Istanbul Modern Releases Official Statement on Claims of Censorship

by Hrag Vartanian on December 30, 2011

A view of the Istanbul Modern (via

We were notified this morning via Twitter that the Istanbul Modern has released the following statement regarding the claims of censorship over a work by Bubi Hayon at their gala auction:

Istanbul Modern’s Announcement

Dedicated to supporting art and artists and to preserving and exhibiting works of art, we were surprised and disappointed by the discussion that emerged this year regarding the selection of artwork for Gala Modern, Istanbul Modern’s annual fundraising event.

Istanbul Modern is an institution for culture and the arts that relies primarily on the contributions of visitors and supporters and on events like Gala Modern to fund its activities. Worldwide, these kinds of events are organized by volunteers to raise funds for non-profit institutions and, like Gala Modern, they are closed to the general public. As explained carefully to the artists who created artwork specifically for Gala Modern and donated them to the event, the sole purpose of the evening and the art in question was to raise money for Istanbul Modern’s educational programs.

Bubi, too, received a detailed briefing about the character and importance of Gala Modern. He knew that Gala Modern was not an exhibition and that the primary purpose of the work he created was to raise funds for Istanbul Modern’s educational programs. In events of this kind, the curatorial team selects the artists that will participate and determines which works will be included. This is standard international practice.

Istanbul Modern has a strong record of opposing censorship and encouraging freedom of expression in art.

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  • I wouldn’t call it censorship so much as advertising efforts of the said artists.

    • That’s a very cynical take. To be honest, the artists have said they don’t want to be interviewed when I asked so why would they do that if they were simply interested in pr.

  • You’re right about it being a cynical take. I don’t want to sound bitter but I guess I’ve grown to be cynical in regard to these things. Istanbul Modern, despite the fact that it was built with the help of the governing right-wing AKP, has been very accommodating in their exhibition policies. Works far more challenging than Hayon’s chair can be viewed in their permanent collection, and they put a commendable emphasis on female artists. They may put on the lousiest shows and have many faults but if you ask me, censorship isn’t one of them. And when I look at Hayon’s work and read his statement, strangely enough, I find myself empathizing with the institution, not the artist. The statement, to me, is particularly incredible: “With this work I have criticized the general museum idea which came from 1900s,” said Hayon, adding that he criticized the “sacred” idea of visiting a museum. “My aim was not to be political.” This does not even make sense. I won’t be commenting on this or the work itself because I’ll sound even more cynical. Hayon then adds that it doesn’t matter if the museum likes his work or not. Really? How does it not matter when they’re the ones exhibiting it? I am thinking your artists wouldn’t do an interview because they can’t possibly have anything to say in defense of this. I think this controversy has worked well for Istanbul Modern which thus far has been regarded as a vanity museum in legitimizing them into a public museum, albeit against their will.  Again, I’m sorry for being cynical. I don’t want to offend anyone but from where I’m standing it all looks a bit hypocritical.

    • Those are excellent points. I’m glad you chimed in. Though I do support their objective to question a corporate-supported art infrastructure.

      I know the artists are talking to the Turkish media, so why they aren’t talking to us we’re not quite sure yet.

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