The Turkish Top 10


It’s Top 10 Friday! Every other Friday, Artprice posts a theme-based auction ranking. This week we talk about what has been driving the Turkish market and its major sales since the beginning of 2017.

Realism, portraits, historical painting and architecture take half of the Top 10, which shows the classic tastes of the Turkish market, especially the French academic style adopted in the late 19th century and early 20th century by artists such as Mahmut Cuda and Seker Ahmet Pasa. Auction prices reveal the overall robustness of the internal market, with some new records.

Rank Artist Hammer Price ($) Artwork Sale
1 Mahmut CUDA (1904-1987) 388 262 Sara 11/03/2017 Antik AS Istanbul
2 Sevket DAG (1875-1944) 287 789 Ayasofya 06/05/2017 Antik AS Istanbul
3 Seker Ahmet PASA (1841-1907) 277 131 Natürmort 06/05/2017 Antik AS Istanbul
4 Fausto ZONARO (1854-1929) 210 374 Üsküdar’dan Sandala Binen Feraceli Cariyeler 26/02/2017 Beyaz Pazarlama ve Muzayedecilik Istanbul
5 Burhan DOGANÇAY (1929-2013) 202 344 From Walls No 5 09/04/2017 Beyaz Pazarlama ve Muzayedecilik Istanbul
6 Burhan DOGANÇAY (1929-2013) 195 413 Cone on a Wall 06/05/2017 Antik AS Istanbul
7 Taner CEYLAN (1967) 146 864 Self Portrait As Cinderella 11/03/2017 Antik AS Istanbul
8 Orhon MÜBIN (1924-1981) 126 465 Abstrait blanc et rose 09/04/2017 Beyaz Pazarlama ve Muzayedecilik Istanbul
9 Burhan DOGANÇAY (1929-2013) 111 414 Malcom X and Ribbons 11/03/2017 Antik AS Istanbul
10 Fahr-el-Nissa ZEID (1901-1991) 109 603 Abstrait jaune 09/04/2017 Beyaz Pazarlama ve Muzayedecilik Istanbul
copyright © 2017

A taste for classical subjects

Last May, a collector took great delight in Seker Ahmet Pasa‘s fruit still life and bought it for $277,130, creating the artist’s second best official sale at auction. This oil on canvas from 1896 strongly borrows from the French tradition of still life, which is not surprising as Seker Ahmet Pasa studied in Paris with Gustave Boulanger and Jean-Léon Gérôme.

Although he is better known for his portraits than his still lifes, Mahmut Cuda’s classic style earned him double his previous record thanks to the sale of Sara, a painting dated 1929, which went under the hammer for the equivalent $388,000 last March. The market for Mahmut Cuda remains 100% Turkish and his work is rather rare, with less than 20 works having been auctioned in the last 20 years. The Sevket Dag market is proving to be more dynamic and more international. The works of this artist, active during the first half of the 20th century, are sold mostly in Turkey (85% of his sales) but 15% of his sales come from London, where Orientalist works are particularly popular.

More widespread and more international still is the market for Fausto Zonaro, with more than 40% of his sales in London, against 27% in Turkey and 13% in Italy, but also with some significant sales in the United States, Austria and Germany. This artist, whose small oils on canvas are still affordable and can sell for less than $5,000 on the auction market, peaked at $1.4 million for Bayram (The Celebration) in April 2015, as part of the Orientalist sale at Sotheby’s in London. This painter of Italian origin contributed to the development of the Western style in Turkey. Indeed, after his training at the Academy of Fine Arts in Verona and the University of Fine Arts in Rome, he exhibited in Paris in 1888 but was already drawn to the Middle East. He went to Istanbul for the first time in 1891, a city which held a special magic for him and which he painted thousands of times until 1910.

At first glance, the contemporary paintings of Taner Ceylan (a German artist living in Istanbul since he was a teenager) are part of the tradition of realistic painting particularly appreciated in Turkey. But when looking more closely, his works stand out for their striking eroticism. With an absolute record of almost $147,000 this year, his daring questioning of sexuality in contemporary Turkey has attracted Turkish collectors who don’t just confine themselves to the past but are keen observers of contemporary trends.

A place for abstraction

In addition to the presence in the ranking of an informal work by Orhon MÜBIN, Abstraction is particularly well represented in the Top 10 with Fahr-el-Nissa Zeid (who sold for $1.273,000m at Sotheby’s in London last April a monumental painting of nearly six metres high) and the three places held by Burhan DOGANÇAY. Despite Abstract art’s recurring presence suggesting its increasing popularity, the market for Burhan DOGANÇAY has shrunk, with sales divided in two compared to his results between 2009 and 2011. If his record stands at almost $1.5 million for Symphony in Blue, sold in 2009, his best results since then have been between $50,000 and $200,000, depending on the quality of the paintings on offer. Such a slowdown was predictable as this is often the case after record breaking auctions before, during and after a major exhibition. The artist was indeed the subject of a major retrospective at the Istanbul Modern Art Museum in 2012, a few months before his death. Before this event, Dogançay’s works had already been exhibited on numerous occasions in major art institutions, including the Georges Pompidou Centre in Paris (1982); the Seibu Museum of Art in Tokyo (1989) and the State Russian Museum in Saint Petersburg (1992). Burhan Dogançay therefore enjoys a worldwide reputation, although almost all his sales take place in Turkey (76%).