IEAA jury member and Founder of The Empire Project, Istanbul, Turkey.
Where does the name "The Empire Project" come from?
The Empire Project was the result of long reflection on what I thought was needed when looking to create a new gallery that held Turkey at its core and provided context for the scene. There has been this confusion and strange in-between state when discussing the Turkish scene; whether it's western enough or eastern enough. I realized that the answer was neither and that the issues we deal with have a lot of residue left from our past, actually I believe that this is true for the whole region. We are trying to conduct our arguments through the legacy of World War I and II and not taking into account the expansion, constriction and the booby-traps cultural, architectural, culinary, etc. legacy of the Ottoman Empire. This residue helps defines us and has an impact on our future. Hence I chose the Empire Project not in the least as a Neo-Ottoman construct but as a post-modern construct looking at new works, and new artists coming from this region.
How do you define the positioning of your art gallery and what is your long term vision?
We are a gallery that is excited by sharing new developments, emerging / young up & coming artists, with an eye towards cultural dialog, the human condition, and taking the temperature and pulse of this dynamic region. We share works that are both reflections of master artists yet we feel it is now more important than ever to create areas of play and discovery where artists are allowed to take risks that the general commercial environment doesn't allow. So in a sense we operate as a laboratory as well as a commercial institution. You could say we are a new hybrid between Kunsthale, a nonprofit arts center and gallery. Our goal is to be one of the key reference points for the region and help create context for this un-equaled geo-political region.
Why is Istanbul an attractive place for emerging artists? How does it position itself on the international art scene?
I believe Istanbul has allways been a hub for the other, a place that has a strong personal character nurturing creatives through its mix of old and new, yet also allows the individual to retain their individualism The world is now focusing on these hubs more and more as important world stages, of course relative economic stability in these turbulent times is an additional draw.
How do you feel about showcasing the artwork of an emirati artist and the International winner?
We are very thrilled to have the opportunity to show work from young unexposed artists. A chance to discover new talent, to look at the human condition through the eyes of questing individuals is always a great rare treat. We look forward to seeing the dynamic work from the region and seeing the new contributions.
What are your advice to the participants in general?
To truly take the opportunity to take risks, to go beyond just convention and trends, remember why they started creating art in the first place. This is a unique opportunity especially for an Emirati artist to explore new territory to realize that they are creating the foundations of a cultural heritage and future.