Today, you can only present artworks to an audience only if you’re inspired by a highly-globalized reality. Suela J. Cennet’s brave steps, intellectual perspective and endless will to explore come into existence at The Pill. We spend more time in art and history with Suela.
How did your passion for art turn into a profession?
It was kind of not planned. My studies mostly focused on political science and philosophy with an expertise on public administration and cultural politics. I would visit my friends studying at Paris Fine Arts Academy and I started their classes on the history of art. While working as an independent curator and focusing on writing studies, I started to draw the map of my professional career. Then, legendary gallerist Daniel Templon made me the job offer of my life at the age of 26. After I became the gallery’s international director, I had the chance to pioneer the new period in Templon’s 50-year history.
“One look into history is enough to understand how powerful a tool art is.”
Could you tell about how you moved from Paris to Istanbul?
I soon realized that I’d open my own gallery. I told Daniel Templon about it when I accepted to be his right hand. I think he liked that idea and courage. Even then, Istanbul was on my mind. I wanted to have the gallery in an alternative place. One day, I set out to look for a venue and found an old generator factory in Balat where we’re located today! This was a milestone in my life.
Opening a gallery in Balat is a very courageous step. How can we associate the location with The Pill?
The location is in harmony with our DNA. Our fundamental goal is to be innovative, to make something different and to further whet people’s appetite for art. This goal is supported by the fact that the gallery’s program includes works that deal with history, trace, anthropology and architectural structuring. Besides, Balat is one of the most culturally rich districts in Istanbul. The gallery’s drywall covers 11th-century walls and our next-door neighbor is an old synagogue. There are important structures in the back alley such as the Patriarchate, the Bulgarian Church and the Chora Museum. In addition to all this, the district is strong and loyal to its roots. Here, we can observe this culture that is being passed down from one generation to next, and try to be worthy of their kind gesture to accept us.
Do you think intellectual curiosity can be satisfied?
Never. It could only be a momentary satisfaction. I think what has carried humanity forward is its insatiability.
How are artists and artworks influenced by the time we live in which is largely dominated by fast production and consumption?
We live in a time dominated by fast production and consumption, and this situation has a paradoxical effect on artists. On one hand, we see “rocket career” celebrities in speculative markets. On the other, it allows artists who are aware of this situation to try more consistent and different fields of production. It’s important that the gallery undertakes a directive role in this.
“Istanbul is a very colorful and mysterious city where there is no end to exploration.”
How would you comment on the visibility of contemporary art in current Turkey?
We’re in the very beginning. It cannot yet compete with other cultural powers. If we want to prove our different and increase our power in this field, we can see public regulation as an obligation. We should prioritize the country’s cultural politics and increase the number of organizations and museums. As in many corners of the world, we can think of a supportive tax system to provide support for art and artists. One look into history is enough to understand how powerful a tool art is.
What makes an artwork “exclusive” for you?
It’s a tough question. I wouldn’t want to give a restrictive answer but I can say this. It’s very important for the work to change paradigms or answer a question the artist asks himself/herself or poses in general in a formal way.
What sets Istanbul apart from other cosmopolitan cities for you?
Istanbul is a very colorful and mysterious city where there is no end to exploration. While other cosmopolitan cities can be more homogenous, Istanbul can always surprise you. It’s like a lover you’re never bored with.
Is there someone you’re excited to work with?
I’ve always liked Emre Hüner; I respect him a lot. I’d love to work with Ken Price if he were still alive. But I console myself with the fact that I’m working with Elsa Sahal, who is like Price’s foster child.
Which branch of art you can never abandon?
Good question. Just today, we talked about thish when I was escorting Leyla Gediz around Apolonia Sokol’s exhibition. Although I’m a very sculpture driven person, I think painting bears a unique importance due to the endless possibilities of visual languages.
How would you define your perspective of life?
There’s a Latin phrase commonly used in the Middle Ages: “Memento Mori”, i.e. “Remember Death.” This reminds me of staying humble and valuing the spiritual but also encourages me to achieve great things.
What’s the most exciting and inspiring thing that recently happened to you?
I recently had the chance to watch the legendary ballet “Seasons’ Canon” by Crystal Pite. It was one of the most magical performances of my life. It was a perfect example of a total work of art. Composed by Max Richter, the ballet also refers to the refugee crisis in a very abstract way. It’s a true masterpiece. If we can create such extensive and universal works as this, then it means we’ve achieved success in the most realistic sense.