#ListeAsks Füsun Eczacıbaşı, Collector and Chairwomen SAHA, Istanbul

Füsun Eczacıbaşı, Credit: Ali Kabas
Füsun Eczacıbaşı, Credit: Ali Kabas

As you won’t be in Basel this June, what are you doing instead?
Not being able to travel to Basel, which has been our annual destination in June since 1999, makes me very sad. We are in Istanbul, nervous about the unfolding uncertainties of the global pandemic and the rightful social unrest in US. Instead of art, the main topics I am following this month are politics, social issues and health. And I’m hoping very much that all these events will lead to an awakening for a better future.

What is something that you never thought would happen but that has now happened as a result of the lockdown?
My two sons are living in US and being apart without any possibility to fly either way is something I never thought would happen. The other thing I would have never thought possible before is being able to work from home for three months without stepping foot into the office. 

In what ways has the current state of uncertainty and unpredictability changed your attitude towards collecting?
Basel week has always been a week concentrated on looking at new works by the artists we follow, discovering new artists and touching base with gallerists from all around the world. Naturally, this is not the case this season, even if the galleries are bombarding us with digital information (which can be excessive and too much to follow). In addition to the lack of practicality, there are also so many distracting issues. So instead of looking to art for the purpose of buying, supporting art and artists has become a higher priority.

What is one of the most inspiring initiatives or projects by an artist, institution or gallery you’ve come across since the outbreak of Covid-19?
I am not sure I was able to follow them that well, but the most inspiring ones that come to my mind immediately are those of solidarity, like the #ArtistSupportPledge movement on Instagram, which is a way artists are supporting each other, and David Zwirner’s “Platform”, which opens up their online viewing room to smaller galleries. I also loved the talks by Julia Peyton-Jones of Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Centre Pompidou’s introduction of “One Artwork a Day” and the New Museum’s “Bedtime Stories” initiated by Maurizio Cattelan. 

How can younger and less established galleries that are representing emerging and yet-to-be-discovered artists approach you as collector in a time of online-only exhibitions, fairs, etc.?
To be honest I am not sure how to answer this question. As I mentioned, I am overwhelmed by the information we are bombarded with these days. The priorities are different. For instance, in the first two months, I was only fundraising for healthcare workers and I was unable to read any emails which I did not think were for an urgent or essential issue. Now I feel a bit more relaxed, but a big pile of reading material has already accumulated. We all need time to adjust and stay calm for a while. 
On the other hand, if young galleries were to come together and ask one curator a week to curate an online show with their artists and send one email per week, instead of many separate emails throughout the week, that would be something I would definitely look at with enthusiasm. 

Have you discovered any new artist during the lockdown?
I was not very familiar with Jordan Casteel’s work, which is currently the subject of a show at the New Museum that opened a few weeks before the lockdown and was immediately transferred into a digital exhibition. I’ve always been interested in figurative paintings, especially portraits, and that is the main vein of her exhibition. I loved all her amazing works in the show. I hope to see them in flesh.
I also discovered another artist, Viktoria Binschtok, through the daily emails that Centre Pompidou is sending to members of the International Council. Her work is based on her own photographs and images found on the internet. She assembles them together and repurposes them with a new visual language. They are beautiful. 

Can you tell us about the very first artwork you purchased at Liste and what it means to you?
I was not that good in archiving the provenance of the very first artworks we acquired. I know some of them are from Basel, but I am not certain whether they’re from Art Basel or Liste… The first one that I am certain we acquired from Liste is from a much later date, 2011, by Ian Tweedy, a German artist who studied in Italy and now lives in New York. 
On another note, I believe that when we are talking about the works we’ve purchased at Liste, it is as equally essential to mention the works we’ve missed at Liste. By the time we arrive at the iconic Warteck Building, if we feel hungry, we get distracted by the bratwurst stand at the entrance (for which we have been longing for 12 months). And then maybe we’ll see a friend we haven’t seen since the last art fair and start enjoying the sausages and the beer and the chat too much. And then we’ll most definitely be late for the best discovery of the season. There are many works I still regret having missed by a few minutes. 

Image of the first artwork purchased at Liste at Füsun Eczacıbaşı's home:  Ian Tweedy, Mucha and Machine (1), 2011. Oil on 18th Century Paper, 23.5 x 35.5 cm and Ian Tweedy, Mucha and Machine (3), 2011. Oil on 18th Century Paper, 23.5 x 35.5 cm, Credit: Füsun Eczacıbaşı
Image of the first artwork purchased at Liste at Füsun Eczacıbaşı's home: Ian Tweedy, Mucha and Machine (1), 2011. Oil on 18th Century Paper, 23.5 x 35.5 cm and Ian Tweedy, Mucha and Machine (3), 2011. Oil on 18th Century Paper, 23.5 x 35.5 cm, Credit: Füsun Eczacıbaşı

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