Sun, May 19, 2013 - Page 14 News List

Turks buying modern art for investment and prestige

As the economy booms, the contemporary art market has attracted not only the super-rich, but also an expanding class of young professionals on the lookout for opportunities

By Asli Kandemir  /  Reuters, ISTANBUL

“Ample global liquidity and negative real interest rates have had a great impact on increasing investment in art,” said Saltik Galatali, Akbank deputy general manager in charge of private banking.

“Art investments have become a tool for protecting the value of assets,” said Galatali, whose team manages a 17 billion lira (US$9.5 billion) portfolio for 4,500 clients.

Pelin Sandalli has seen her business boom since she set up her Linart Gallery in Nisantasi in March 2011, exhibiting a full range of contemporary art forms, including video art, installations, photography, paintings and sculpture.

More and more of her clients are young professionals who are first-time buyers.

“The number of more conscious collectors who are highly educated, make extensive research and devote their time and energy to art are increasing day by day,” Sandalli said.

Sotheby’s was the first major international auction house to hold an exclusively Turkish contemporary art sale in 2009. British auctioneer Bonhams has since joined the competition with its own dedicated Turkish sales.

Such events have seen record prices for modern Turkish art.

At a Sotheby’s sale in 2010, highlights included Fahrelnissa Zeid’s Untitled, the first modern Turkish work to exceed US$1 million at auction. Rising star Taner Ceylan’s painting 1881 was sold for more than £100,000 (US$154,900).

“We started off collecting art as a hobby, but now we see it as a good investment and something to leave to our son,” former banker and marketing manager Burcu Egene said as she flashed her card at an auction in one of Istanbul’s smartest hotels.

The Koc, Sabanci and Eczacibasi families, leading Turkish industrial dynasties, are pumping millions of lira into building art collections.

Two years ago, Murat Ulker, chairman of Yildiz Holding, a leading Turkish food and beverages group, paid 2.2 million lira for Burhan Dogancay’s Blue Symphony.

He also recently bought a controversial work by contemporary artist Bedri Baykam.

The eclectic tastes of the Ulker family, a pillar of the conservative business establishment, as well as the price tag, caught attention: Empty Frame, a suspended empty frame, sold for US$125,000.

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