The Magical 17th Istanbul Biennial Premiere

The long-awaited 17th Istanbul Biennial has started on 17 September and will end in 20 November 2022. The biennial is spread to 12 places in total, including the famous Pera Museum and SAHA buildings. After the pandemic, the curatorial team wanted to include as many people as they could, resulting in the opening of a worldwide accessed radio program. The main aim is to make the visitors be included in the program using their multiple sense.


Artworks by Sim Chi Yin at Pera Museum


Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts along with their sponsors Koç Holding and Eczacıbaşı organized a press week to circulate the news of the biennial. As the Istanbul Chronicle, we took place in the week's events as well and will be sharing everything we have seen!


First of all, the week started with a press meeting in the Zeytinburnu Medical Plants Garden. The curatorial team, the organizer of the biennial Bilge Örer, the CEO's, and the main sponsors Koç and Eczacıbaşı gave speeches. Bilge Örer took the stage first to announce the official beginning of the biennials, and clearly stated the organization’s intentions: a spoked biennial instead of snapshots. An example given by Bilge Örer was the compost analogy, the main theme of the biennial. Then, Koç announced that they will extend the sponsorship of the biennials until 2036. Eczacıbaşı mentioned their support for the biennial and the effects it will bring to the forgotten streets of Istanbul.


A Press Event with the Curatorial Team at Zeytinburnu Medical Plants Garden


Next, came the official opening ceremony for the artists and business people. Ekrem İmamoğlu and the sponsors received honors for their contribution to the biennial. This event was for the artists to meet with the business people and network with people on the financial side.


The most awaited event, the opening party, was on the 15th of September, at night, designed for press members and artists to chat in a less formal environment. Of course, the biennial culture continued there. The biennial aimed to understand, not to simply take shots of the scene, and to meet with people who do not speak the same language as you. An Asian band played live music at the Yapı Kredi Bomonti for the attendants. Many artists met with the already familiar faces, and even though Asian and European artists had difficulties speaking, it was a nice cozy chatting environment.


Opening Party, An Asian Band on the Stage


The calendar was full of public events: curator-led tours in Pera Museum and Poem Line with one of the three curators, Amar Kanwar. During the press preview days, most of the events were performances, and Amar Kanwar, who is normally a film director, had his signature on these events. Symposiums and panels were also on the list in the biennial places marked on the map.


All the places on the map were open for press members during the preview days, to shoot and take notes of the pieces and performances before the crowd came. Letting the press visit the biennial earlier was a nice decision, since visitors who solely want to engage with art would be more comfortable without TV cameras filming above their heads. Preview days and opening ceremonies were new to the culture of the biennial but needed. It helped both curators to achieve their theme and visitors to have a better experience of art. Also, as press members, we got the chance to take notes and record all the events without much disturbance.


Artworks by Sim Chi Yin at Pera Museum


This biennial had a long thought process during the pandemic and even more brainwork in the curatorial and artists departments. All the innovations brought new signatures and effects to the culture of the biennials. And all visitors sure will be happy with the longer and free-of-charge biennial. The only difference of this year’s biennial was that it did not have any specific theme. Normally, all biennials have themes long before the artists consult with their artistries. The 17th one is a bit different with no theme, rather all the walls of the places are marked with ideas behind the biennial. This could be a result of the long process and also the need to bring freshness after the pandemic.


17th biennial will sure bring innovations to the field, and the curatorial team is the one responsible along with the financial brains, who supported them along the way of all the events for both public and press members. Artists looked like they adopted to the new culture of the biennial already. They all seemed to enjoy since they could direct the theme with their ideas when there were no limits. The biennial team looked like a big family who made the event possible after the long pandemic.

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