Turkey: Two sculptures removed after protests

5 January 2017

City officials removed a sculpture from outside the A Plus shopping mall in the western part of Istanbul just two days after it went up after a “big crowd” protested the work, reported Artnet on 29 December 2016.

Ahmet Güneştekin’s word sculpture featuring the old name for Istanbul – Konstantiniyye – in large, colourful block letters, was covered entirely in black plastic on 22 December 2016 after protestors showed up just hours after the unveiling. The sculpture was then entirely removed on 24 December.

Protests were spurred after Alper Tan, head of pro-government TV station Kanal A, tweeted about the statue and the old city name, questioning why such a piece of work should be erected “at a time when society’ sensitivities are so high”, reported art magazine Art Asia Pacific on 27 December 2016.

The country’s complex history, coupled with the current government’s post-coup crackdown, recent attacks throughout the country and a troubled border with Syria, have left social tensions high.

“Some extremist people protested against me and the sculpture, saying that ‘here is Istanbul, not Byzantium’ and they wanted to lynch me and my art,” Güneştekin said on his Instagram page. “Istanbul was called Kostantiniyye from 1453 to 1930. Clearly, those who protested do not know the history.”

Sculpture featuring sultan removed
Ali Elmacı removed his scuplture of a woman wearing a swimsuit featuring the likeness of conservative Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamit from the 11th Contemporary Istanbul art festival after protestors showed up at the event on 3 November 2016, reported Hurriyet Daily News on 4 November 2016.

A group of 20 to 30 protestors entered the event, chanting “Allahu Akbar”, saying they wouldn’t leave until the artwork was removed as they found it “offensive” to have their “grandfather and ancestor” represented in that manner.

Elmacı made the choice to remove his work after his attempts to calm the group down only led to more provocation.

“You can be annoyed by an artwork but you cannot give such a reaction. I think that I didn’t do anything to deserve this and I am only performing my art,” the artist told the Turkish daily.

The protestors represented the Millî Görüş movement which calls for the strengthening of Islamic values in the country and turning away from Western influences.  The artist and art exhibit CEO filed a complaint against the group.

Photo: Istanbul Art News Instagram page


» The National – 8 January 2017
The Turkish art that was lost in translation

» Artnet – 29 December 2016
Public sculpture by Turkish art star removed from Istanbul shopping mall

» Art Asia Pacific – 27 December 2016
“Konstantiniyye” sculpture removed in Istanbul

» Wallpaper – 13 December 2016
Censor and sensibility: Contemporary Istanbul courts controversy at its 11th edition

» Hurriyet Daily News – 4 November 2016
Artist withdraws work from Contemporary Istanbul

More from Freemuse

» 14 September 2016: Turkey: The coup still continues for the art scene

» 9 September 2016: Turkey: Recent reports paint grim picture for artistic freedom

» 1 June 2016: Turkey: Local man smashes “obscene” sculpture

» 12 May 2016: Turkey: Art exhibitions cancelled, a troubling trend

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