On Art Management Education and Career with Mehmet Üstünipek

Mehmet Üstünipek is a graduate of  Mimar Sinan University Department of Archaeology and Art History.  Completing his Master’s and Ph.D. at the Department of Western and Contemporary Art, Üstünipek wrote his thesis on “Turkish Art Market Since the Republican Era”. As the author of various publications on art institutions, exhibitions and Turkish Contemporary Art, he has been teaching at İstanbul Kültür University (İKÜ) since 2006. We asked him about art management education.


Can you describe the two terms, Artistic Director and Art Director, which are very often confused? 

Artistic Director is the person who presents the artwork, the artistic performance and the artist to the society as culturally/intellectually as well as economically most effectively as possible. To do this he or she designs, plans, developsand directs an exhibition, an art event or the content of an art institution; he or she establishes the most effective communication with the artists, art supporters and both the existing and the targeted audiences. He or she closely monitors the artists, art institutions, activities and publications. On the other hand, the Art Director awho works for advertising agencies or in TV-film sectors is mainly responsible for making sure the visual quality and the content overlap. Universities’ Art Management departments aim at educating Artistic Directors; not Art Directors.


As the Chair of İstanbul Kültür University Department of Art Management, can you explain how this department came into being at your school and how it is structured?

It was established in 2002 by scholars with a theater origin. Thus the curriculum heavily featured courses like Dramatic Improvisation, Dance Improvisation,  Fencing, Roleplay and Mimic. In time, these disappeared as a result of changes in the program. It is expected that an Art Director is familiar with and understands the production and application processes in art; he or she is no expected to be an artist. Thus, in 2010, as part of the Bologna program the curriculum was updated with a greater emphasis on management courses. But as a response to the feedback received from the sector, the students and the alumni as well as our own observations, other rearrangments were required and a new plan was implemented for the 2016-2017 academic year. Here we aimed at making sure that components like management, sponsorship, design, promotion etc could be handled within the art management’s practice-based framework (project-content development, planning and management).



In which fields can the graduates of Art Management programs work in? What would be your advice for current students in terms of carrier planning?

The alumni can work in museums, art galleries, auction houses, art fair companies, theater companies, art departments of local governments, art associations and foundations, art portals and art departments of publishing houses. They can work in any rank within festival and biennial management, collection management, curatorial work, art criticism and art organization. Those who aim at an academic career can take Master’s and Ph.D. degrees. Throughout their eduation, the students shall follow all the vents and publications in their field, try to get to know the art circles better, keep their curiosity alive and develop their related computer and language skills.


İstanbul Kültür University (İKÜ)

How would you compare the art management programs in Turkey and abroad?

The introduction of art management into education curriculum dates back to the 1970s. However, in Turkey this only began in 1980 with Yıldız Technical University. This is due to the post-80 developments in art sector. Programs differ from one university to another. There are programs that exclusively focus on performance arts, or on curatorial and museum studies, or both. As the understanding of this field is relatively poor in Turkey and there is a serious shortage of qualified scholars in the field, problems arise in building curriculum and content. For instance, YÖK (Higher Education Council) has still not defined Art Management as a main discipline at the Assistant Professor level. Moreover, the universities offering these programs do not communicate between themselves. It is necessary that the field’s problems are accurately defined for discussion and solution, to achieve a coherent education in it.


To what extent do the growing interest in contemporary art in Turkey and the development of art museums affect education programs?

As I said, the post-1980 emergence of the at market, with the artwork acquiring an investment value, and the emergence of Istanbul as a strong candidate for a global art center were all effective in the birth of this field as a higher education department. Global developments, new technologies, new artistic ways of expession also call for new solution designsin the field as well as new opportunities. Many young artists create wors and try to find a place in the art world… Art management programs hmust offer a curriculum aiming at designing new solutions and monitoring opportunities in the field. Especially in addition to the contributions of active professionals and connections with people and institutions in the sector, the education should involve the following of contemporary art events and museums.


What would you say about the evolution of art management in Turkey? Do you think it is correctly positioned?

Both in academic environment and professional life, concepts like artistic director and curator are still poorly understood and ill positioned. The blurry definitions present in all fields in Turkey regarding concepts and professional boundaries are present, even to a greater extent, in the Art Management field as well.

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