ISTANBUL - Istanbul, the city of dreams, of a million stories and a singular history – what better backdrop can there be to one of the most vibrant, growing art scenes in the world? Straddling the Bosphorus and boasting a skyline of domes and minarets, it seems that the current fair Contemporary Istanbul – like many other new art fairs these days – is required to offer a setting as exciting and touristic as the art itself! Istanbul doesn’t disappoint. Crusaders and janissaries once walked where art lovers now eagerly tread, and the city made famous by Orhan Pamuk is less huzn-ridden and more forward-looking than any other capital in its region.


As the first auction house to hold stand alone Turkish auction, Sotheby’s has been a pioneer in this field opening premises in Istanbul, a decision validated by the growing strength of the local art scene. I spoke to Sotheby’s head of Turkish office, Oya Delahaye about the Fair, which started yesterday:


What are you particularly excited about this year?

The Fair seems to have graduated into the major league! There is high-level presence; galleries such as Marlborough, Andipa, Opera, and Haunch of Venison are here and there is an opening up to international presence. A real change from last year…


How does Contemporary Istanbul fit into Art Istanbul?

The growing popularity of Contemporary Istanbul can only be positive for Art Istanbul, which is a week-long celebration of art and culture launched for the first time this year.


Haunch of Venison: Joana Vasconcelos, Hullaballoo, 2012


What has been the highlight of the Fair for you?

I still haven’t seen a third of the Fair, so busy has it been, but what strikes me most is the energy one can feel everywhere. The Turkish public is increasingly knowledgeable about the art and taking an avid interest. There are more overseas visitors than ever before and the audience includes the younger generation of collectors. There are 97 galleries and 550 artists represented – significant growth from last year!


Aside from the fair, what is your favourite arts location in Istanbul?

The two areas of Beyoğlu and Karaköy – there is so much going on there.


What would your advice be to a first time visitor to art Istanbul?

Bring good shoes!