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10 Contemporary Turkish Artists You Should Know

When you think of Turkish art, your first association might be Byzantine mosaics or the world-famous architecture of the Hagia Sophia. But obviously, there are amazing things happening in contemporary Turkish art, too, and we thought we’d highlight ten of our favorites.

Taner Ceylan: One of Turkey’s most prominent artists, Ceylan makes hyperrealist paintings that “bespeak absolute technical mastery and precision,” says curator Dan Cameron, “but which are also freighted with an emotional and sexual dimension usually absent from the genre.”

Mert Alas (half of Mert & Marcus): The Turkish-Welsh duo Mert & Marcus have re-injected high glamor into 21st-century fashion photography. Their extensive use of digital enhancement and other post-production techniques lends their images a purposeful artificiality—“like a painting,” as Mert describes.

Vahap Avsar: Avsar examines the human cost of unchecked political authority and oppressive regimes. Much of his art turns a critical eye towards Turkey’s recent troubled history and, as in the video piece Tekmil (2010), draws on his experience of compulsory national service.

Ayse Erkmen: Erkmen’s extremely diverse practice involves architectural and environmental interventions, sculpture, installation, photography, and animation. In her most famous work, Shipped Ships (2001), three ferries were brought to Frankfurt by container ships from Japan, Italy, and Turkey along with their complete respective crews. These were used to transport passengers across the Main River for a period of one month.

Gulay Semercioglu: Born in Istanbul and trained as a painter, fiber artist Semercioglu weaves fine, colored wires into a dense mesh—from a distance her works look likeColor Field abstractions, and the unexpected material is only apparent upon close inspection. Despite their materials, Semercioglu considers her works paintings.

Tamer Nakisci: After studying in Milan, Nakisci returned to his native Istanbul to start a studio, focusing on conceptual interior design and interactive installations. His works frequently reference Turkish culture, like the Shade rug, inspired by Middle Eastern craft, or his limited-edition Light, which reinterprets the mashrabiya latticed window as a kilim made of wool, silk, and mirrors.

Pinar Yolacan: Conceptual photographer Yolacan was born in Istanbul, studied fashion design in London, and is now based in New York. For her best-known series, she posed mature models in “outfits” of her own creation—made from meat and other perishables.

Nuri Kuzucan: A common theme in Kuzucan’s work is the spaces—whether urban, public, or private—in which daily life is lived. His gridded abstractions, built through the use of tape, evoke city plans and architecture.

Irfan Önürmen: Önürmen explores the impact of mass media on the human psyche, in collages, paintings, and sculptures that draw from archives of images he collects from newspapers and magazines. In his “Gaze” series, the artist depicts familiar-looking faces that are composite images of figures found on the Internet

Kezban Arca Batibeki: Arca Batibeki is known for her paintings that probe themes of female empowerment and conflict in pop culture imagery, through depictions of women as faceless or overtly sexualized, often in various states of undress. Her style references everything from pulp fiction to traditional illumination and illustration.

Explore Contemporary Istanbul on Artsy.


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