Turkey Leaves Creative Europe Cultural Fund, Gets New Viral Cat Statue

Turkish arts organizations stand to lose valuable funding.

Members of both the Republican People's Party (CHP) and President Erdogan's AKP Party wave flags during the
Members of both the Republican People's Party (CHP) and President Erdogan's AKP Party wave flags during the "Republic and Democracy" rally held at Taksim Square on July 24, 2016 in Istanbul, Turkey. Courtesy of Chris McGrath/Getty Images.

The European Union’s cultural fund Creative Europe is down a member. Turkey has announced plans to leave the group, which provides funding and support to member nations’ arts organizations and cultural programming, reports Variety.

According to Turkish paper Haberturk, the decision was made based on the organization’s decision to allocate €200,000 to Germany’s Dresdner Sinfoniker orchestra’s upcoming April concert, which will honor victims of the Armenian Genocide. Contradicting most historians, Turkey denies that the mass killings of its Armenian population between 1915 and 1923 can be described as genocide.

The unstable political situation in Turkey led to an unsuccessful coup in July, and the 2016 editions of the Çanakkale Biennial and Istanbul’s Art International art fair were both cancelled. (ArtAnkara is still looking to operate as scheduled in March.)

The recovery in Turkey is indicative of the breadth of the black market for art. Photo: Moya Brenn via Fickr

Istanbul. Courtesy of Moya Brenn via Fickr

By leaving Creative Europe, Turkey will stop receiving funding from the organization, which boasts a $1.64 billion budget, and will no longer be able to have partnerships with European cultural institutions, according to Can Semercioğlu of Diken.

Turkey, while not part of the EU, has been a member of the Creative Europe program since 2014, benefiting from Creative Europe financial support for art, film, translation, and other cultural projects to the tune of an estimated 2.4 million euros ($2.6 million).

Related: Political Turmoil and the Turkish Art Market, Explained: a special report by artnet Analytics providing a more in-depth analysis of the relationship between social and political upheavals in Turkey and the country’s art market over the past two decades

“I believe all the necessary measures need to be immediately taken to return to this program,” said Görgün Taner, general director of Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts, according to Art Forum. “Besides providing funding for us to benefit from without being an EU member, this program also offered Turkey an interface with international networks, and had many advantages for Turkey in terms of international visibility and presence. ”

The Turkish city of Mardin Photo: Nevit Dilmen via Wikimedia Commons

The Turkish city of Mardin. Courtesy of Nevit Dilmen via Wikimedia Commons

“Projects from a lot of various institutions like us, which will not be possible without this support, are at stake,” added Vasıf Kortun, director of research and programs at SALT, who was recently surprised to learn that Turkish organizations were no longer eligible for Creative Europe funding. “These developments will especially hit independent cultural institutions very badly. I hope this decision is revoked as soon as possible. We all need this.”

“The Delegation of the European Union regrets Turkey’s decision to suspend its participation to the Creative Europe program and that cultural operators will miss future opportunities for cooperation with their counterparts in the EU,” said EU officials in a statement, according to Variety. “Although this is unfortunate, the EU respects the sovereign decision of Turkey.”

Tombili the cat and his new statue by Seval Şahin. Courtesy of Tombili Heykeli Açılışı/Facebook.

Tombili the cat and his new statue by Seval Şahin. Courtesy of Tombili Heykeli Açılışı/Facebook.

But look on the bright side: The late internet sensation Tombili, a fat Turkish cat who became a viral meme after being photographed lounging on the streets of Istanbul’s Ziverbey neighborhood, is back in action—sort of.

Tombili died in August, but local sculptor Seval Şahin has installed a bronze statue of the famed feline on the very bench where the fateful photograph was taken earlier this year. The artist created the work in response to a 17,000 signature-strong change.org petition, according to the Independent.

Turkish television stations covered the statue’s unveiling on October 4, World Animal Day, with hundreds of Tombili fans gathering to pay their respects with gifts of cat food, candles, and flowers.


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