Galeri Nev Istanbul continues to be one of the leading institutions that have an active role in shaping Turkish contemporary art with the artists it has represented, the exhibitions it has organized and the books it has published since 1987. Galeri Nev, under the management of Haldun Dostoğlu, recently brought together the book of Orhan Peker, one of the leading names of Turkish painting, with art lovers. We met with Haldun Dostoğlu, the founder of Galeri Nev, and talked about our country's place in contemporary art from past to present.

- You prepared the book of Orhan Peker, one of the leading names of Turkish painting. First of all, could you tell us a little about the purpose of the book?

- Painter Orhan Peker's book was the ninth in his series. We decided to prepare a set of 10 books in line with QNB Finansbank's decision "Let's make books of important names of Turkish artists and leave this to art history." We made the first book on Erol Akyavaş, then Nejat Devrim, Abidin Dino, Alev Ebuzziya, Cihat Burak, Mehmet Güleryüz and finally Orhan Peker. We will complete the tenth of the series with the Sabri Berkel book we are currently working on. Our aim is to make the major names of Turkish painting more permanent in the history of art and to pass them on to future generations. I established an emotional bond with Orhan Peker because he is a painter from Ankara. The fact that he is an artist who includes very naive, unpretentious daily life compositions of many people made him feel emotionally close to him. That's why I'm so happy to do this book.

- What is Orhan Peker's place in Turkish Painting?

- I would like to mention a few elements that I noticed while preparing this book. Orhan Peker himself expresses it as follows: 'I am not an artist of major and great movements. 'I tried to produce art without being affiliated with any movement.'
When I looked at Peker's paintings, I realized that there was no other artist like him. He painted firefighters, buffalos, dogs, cats, and children with roosters on their laps. He has translated scenes from life, which we all see sincerely, into the art of Turkish Painting. He has a sincere and sincere language, and that's what caught me.

- We often see animal figures, especially cats, in Orhan Peker's paintings, which are a part of our lives. Why does he choose this?

- He has an attitude that no painter would think of, painting smaller worlds, our daily lives, and bringing those people to the stage. This is his human side.

- In addition to these, Orhan Peker also paints the portrait of Aşık Veysel and this is a turning point for him. What is changing in your life?

- He receives an award for this painting and is selected as the artist of the year. At that time, it was sent abroad by the Ministry of Tourism. He stays in Spain for a year. While living there, he had the opportunity to watch Miros, Velazquez and other great masters of painting and kept a diary called "Spain notebook". Today, when Orhan Peker is mentioned, the first thing that comes to mind is that notebook. Like a kind of chronicler, he expressed his days in Spain both in pictures and in writing and left a document. That's why his award provided him with such an opportunity.

- Orhan Peker “Why establish the Group of 10? Who is included in it?

- Group of 10 is a group of painters founded by the students of Bedri Rahmi Eyüpoğlu and was active between 1947-1955. In those years, there was no opportunity to open so many exhibitions, there were no galleries or museums. They are looking for the opportunity to show their own work with the Group of 10. The biggest supporter of the Group of 10, pioneered by Turan Erol and Orhan Peker, is their teacher Bedri Rahmi Eyüpoğlu.

- When we look at that period, we see that there was a great solidarity among the artists. This is also reflected in their artistic production. But today, we do not see such solidarity among artists. From where?

- Since the 1950s, writers, poets, and filmmakers would go to the same taverns, eat in the same restaurants, and chat in the same coffeehouses. Art historian Turgay Gönenç says that this solidarity also strengthens the art content. Because they feed each other intellectually. We can give many examples such as Ömer Uluç's best friend Edip Cansever and Turgut Uyar's best friend Mehmet Güleryüz. But towards the end of the 80s, Turgut Özal was elected, the January 24 decisions and the transition to a free economy in the country, individualism began to come to the fore. The spirit of solidarity disappears in society and everyone adopts an individualistic and individualistic attitude, thinking that they are "free" to fend for themselves. The relationship between filmmakers, writers and painters is breaking down. Everyone starts to walk in their own lane. Atilla İlhan has a saying: They write novels while looking at their own navels. You can't write a novel by looking at your own navel. You will watch other worlds.

- Galeri Nev opened towards the end of the 1980s. What has changed in the field of contemporary art since it was first opened?

- Artisan, Basın Beyaz and we opened Galeri Nev in Ankara. In the same years, Teşvikiye Sanat, Urart and Tem Sanat galleries were opened in Istanbul. If there is what is called an art economy or market today, it was because of the beginning in those days. While we are starting this business, what is going on in the world in the gallery industry, where will we see ourselves in 10 years? We did not have such a vision plan. It was like entering the pool without knowing how to swim. We opened our first exhibition with Abidin Dino. Müşerref Hekimoğlu, one of the founders of Anka News Agency, wrote a very good article about that exhibition. I still keep that article. When you start setting the bar high, you are forced to learn a lot. Abidin Dino's guidance was very effective. We found ourselves in the first Turkish Modernist generation. What does this mean? We met names such as Nejat Devrim, Mübin Orhon, Selim Turan, Tiraje Dikmen. When we started exhibiting their works of art, we drew up a route for ourselves. That path shed light on the future for us.

- Galeri Nev is located in Mısır Apartmanı, one of the historical buildings of Beyoğlu. How did the changing demographic structure of Beyoğlu affect the art organizations and art located here?

- Beyoğlu was the center of culture and art in the 1950s. It was a place where many artists such as Sait Faik, Orhan Kemal, Melih Cevdet came together. He begins to lose weight in the 1970s. It is turning into a district where night culture is more dominant and cultural areas are withdrawing from here. With the establishment of the 'Beyoğlu Beautification Association' in the mid-1980s, with the initiative of Vitali Hakko, the region was cleared of traffic. Beyoğlu is starting to transform in a positive way. The number of bookstores and movie theaters is increasing. As it becomes a frequent destination for university students, a new dynamic begins to emerge in Beyoğlu. You may remember for a while, banks had galleries. Now only Yapı Kredi remains. Today, the cultural park, where Akbank Art Gallery, Salt Beyoğlu, Pera Museum, Arter and Istanbul Modern are located, spreads over an area from Taksim to below Galata. Therefore, the place where culture is consumed is still Beyoğlu in Istanbul.

- Does contemporary art have limits? If so, what are they? We often encounter questions like "Is this art?"

- There are no limits to art. You cannot tie the artist's hands. You cannot hold the writer's pen. Whether you exhibit it or not is a different matter. It is not anyone's place to put limits on production!

- How did biennials contribute to contemporary art and artists?

- Istanbul Biennial provided the opportunity to reach an international audience, the world is looking at Istanbul. Istanbul Biennial has entered the world of highly anticipated and closely followed biennials. There are also some local activities in our country. Sinop Biennial, Çanakkale Biennial, Mardin Biennial, is there a need for these or not? What contribution these biennials have to the city's hotels, restaurants and taxi drivers is debatable.

- The work of the artist, who received an award in a competition 2 years ago, was revealed to be an imitation and the award was withdrawn. How do you know if a work is a counterfeit?

- There is a phrase called “spirit of the time”. Zeitgeist used by Germans. In the past, we were not aware of each other. An artist in Toronto might not have known what an artist in Mozambique was doing. Nowadays, everyone is aware of each other. Moreover, the world lives under very similar sociological, psychological and political conditions. We watch the same news. For example, both you and the South African are watching Israel's fight against Hamas. Therefore, two artists unaware of each other may be doing the same things in two different parts of the world. This is possible; There are also examples. This does not mean that he is looking at him and imitating him. Because he may be working with the same imagination. He can dream of the same city. We are in the age of information and internet, everyone is informed about everything at the same time. This is the first factor. Secondly, imitation is so common that everything in the world is imitated. I don't know if you remember, 18 fake Picasso paintings were found in Turkey for no reason. Some of them were even exhibited in Ankara Painting and Sculpture Museum. Özgen Acar from Cumhuriyet Newspaper investigated. It was determined that these were paintings painted on the streets in Iraq. It turned out that they were all fake.

- Where are we in the world in Contemporary Art? Can our artists promote themselves internationally?

Art production in Turkey is not behind any other country in the world. We have very talented and well-equipped artists. This is indisputable. But their chances of entering international markets are slim. Since our economy is not strong enough, when you collect the money circulating in the art world, we do not have enough power to get those artists into international venues and museums. They are forced to make small productions in small workshops. Artists who have some means, those who have the chance to show themselves, can get this opportunity.

- What should be done to provide this opportunity?

An investment needs to be made to increase the quality and production of art in Turkey. Metropolitan Municipalities are opening cultural centers. If only they held workshops for artists. If they work in these workshops with comfortable opportunities, they will have the chance to reach the international league more easily. Art production and quality are not behind, but we are not strong enough in terms of our marketing ability and our ability to introduce them to the international market.

- How do you evaluate society's perspective on contemporary art?

- The number of spectators of the first Istanbul Biennial was 5 thousand, there is a reason that increased the audience of the last biennial to 165 thousand; Istanbul Modern, Pera Museum and Sabancı Museum, all three opened in 2004. Think about it, until 2004 there was only one Painting and Sculpture Museum in Istanbul. Apart from that, there was no place to watch art except a few private galleries. Now you can go to fairs and museums. You can visit Artİstanbul Feshane, opened by Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, for free and examine the works of art. Therefore, the relationship between art and the audience became liberated, and they had the chance to meet a more widespread audience, not only in the small worlds of the galleries. This is a very positive development. As the audience encounters these works of art, their gusto and pleasure with the world begins to increase. As contact with exhibitions increased, an audience began to form that differentiated between good and bad and increased its appreciation. When we opened the gallery, there were 10 collectors. Now thousands. They travel internationally and see works of art; As taste increases, they push production in Turkey. The only thing we lack, which applies to all branches, is the quality of education; It is not rising, on the contrary it is falling.

- What are you working on now?

- I want to write about my last 40 years.