an interview with Mehmet Ali Bakanay

How would you describe the culture of art collecting in Turkey and elsewhere?

There are two types of collectors the world over—the ones who have it in their blood, and those who don’t. Unfortunately, there are many belonging to the second category here in Turkey, which can be risky. If these people stop buying, the Turkish art scene will decline. There was quite a lot of hype around 2006 and 2007 when everybody started collecting, so one’s collection had a tendency to look quite similar to someone else’s. If a collector bought one work, their entourage bought the same. This has been changing lately, though. It has been a learning process for collectors in Turkey, but things are heading in a good direction. People discovered art fairs, met other collectors, gallerists, and curators. Some voluntary groups and associations popped up in Turkey, which work to support contemporary art and artists from Turkey and motivate local collectors through philanthropy. Another problem is that some collectors here feel that if they are willing to pay large amounts of money for artwork, they can buy from international artists and acquire a more recognised name. This is problematic because it is important that people support the local art scene. But people go around and pick up some names and then they think that’s everything there is to it. Many local collections don’t contain the main representatives of contemporary Turkish art, even if they were exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the Tate Modern, or the like. In essence, we are still learning. Being humble and being sincere are some of the most important things in art. You have to trust your senses, do some research, and then make a decision in your heart. I am always certain when I make a purchase.