Echoes of the İstanbul Biennial in foreign press
Ever since its start, the İstanbul Biennial has hosted more than 600 art critics and journalists, along with the focus of Europe. Comments such as "the İstanbul Biennial is very wild," "[it's] bursting with a life energy that calls one to empathy" , "70 pieces of work full of meaning" and "the İstanbul Biennial, radical like never before" have found their places among important press institutions of Europe.
One of the highest selling French newspapers, Le Monde featured an article titled "The İstanbul Biennial is Very Wild" by Philippe Dagen on 28 September where he states: "The 11th İstanbul Biennial is open to all the storms that the past and the present may bring. We sometimes shudder, sometimes are caught unaware, and sometimes we utter ‘this is just too much.' This Biennial is mercilessly alive, hence violently interesting."
Another famous French newspaper, Liberation, pointed out that the İstanbul Biennial "is full of life energy that calls one to empathy." In his article dated 23 September, Vincent Noce writes: "These are not star artists from New York; most of them are from Russia, Syria, the Balkans, the Middle East, half of them women, most of them under 40. This movement that the Biennial created has a dash of naiveté in it and this is what gives it an edge; especially considering we are struggling aside those in power. In any case, what is important is that the Biennial vibrates and this in itself, is amazing."
Gabi Scardi, in an article in Il Sole 24 dated 13 September states: "An extraordinary biennial where each work is treated with finesse and each selection with profound analysis. The result is an installation made of 70 low profile though highly significant works. Everywhere one looks, one can see a condensed effort and commitment... Like it or not, this is an eloquent biennial."
Hanno Rauterberg's article in Die Zeit on 17 September comments "The İstanbul Biennial, radical like never before" and states: "This Biennial tries to reflect the problems and questions of our times, all the while steering away from real life – well, that is the beauty of art. This Biennial wants to urge people to take action against capitalism and injustice. It is up-to-date and fits into the dynamism of the city."
In an article dated 22 September, in one of the most important papers in England, The Guardian, Fiachra Gibbons calls the 11th İstanbul Biennial "the most political since the fall of the Berlin Wall." In her article she writes: "If you believe the curators of the İstanbul Biennial, the most political since the fall of the Berlin Wall, we are in the End of Days. The crisis has come like an avenging angel to cleanse the earth and art with it. In this final reckoning, there will be no place for the hedonistic nihilism of the last 20 years, nor for the artists who have become playthings of the rich. Only politics can save us now." About the curators of the Biennial, Gibbons adds, "Art biennials are expensive, often largely irrelevant affairs, and not usually marked by calls for a new world order. But İstanbul's curators, the Croatian all-female collective What, How & for Whom, are seeking nothing less than a refounding of art on Brechtian principles, as a motor for social change."
The 11th International İstanbul Biennial also drew attention from German newspapers. In Tagesspiegel's 14 September issue, critic Kolja Reichert states, "the International İstanbul Biennial this year is a sensation. Always bearing a political edge, the Biennial this time is radical and declares war on the situation the country is in. Although the recent flood disaster does create a bit more pressure, the Biennial responds to bad infrastructure and unplanned settlement with art. This biennial says it all..."
In the 15 September issue of Sueddeutsche Zeitung, critic Kia Vahland writes, "the teachers of WHW are the young Marx and Brecht... Curators and artists see art as the only mode of expression against capitalism, since in some countries the freedom of speech is censored by political or media empires. This year's İstanbul Biennial is both art beyond art and a political performance beyond parties and parliaments."
An article dated 25 September in Italy's best selling weekly journal Panorama states, "The old Ottoman capital has become one of the cultural centres of the world. [...] The Biennial presents artists from the Middle East, the Balkans and the Ex-USSR countries. In the past few years İstanbul has become, slowly but surely, one of the centres of the universal language of contemporary art, just like London, Berlin and New York." In the article, Massimo Boffa writes, "even the ironic, humorous works distance themselves from the carefree realm of art merchants with the serious and tragic reminders they entail. At least for this reason, these works are ‘interesting' more so than ‘beautiful'."
The 11th International İstanbul Biennial was also mentioned in leading magazines of contemporary art such as Art in America, ArtNews, Artforum in the USA, Frieze, ArtReview, Art Monthly, The Art Newspaper in the UK and FlashArt, Il Giornale dell Arte in Italy. Furthermore, the French/German partner TV channel ARTE will be broadcasting a detailed programme on the Biennial next week. Leading Greek TV channel ERT and the Spanish RTVE will also broadcast from İstanbul, covering the İstanbul Biennial.