University of Illinois at Chicago
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An Analysis of Global Curatorial Methods The Emergence and Crystallization of Istanbul Biennials

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posted on 2019-08-01, 00:00 authored by Pinar Uner Uner Yilmaz
This dissertation investigates the emergence and the early history of Istanbul Biennials and interrogates the role of the curator in these recurring exhibitions. Surveying the first four Istanbul Biennials and comparing them to the fourteenth edition, it studies how this role has changed from 1987 to 2015. Biennials are platforms for cross-cultural exchange, yet at the same time, questionable tools for the standardization of art. This study scrutinizes how different curatorial models adopted in Istanbul Biennials shaped the cultural and artistic production in Turkey, and produced a representation of Istanbul as a global cultural center. To do so, I study the Biennials from three related perspectives. First, I review catalog texts, correspondence materials, and interviews with the curators to analyze the conceptual framework of each biennial. Secondly, I focus on the floor plans and installation photographs in order to investigate how curators utilized the exhibition venues and how artists responded to these venues (which are often Istanbul’s historical spaces) in their work. Finally, I survey the organizational structure of these biennials and compare the curatorial methods and forms of correspondence of the curators. For each biennial, I discuss the ways in which curators described their practice and I compare these practices to the curatorial methods of the prominent large-scale exhibitions around the world. Surveying diachronically the theoretical framework, the venues, and the curatorial methods, this dissertation critically traces the effects of globalization in contemporary art and cultural politics in Turkey and exposes the particular ways in which biennials mark the decentralization or pluralization of the Euro-American art world system.



Harmansah, OmurAkcan, Esra


Harmansah, Omur


Art History

Degree Grantor

University of Illinois at Chicago

Degree Level

  • Doctoral

Degree name

PhD, Doctor of Philosophy

Committee Member

Lee, Lisa Higgins, Hannah Taylor, Nora

Submitted date

August 2019

Thesis type



  • en

Issue date


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