chapter  13
17 Pages

The Politics of Urban Arts Events: Comparing Istanbul and Berlin

WithBanu Karaca

The Spectacle is capital accumulated to the point where it becomes image Debord, 1994, p. 24

A recent article in the New York Times entitled ‘31 Places to Go in 2010’ ranked Istanbul in nineteenth place by referencing its ‘steadily growing’ contemporary art scene as ‘one of the most innovative in the world’ (Emmrich, 2010). Istanbul’s increasing presence on the global stage has been advanced in no small part through the Istanbul Biennial. Inaugurated in 1987, its rise to prominence in the 2000s falls into what has been called the ‘biennial decade’ beginning in the second half of the 1990s (Obrist, 2007, p. 360), during which the proliferation and increase in visibility of biennials worldwide reflected global economic restructuring processes, and particularly the role of art and cultural production in the positioning of urban centres within these processes. This chapter takes the Istanbul Biennial of 2005 as a lens to interrogate large-scale urban arts spectacles. It does so by comparing the case of Istanbul with that of Berlin (2006), another location that has drawn much attention through its burgeoning art scene.