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Sotheby’s Sale of Turkish Contemporary Art Hits Its Target

Sotheby’s elected to hold its second sale of Turkish contemporary art on April 15, during its series of auctions of Islamic art.

LONDON—Sotheby’s elected to hold its second sale of Turkish contemporary art on April 15, during its series of auctions of Islamic art. Ali Can Ertug, Sotheby’s senior vice president, who initiated the Turkish sale, said the timing was coincidental, but there was no doubt that if the contemporary art could draw the attention of traditional Islamic-art collectors, sales could rise from last year’s £1.3million ($1.8million) total (ANL, 3/17/09) to reach this year’s estimate of £2million. In any event, the sale did even better, realizing £2.4million ($3.8million) for the 102 lots offered, with 68 lots, or 67 percent, finding buyers.

The high end of the sale was dominated by Turkish modern art, which was influenced by the West in general and the Parisian fashions for Cubism and abstraction in particular. A classic example in this sale was an untitled 1950s painting inspired by African totems by Fahrelnissa Zeid, the doyenne of modern Turkish painters working in Paris, from the collection of Prince Raad bin Zeid Al-Hussein. Estimated at £300,000/500,000, the painting more than lived up to expectations, selling for a record £657,250 ($1million) to an anonymous telephone buyer. That buyer also bought a 1960 untitled abstract painting by Erol Akyavas for £99,650 ($154,537) on a £30,000/50,000 estimate. Akyavas studied in Paris in the ’50s and then under Mies van der Rohe in Illinois in the ’60s before settling in New York. The work was consigned by a Florida resident who had owned it for decades without knowing anything about the artist or its value.

Other modern works to perform well included two abstract paintings by Abidin Elderoglu, who studied in Paris in the 1930s. His Sonbahar (Autumn), 1961, sold for £91,250 ($141,510) against an estimate of £55,000/75,000, and Un Altro Siren, 1967, sold for £61,250 ($95,000) on an estimate of £12,000/18,000. Both lots sold to the same Turkish private collector. The standout contemporary work of the sale was Taner Ceylan’s 1881 (From the Lost Painting Series), 2010, a super-realist portrait of a Hollywood-style Turk in evening dress. Fresh from the artist’s studio, the painting sold to an international dealer for a record £121,250 ($188,000) against an estimate of £35,000/45,000.

Several works explored the relationship between traditional Ottoman and contemporary culture. Kutlug Ataman, a 2004 Turner Prize nominee, referred to popular Oriental fiction with Documentaries Imagined or Otherwise Felt…, 2009, a drawing in lipstick kiss marks of genie-like forms emerging from a bottle, which sold for £21,250 ($32,940) against an estimate of £10,000/15,000. Haluk Akakçe, whose work is on view at the Alison Jacques Gallery, London, through May 30, saw his two-panel acrylic painting on wood Incubation-Isolation-Transmission, 2009, sell for a record £43,250 ($67,072) against an estimate of £35,000/45,000. The price was comfortably in line with primary market prices, according to dealer Alison Jacques.

In all, 16 records were set. Several works had come directly from the artists or their dealers. Gallery X-ist, Istanbul, had supplied Sotheby’s directly with work by its artists; Ansen Atilla’s C-print Ground Control to Major Tom, 2005, was one such work, and it sold for a record £10,000 ($15,500) on a £7,000/9,000 estimate.

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