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The delayed decision left some galleries unsure whether they would take part.

Contemporary Istanbul Makes Late Pivot Online

Emilie Arnoux, Cubes Game (2020). Acrylic on canvas. 129.5 × 158.8 cm. Courtesy the artist and Fremin Gallery.

Despite long holding out hope the physical fair would go ahead, Contemporary Istanbul will open exclusively online this year.

Virtual Contemporary Istanbul—navigated using controls familiar to gamers (the 'WASD' keys to move, 'shift' to run, and 'space' to jump)—will be available to VIPs from 19 December and to the public from 21 December 2020–6 January 2021.

The late move online left some galleries unsure whether or not they would take part. At time of publishing, 45 participants were confirmed, down from 74 in last year's Contemporary Istanbul.

'The fair has been always a success for us,' said Moiz Zilberman, founder of Zilberman Gallery, Istanbul and Berlin.

'For the 2020 edition, we—together with most of the prominent galleries of Turkey—tried to convince the fair management to postpone the fair to spring because of the pandemic, without success,' he said.

Turkey has recorded over 1 million cases of Covid-19 resulting in almost 17,000 deaths, according to the World Health Organisation. Cases rose rapidly in November, prompting the Turkish Government to announce new restrictions including curfews in late November. It was only then that Contemporary Istanbul finally decided to push their in-person fair to 2021, having already rescheduled it from September to December.

Ultimately, just a few days before it goes live, Zilberman decided to take part in Virtual Contemporary Istanbul.

'We think we need to support the fair,' he said.

Other galleries taking part include JD Malat Gallery, London, and Opera Gallery, London.

Galleries who had already paid up for the 2020 in-person fair are able to exhibit at the online event as well as the next in-person fair, scheduled for 27 April–2 May 2021, without paying additional fees, according to Ali Güreli, Founder of Contemporary Istanbul.

The following edition of Contemporary Istanbul is slated to take place just a few months later, from 18–25 September 2021, after the launch of the 17th Istanbul Biennial on 11 September.

Asli Sumer, owner of .artSümer, Istanbul, has taken part in several editions of the fair, but not in recent years. She said collectors in the city are already familiar with the artists she represents.

'It is a very small market,' she told Ocula Magazine. 'Extremely small and possibly shrinking in size. Unfortunately, we do not have registered data to make comparisons and now that we do not socialise any more, it is not possible to even get qualitative data on how Turkish galleries are bearing with the current circumstances.'

Despite the challenges, she said, 'I am trying to find opportunities to continue what I am doing within this dilemma.' —[O]

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