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Damla Tokcan Faro

When Art/ists Meet Where the Continents Meet:
The Social Impact of International Istanbul Biennial and Turkish Cultural Policy for Contemporary Arts

          “People don’t care about art, they care about sports and movies,” says an American artist who participated in the 8th International Istanbul Biennial. This is partly why I chose the title: ”When Art/ists Meet Where the Continents Meet,” a variation of “Lets Meet Where the Continents Meet,” the slogan that Turkey used when Istanbul applied to be the host city for the Olympics. The statement has a very strong geographic, politic and cultural reference: it sums up what Istanbul is really about to the international audience. Turkey has not yet been accepted to be the host for the Olympics, but the International Istanbul Biennials are being reviewed among top contemporary art events.

            Taking the International Istanbul Biennial as a case study, this research investigates the social and cultural impact of contemporary arts on the host country. This analysis is supported by surveys completed by participating artists and visitors and by the study of local and international media coverage during the event. Government documents and interviews with local officials are used to describe the current structure of the cultural policy in Turkey and to propose alternative solutions for the growth of contemporary arts in the country.

            The 8th International Istanbul Biennial, organized by Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts, yet again raised interesting global issues. It is often said that Turkey is a bridge between the East and the West. The same notion is evoked in various political and social arenas as well as in the global art scene, but what are the real effects of being a “bridge” on a country like Turkey? What are the consequences of the political and social turmoil that Turkey faces on the cultural policy for the contemporary arts?

            As one of the most successful international products of the Turkish culture, the International Istanbul Biennials are facing serious financial difficulties. Most of the expenses are covered by the private sponsors and international foundations. Why can’t the biennial get any funding from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism? How do other aspects of the current cultural policy affect the contemporary art scene in Turkey? What are the other strengths and weaknesses of the current cultural policy regarding the contemporary arts and how can the current structure be challenged for future opportunities? This work addresses these questions using both qualitative and statistical information from the most recent Biennial and provides some suggestions for the improvement of the current state of contemporary arts in Turkey.


          Damla Tokcan Faro completed her BA in Communications and Marketing at an international university in London. She co-founded and was head of marketing and project development for a graphic design firm. While in the MAAA program, Damla interned at the 8th International Istanbul Biennial, now established as one of Europe’s leading art expositions.


Thesis Advisor: Nicholas LoweVisiting Artist, Arts Administration

Thesis Reader: Gregory Sholette Assistant Professor, Arts Administration

Second Reader: Bilge U_urlar Assistant Director, International Istanbul Biennial, Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts
















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