ISTANBUL - With the close of the eighth edition of Contemporary Istanbul, it is now absolutely, indisputably clear: they’ve done it. The city is now fast on its way to becoming an art world powerhouse and Contemporary Istanbul can take a good deal of the credit.

Art is “in” in Istanbul, and now no longer is it just Turkish art, or the passionate hobby of the rarified few who purchase million-dollar modern masterworks each year at Art Basel or Frieze. If this year’s Contemporary Istanbul showed anything, in fact, it was that a solid, widespread market has finally taken root in this town, among young and old alike, and for local, international, and even lesser known young artists.


Ramazan Bayrakoglu’s The Portrait of Madeleine Budd. Galerie Lelong.

But there’s something else notable this year, too: the adoption by major international galleries of Turkish artists in their ranks, including Ramazan at Galerie Lelong and the controversial Ahmet Günestekin, whose New York debut opens later this month at Marlborough, New York. 

Somehow, these two developments seemed palpable at this year’s fair in a sense of partnership between Turkish dealers and international ones, and between Turkish collectors and the international galleries. Where in the past they’ve seemed to eye one another as if from across a crowded dinner party, now they are entering into engaged dialogues. As Acoris Andipa of London’s Andipa Gallery, participating for the second time, expressed it, “conversations are more genuine. The volume and nature of questions are far more educated than even a year ago – and it’s playing out what I predicted. It’s just a matter of time.”


Banksy’s Kids on Guns. Andipa Gallery.

Meanwhile, those curious buyers helped secure solid sales across the board. Andipa found a new home for a Damien Hirst; Pi Art Works sold out of a series of small-scale works by gallery favorite Gulay Semercioglu, along with two larger pieces; Istanbul’s Galeri Nev reported sales of two works by Tafun Erdogmus, who creates “paintings” using nothing but leaves and brass leaf; and at Galeri Zilberman, two major multi-media photo-collages by Azade Koker sold early on for undisclosed amounts. The optimism was palpable – as London’s Andipa said: “It’s happening,” he said. “It’s happening.”