• News
  • Dec 27, 2023

Leadership Changes Underway at the Istanbul Biennial

Portrait of BIGE ORER, who has directed the Istanbul Biennial since 2008. Photo by David Levene. Courtesy IKSV, Istanbul.

The Istanbul Foundation for Culture and the Arts (İKSV) announced on December 27 that longtime Istanbul Biennial director Bige Örer would step down on January 15, 2024. İKSV said preparations for the 18th Istanbul Biennial in September 2024 are continuing as planned and that the private foundation would announce a new director shortly.

Örer’s departure comes amid several public controversies over two of İKSV’s biggest contemporary art projects. Many art professionals criticized the selection of Iwona Blazwick as the next curator of the Istanbul Biennial after reports emerged in August that the Biennial’s advisory board—which had included Blazwick herself—had unanimously recommended curator Defne Ayas to lead the next edition. After several board members resigned, İKSV’s management chose Blazwick instead.

In mid-August, the curator of the next Türkiye Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, Esra Sarıgedik Öktem, stepped down amid criticism over the Biennial’s decision not to work with Ayas. However, many had already noted the obvious conflict of interest in Sarıgedik Öktem’s selection, as she runs the commercial art agency BüroSarıgedik, which represents the artist Gülsün Karamustafa who will be exhibiting in the Türkiye Pavilion overseen by İKSV.

Örer has been the director of the Istanbul Biennial since 2008 and director of İKSV Contemporary Art Projects since 2018.

Arts professionals mounted a grass-roots petition on October 4 calling for “Better Istanbul Biennials,” after which İKSV pledged reforms for its 2026 edition.

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