under the Ottoman Empire and then in the twentieth century Republic after Oran Kemal Ataturk, followed other styles, other aesthetic lines, other themes, with other techniques. The opening to Western artistic aesthetics (editor’s note: when you talk about the Western world, here in Turkey, you are not talking about anything foreign, because this part of the world IS Western, as much as one might say that it IS Eastern) took place with the post-advantgarde, in a certain sense, and in the Istanbul Modern there are clear traces of this, but it embraced contemporary art almost in a breath, with a bridge that seems to dominate over space and time, just like the enormous jetties on the Bosphorus seem to do.
“If in the past, the temptation was to reject and in part, abandon, miniaturist aesthetics and certain typically Ottoman decorative graphics, strongly influenced by the Persians and Arabs, today there has been a recovery and a transfiguration of this tradition, which is very important. I myself have proposed Turkish artists who can accomplish this contamination, in Italy.”
Yes, Italy. For the last twenty years Ferdan Yusufi has been the crossroads of Italian art in Turkey and vice versa. She not only participates in the management and organization of a large Roman art gallery, but also does a great deal of work in terms of interfacing, guidance and proposals. “There is enormous creativity here. This city is becoming an essential point of reference for design and fashion. From furnishings to interior decoration, an entire social class is living off art, with ateliers and exhibitions where there is great participation, they are almost social events, but without losing the sense of the intrinsic value of things”. Very interesting.
What prevails in contemporary Turkish art? “It started from abstract art, perhaps a little hastily. Now I see a great deal of interest in neo-figurative art, whether is hyper-realistic or not does not matter much, and that is good thing, because that way we journey through art, we space from one thing to another, we are seeing the necessary experimentation to live and grow following a good artistic path that will be increasing here in the near future, just as you will see it re-flourish in Italy.”
I ask her if she is optimistic about the art market in our country. “Of course I am. You are artists, all of you, each and everyone of you. You have always lived surrounded by art, by beauty. Everyone is complaining in Italy right now, but it won’t last long. You simply cannot do without living, trading and creating art. It’s in your nature! ” Let’s hope she is right.
I try asking her something about the Country. Are artists into politics here? “More than being into politics, they’re living in politics. They are influenced by politics. Artists live in society, they are close to things. And if an artist feels he must do so, he will always go the extra mile. ” This is where we stop. “Was that ok? when I see a camera I always seem to freeze … “.