ISTANBUL - What is SPOT? In brief, it is an Istanbul-based curatorial project founded in 2011 that aims to foster a local base of art enthusiasts and patrons while generating funding for contemporary art production. This year's 4 May whole-day seminar followed on the heels of two successful days in 2011 where collecting, patronage, and new trends in Turkey and China were addressed. Brought together by organizers-extraordinaire Tansa Eksioglu and Zeynep Oz, some players on this scene formed the morning panel to address developments in the Middle Eastern and Turkish art market: this included V & A Curator Salma TuqanArt Istanbul International Artistic Director Stephane Ackermann, gallerist and former Christie’s specialist William Lawrie, and myself as auction house representative.

The session opened with a significant keynote address by Salma Tuqan, who packed a host of fascinating information on new non profits in the Arab art world. Chairing the rest of the day with many pertinent questions was H.G. Masters of ArtAsiaPacific who guided the dialogue from Lawrie's description of the first Middle East Contemporary Dubai sales in 2006 and its sudden success, to Sotheby's strategy for evolving its early, longstanding relationship with Qatar and its recent record-breaking Doha sale. Stephane Ackermann offered a different perspective by remarking on the importance of artistic direction in fairs, and the exposure value of bringing together a maximum audience under one roof.

(left to right) H.G. Masters, Zeynep Oz, Bashar Al Shroogi, Yasmin Atassi, Salma Tuqan, William Lawrie, Sotheby’s Roxane Zand, Tansa Eksioglu, Haro Cumbusyan.

Following a pleasant terrace lunch, an afternoon panel continued—this time to look at the role of patron-gallerists and collectors in the region. Staunch supporter Bashar Al Shroogi underlined points made by collector Haro Cumbusyan and gallerist Yasmin Atassi. All agreed that leading figures on the art scene have a responsibility towards artistic growth; each panelist outlined the model adopted by their respective organization to serve this goal. Finally, Arzu Komili of Galeri Mana related an anecdote to demonstrate how it is possible to negotiate and navigate resistance to progressive art within a community. Some lively debates about the sustainability of conceptual and edgy work posed by journalists, artists and art lovers brought the day to a positive close. The incomparable setting of the Pera Palas Hotel played host to a dialogue, which will continue to foster active interest in the mission of its organizers.

Sotheby’s Roxane Zand.

Our visit however, would not have been complete without experiencing the famous, fun-loving Turkish hospitality. Ender Mermerci graciously opened the grandeur of her home and her table to the conference speakers for a memorable feast—after which celebrating the success of the day continued till the wee hours of the morning! I for one cannot wait till the next invitation.