In the process of decommissioning santralistanbul, formerly one of Istanbul’s most celebrated new cultural institutions, Istanbul Bilgi University has betrayed the trust of the art world by putting the works in its collection up for auction. Since its opening in 2007, santralistanbul served host to exhibitions from Centre Pompidou, ZKM in Karlsruhe, to MUSAC in León, and organized ambitious local exhibitions. However, after a rather combative change of ownership the university has recently decided to dissolve its “santralistanbul Museum of Contemporary Art” and put its collection on the auction.
If Istanbul Bilgi University doesn't decide to pull back from the auction, which is to be held on February 17th, these works may be lost from the publics reach forever.
The auction house Macka Mezat that has taken over breaking up the collection makes no reference to the origin of the works, and refers to the sale—which includes several works from other private collections as well—as follows: “The private collection comprises important works by prominent Turkish modern and contemporary artists.”
The question is whether works donated or sold to a museum collection that would represent the heart and soul of histories of art in Turkey could be reverted to the private domain. The works were turned over to what was upheld as a public institution that would not only provide good custodianship but also scholarship in the context of an academic institution. Neither has materialized. This is not a simple case of deaccession. It is a direct attack on Turkey’s artistic commons.
We declare that we will push back through forming public opinion until İstanbul Bilgi University finds a way to keep this treasure trove within the public realm.