Seçil Alkış: It’s been known/said for a long time that architects are influential in giving direction to the tendencies in Turkish art. As an architect/collector/museum owner, what do you think about this notion?
Can Elgiz: The influence of architects on Turkish art begins first and foremost with the works they place in architecture. The way art works are placed in the space (which is now a part of interior architecture) has become quite important. I think the contributions of architects to contemporary art are determined by the art works they place in spaces… We can see this in a larger scale in the world. Religious structures used to be the structures that the architects designed most freely. There used to be contests between architects involving religious structures, for which they came up with various projects. Lately the same can be said for museum buildings. When designing museums, architects reach the highest point of their skills. This is the source of the word starchitect. Such architecture has lately begun to attract more attention than the works shown inside. Even though the existence of these structures indicate a wide support for art, sometimes the negative aspects should be considered.
S.A: What’s the mission and attitude of Elgiz Museum of Contemporary Art in this context?
C.E: Our goal used to be to show the works of young artists, since the opening in 2001 up until today. During the period we worked with Vasıf Kortun, Fulya Erdemci amd Melih Fereli, our intention was to organize curatorial exhibitions for artists who weren’t able to show their works in any gallery. But at a certain point, we wanted to return to our collector identity. Meanwhile galleries and institutions had begun to show the works of the artists we supported, and thus we put our emphasis on collecting, which is what defines this institution. But in addition to exhibiting collections, we still continue to organize shows in our project rooms that support young artists. We have a new terrace that is 1500 square meters wide, in which we host sculpture exhibitions of works selected by a committee – we have about two such shows a year. Thus, to a certain degree we keep pursuing the goal that we set out in the beginning.
S.A: As an architect, which artists do you think are prominent with regard to their understanding of space in their works?
C.E: Erol Akyavaş is one of the artists I find significant, as he’s an architect. He organizes all his work according to the perception of space; he achieves a unity with the space. Regarding this criteria, he’s one of the most successful artists, as he became an artist after working as an architect. His exhibition in Aya İrini is therefore significant. In this context, the same can be said for Mehmet Gün. Especially due to the material he used, his works looked very impressive in that historical space. There are quite a number of artists who do this, but if we take the same space (the Aya İrini church) as an example, Fabian Marcaccio is also one of the prominent artists. His works were hanged ten meters high, and at the same time the work of Michael Lee covered the floor. It was integrated with the space in such a way that the visitors could lie on the work on the floor, and watch the ceiling.
S.A: Both in the world and in Turkey, specifically during the postmodern era, projects aimed to be elite and unique, and this turned out to be an attractive field for artistic and architectural concepts. What do you think of this, and of the examples made?
C.E: This is completely an architectural movement. As Charles Jencks defines the history of architecture; We’re living a life that has already been lived before and reproduced bearing no reality except the recreation of an image of the past. As Postmodernism isn’t concerned with destroying the past, it attempts to tell of today and the past. After the 1970-80s, during a movement of a return to contemporary, came postmodernism, an era with emphasis on transforming the past, adding things to an internalization of the classic period. Michael Graves is a significant person for this era. But I think this era is now coming to an end. Now a contemporary and beyond-era avant-garde period has begun again. Things are a bit different now. Postmodernism has been a period of transition. The same can be said of art. It affected them both.
S.A: As an Istanbul based organization, and concerning how the city changes and develops with respect to the world, what is the planned perspective of Proje 4L/Elgiz Contemporary Art Museum?
C.E: It should be accepted that Istanbul is a rising value. In addition to being a city that attracts quite a number of tourists, it’s also a city that combines the old and the new. Therefore, contemporary art is a good match for Istanbul. It’s because art has became a rising value in this historical city. That’s why the artists living in this peninsula have an advantage concerning creativity. In addition to the artists being creative, the people visiting the city also want to see contemporary art. 15 years ago, when we first started collecting art works, foreign collectors we stumbled upon used to ask if there was any contemporary art made in Turkey. Now everybody is finding out where it’s made, and how much of it is made. They now have a more concrete idea. As for the future plans of Elgiz Contemporary Art Museum; we would like to continue organizing shows comprising collections. We don’t exhibit anything but collections, except for the terrace and the project rooms. We will continue hosting project and terrace exhibitions, together with collection shows, which is our main mission.