Bige Örer, who was director of the Istanbul Biennial at the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV) since 2008, and Director of İKSV Contemporary Art Projects since 2018, has announced that she will step down from her role. Her decision comes at a time of turmoil at the Istanbul Biennial, following the rejection of Defne Ayas as curator of the 2024 biennial in favour of Iwona Blazwick last summer and the public criticism that followed, including an open letter published in October where artists and other art professionals called for ‘better Istanbul Biennials’.
In a long report for ArtReview in August, Kaya Genç reflected on these criticisms of the biennial, describing how the opacity of the selection process of the artistic director of the 18th Istanbul Biennial ‘led to the formation of an initiative comprising a group of artists, researchers and art professionals who demanded transparency from İKSV.’ The open letter is the latest manifestation of these requests for clarity of process and governance at the Biennial. Genç also asserted how crucial this is in the local context: ‘In Turkey, demands for institutional transparency are rooted in fears about a pervasive political silence that may soon take the country hostage, particularly as government pressure on the fields of arts and culture continues to grow. These demands and concerns are fundamental in public life.’
An open forum about the unethical practices in how art is commissioned, produced and distributed in Turkey is being organised on 7 January 2024 in Istanbul. A report from Genç for ArtReview will follow. In the meantime, announcement of a new director is forthcoming and İKSV has made no indication that a search will be launched. Örer leaves her role on 15 January 2024 in order to pursue independent projects. İKSV in a press release reasserts that preparations for the 18th Istanbul Biennial continue as planned’.