After Turkey's International Association of Art (UPSD) President Bedri baykam presented a proposal which suggested that Leonardo da Vinci's birthday, April 15, be declared World Art Day at the 17th World General Assembly Meeting of International Association of Art (IAA) in Mexico last year, the proposition was voted on and unanimously accepted during the general assembly, giving the world a day to celebrate art.
All the national committees of the IAA contributed to World Art Day, through festivities, exhibitions and panel discussions worldwide. Countries varying from Mexico to Japan and from Slovakia to South Africa celebrated World Art Day with different events.
In Turkey, many museums had admission free of charge with extended hours of operation in the provinces of Ankara, Antalya, Çanakkale, İstanbul, İzmir and Sinop. Although World Art Day is April 15, some events started beforehand, building up the excitement.
Abdi İpekçi Street in İstanbul's Nişantaşı quarter was turned into a huge open-air art gallery for the weekend thanks to the “Vitrin Sergileri” (Store Window Exhibitions), one of the most colorful events celebrating World Art Day in İstanbul. Opened by Culture and Tourism minister Ertuğrul Günay on Friday afternoon, “Vitrin Sergileri” features original works by famous artists displayed in over 80 store windows in Nişantaşı. The event marked the opening of this year's World Art Day events in İstanbul.
President Abdullah Gül celebrated World Art Day with praise for artists and their craft. He said the day was an opportunity to thank artists for the treasure of the arts. In a message delivered specially to mark World Art Day, Gül said he hopes the day will signify an aim and a will to establish peaceful relations between different cultural groups worldwide through the uniting force of art.
Meanwhile, Minister Günay, who delivered an inaugural speech at the event in Nişantaşı on Friday, said politics has difficulty in uniting people, but thanks to art, people of different backgrounds can be united in various events and organizations. “This is what we need from the very beginning. What we need is this feeling of tolerance towards other people. What we need is not fighting with each other, but to get to know and be in harmony with each other.”
Many of those celebrating World Art Day were youth. On the 15th, the Perili Köşk (Haunted Mansion), the headquarters and contemporary art museum of Borusan Holding, in cooperation with the IAA, received about 500 visitors free of charge. Three hundred of these visitors were under 35 years of age. On the same day, 60 children participated in children's workshops at the Perili Köşk. Another museum in cooperation with the IAA, the İstanbul Museum of Modern Art, received 3,239 free-of-charge visitors on April 15, most of whom were under 40.
Speaking to Sunday's Zaman, Baykam expressed his contentment with the attendance and interest in the events on World Art Day. “I originally came up with the idea of creating such a day because I thought there was a need for this. And the high rate of attendance at the events on the 15th proved me right,” he said.
To the question of why he chose Leonardo da Vinci's birthday for the day, Baykam answered, “Leonardo da Vinci is an artist known and accepted all around the world and he was a multi-disciplinary artist, representing all fields of art. And coincidentally, his birthday, April 15, is midseason for art events and is in the spring. These factors helped my proposition to declare such a day to be accepted so easily.”
However, World Art Day celebrations in Sweden were more controversial than those in the rest of the world. During a celebration, after making a speech for World Art Day, Sweden's culture minister cut a cake shaped in the form of a naked black woman, claimed by the artist, Makode Aj Linde, to be meant to highlight the issue of female circumcision. Though some argue that preparing such a cake was a provocative act against the minister, many people have called on the minister to resign.
“This was a very unfortunate incident. But the only good side of this incident is that this scandalous event helped World Art Day become more known throughout the world,” Baykam noted.
Expressing his hopes for greater attendance next year, Baykam said the Ministry of Culture and Tourism has promised to give more support to next year's celebrations on World Art Day and that he sincerely hopes next year's events will draw even more attention from the public.