Interview with Paul McMillen

You have been following the Contemporary Art scene in Turkey for over 30 years now, what are your observations?

There is almost a village-like organisation for the art and culture community here. When the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (IKSV) started, it was kind of a corporate-supported project by what one would call the ‘republican intellectuals’ of the time. The idea behind it was that people who make money put money back into the society through culture. In that context, the idea of supporting art was almost aristocratic – just like in Europe. What has changed is that with the digital revolution the nature of art, and the audience and artists themselves, are no longer sitting where they used to. They are socio-economically in different places. You could say we are in a post-capitalist period, some people even believe that we are in a post-democratic era. So the personal identity, which is associated with what media you consume, becomes a very different story. You are describing yourself by saying “I am involved with that” or “I read that” or “I buy that”.

And the other thing is that the general feeling, the energy that young people create, is the energy of the cultural environment. Supporting the arts is not automatically regarded as if it is a wonderful thing to do in this country. They see it as an exercise, as a gesture of self-aggrandisement, making yourself, or a company, look better. They are not sincere. People my age consume art and young people create it and because of that they have a feeling of betrayal of that support, if the supporter will be elevated or regarded well. The same development is going on in Europe right now, they are going through the same process.

What you have is a very sophisticated and difficult situation. The reason for that is that art is an asset class, a type of asset like real estate, stocks and bonds. This year even Sotheby’s lost money, it is very weird. I mean the whole industry is very difficult. The whole idea of philanthropy then fits into this extremely well. Our company is doing corporate projects mostly related to culture, based on philanthropy; how to sponsor things, how to be a cultural citizen, let’s say, and how to create. One of the subjects we work on is legacy.