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Interview with Moiz Zilberman, collector and founder

By Gerhard Haupt & Pat Binder

Moiz Zilberman

Haupt & Binder: You are a successful entrepreneur; when and how did you discover your passion for the visual arts?

Moiz Zilberman: My father was a painter; hence, I was born into and grew up among art works. Still, I did not have a direct focus on visual arts until I was 35. I have always been a committed reader and music lover. In 1991, when I had the financial possibilities and more time, visual arts gained more importance. I quickly became an eclectic collector and continued reading a lot. The more I read, the more quality gained importance over quantity. Eventually, in the past ten years, my focus shifted toward contemporary art practices.

Haupt & Binder: What kind of answers or engagement with reality does art offer – for you in particular, or society at large – that you feel other disciplines don’t?

Moiz Zilberman: We live in a time when differentiating art from life is becoming more and more difficult every day. As the boundaries get blurry through time, art has a lot to offer for society that other disciplines cannot. It provides an imaginary space for all of us to come together, to share, to learn from each other, to collaborate, and to stay in solidarity. We are living in difficult times and I sometimes feel like art is the only way out.

Haupt & Binder: Several of the artists whom you work with, as well as others shown in group exhibitions, include a conceptual/political dimension in their artworks. Is this relevance one of your special interests?

Moiz Zilberman: Yes, that is definitely true. I am very much interested in art works that have a socio-political line. For me, art is a way to protest and to criticize. However, I prefer to call the line of the gallery “critical”, including but not limited to socio-political art works. A good example might be the Ground Glass solo show by Ahmet Elhan that we opened this year. It had nothing to do with socio-political frameworks, but focused on challenging photography itself as a medium. It was a reconsideration of the history of photography; hence, it was a critical and powerful exhibition. And of course, my personal taste affects the line of Zilberman Gallery, like most of the other art galleries owned by collectors. But I can say that although Zilberman Gallery started from my own taste as a collector, now its line shapes my personal taste, which I enjoy a lot.

Haupt & Binder: How do you think artistic practice will evolve in a world where freedom of expression is increasingly threatened again?

Moiz Zilberman: I believe the current socio-political situation we live in provides artists with a different perspective. And I can already observe that artists are finding different ways and visual languages to reflect on their surroundings. The scarce freedom of expression – restricted by feelings of oppression and the limitation of spaces to exhibit works – is leading artists to become creative and to find another way around. Art practice itself gives that freedom to the artists to think, share, and produce. I am pretty optimistic about what is about to come regarding artistic productions.

Haupt & Binder: An art gallery is mainly a business, but you also offer programs to support and encourage the work of your artists…

It is important to understand that art functions differently in Turkey. The number of art institutions and government support are very limited. In such an environment, art galleries need to take the initiative to act like art institutions, almost like a non-profit organization. Increasing incidents of censorship are also highlighting that we need more spaces available for artists to be heard by their audiences. And art galleries in Turkey feel the urgency to reflect on this need. As Zilberman Gallery, we have always been responsive to the conditions of our country. As a result, non-profit projects and activities have always been a highly important focus for our existence.

Haupt & Binder: Can you tell us more about these programs?

Moiz Zilberman: Zilberman Gallery Istanbul hosts many exhibitions in its main gallery and project space. In addition to the exhibitions of artists whom we represent, all accompanied by catalogues, and our collaborations with guest curators every year, our project space, which is not-for-profit and offers an artist’s fee, continues its activities all year. We are thus able to present artists who are at the beginning of their careers and artists who are more established. Moreover, we have been organizing the “Young Fresh Different” series that is announced nationwide with an open call every year in order to support young artists; this takes place as the last exhibition of the season. There are no restrictions or limitations to topic or material and anyone under the age of 35 can apply. It also offers financial aid as an incentive in an effort to support young artists and can be visited at Zilberman Gallery Istanbul.

Zed Grant for Artistic Research and Production awards 10,000 euros annually through an international open call. For the selected project, publication support was also available. As was planned for three years, between 2011 and 2013, three projects have been selected as part of this initiative. After successfully fulfilling the needs of these three years, Zed Grant is still actively following the development of the selected projects and working on the resulting publications.

Our latest initiative is Zilberman Gallery Berlin's artist-in-residence program, which invites the artists whom the gallery represents and collaborates with to live, work, and do research in an international and dynamic environment. The program is initiated to provide the artists with the opportunity to meet with the local art scene, exchange ideas, and gain experience in the international art community.

Haupt & Binder: What made you decide to open a second gallery in Berlin?

Moiz Zilberman: We have been building an important international network in the past years through our international art fair activities all around the world. To give you an idea, last year, we participated in Contemporary Istanbul and ArtInternational in Istanbul as well as in art fairs in Vienna, Paris, Brussels, New York, Dubai, and Basel, two of which were solo presentations. In the new season, we are aiming to build up our participations in art fairs, presenting our artists to world-renowned art institutions, audiences, and collectors. With our gallery in Berlin, we aim mainly to expand this already existing network; to strengthen the gallery's activities internationally; to increase its visibility; and to develop new relationships with art professionals and various audiences.

Zilberman Gallery Berlin is located in a turn-of-the-century building in Berlin's Charlottenburg neighborhood, which is home to some of the most exciting contemporary art galleries in Berlin. Also, as I explained before, the number of art institutions in Istanbul is very limited, whereas Berlin is really rich and welcoming in this sense. Hence, our move to Berlin will give us the unique opportunity to expand our exhibitions in Istanbul and play host to an even more exciting array of shows in one of today’s most vibrant places for contemporary art, collaborating and forming new relationships with different art institutions in Berlin. That is also why Zilberman Gallery Berlin offers artists the opportunity to live and work in Berlin as part of its new artist-in-residence program. We believe that it will be a hallmark of our activities in Germany, providing our artists with higher levels of international visibility.

Haupt & Binder: How different will its programming be?

Moiz Zilberman: Regarding the programming, Zilberman Gallery Berlin's activities will partially overlap with Istanbul, but will also present more works by German and European artists, in addition to artists from Turkey and MENA – with a focus on keeping the main line of Zilberman Gallery as it is.

(November 2016)

Zilberman Gallery and
Project Space Istanbul
İstiklal Cad. 163 K.2 & 3
D. 5 & 10 Beyoglu
34433 / Istanbul
Website | Contact

Tue - Fri: 10 am - 7:30 pm
Sat: 12 am - 7 pm
Closed on Sunday and Monday


Zilberman Gallery Berlin
Goethestr. 82
10623 Berlin
Tel: 49-30-31809900
Website | Email

Tue - Sat: 11 am - 7 pm
Closed on Sunday and Monday

Related Content:

Presentation of the Zilberman Gallery with spaces in Istanbul and Berlin, and some of their exhibitions and artists.
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