Installation view of Galerie Lelong at Contemporary Istanbul.


ISTANBUL - As the fair opened on day two of Contemporary Istanbul, trucks could be seen unloading at the main entrance, bringing fresh works in to replace those already sold – a sure sign that things are, at least for some galleries, going well.   

And indeed, they seem to be. Both local and international galleries already are reporting strong sales – an optimistic sign for the Turkish market overall, and especially for the growing enthusiasm among Turkish collectors for works by international artists.  As was the case last year, Marc Quinn seems to be a popular favorite, with sales both at Andipa of London and Istanbul’s own Regis Krampf; and at newcomer Galerie Lelong, director Patrice Cotensin happily recounted a number of sales, including a large Jaume Plensa head (€250,000) and two works by Turkish artist Ramazan Bayrakoglu, (better known simply as Ramazan), a recent addition to the Lelong stable of artists.


Installation view of Andipa Gallery at Contemporary Istanbul.

That Ramazan has joined up with a gallery of Lelong’s caliber and global reach marks another large stride forward for the Turkish scene overall: for nearly a decade now, passionate Turkish collectors like Can and Sevda Elgiz have championed the artists of their homeland in the hopes that international galleries and collectors would pay attention. Now it seems their hard work is paying off: while Marlborough Gallery plans a large New York exhibition for Turkish artist Ahmet Gunestekin later this month, Lelong, too, has big plans for Ramazan, whose work they will feature in their booth at ARCO in February and next year at FIAC, Paris. And as more Turkish artists gain exposure outside their native country – and with the recent expansion of Istanbul’s Pi Art Works to London – more and more collectors here are eagerly beginning to wonder: Is Turkish art at last becoming the next big thing?