The Art of Development: Painting, Institutions, and the Modernization of Turkey


ACLS Fellowship Program


Art History, Theory, and Criticism


If, by the 1950s, the pervasive discourse of economic developmentalism was the primary means for emergent nations to negotiate their future, then what were the consequences of this worldview in the visual arts? Taking this as its central question, “The Art of Development” elucidates a central but overlooked phenomenon of the twentieth century: the use of art by so-called minor players in the Cold War to negotiate hegemonic powers’ imposition of economic and political standards. The project analyzes Turkey’s art world of the 1950s, where Turkish artists, writers, and intellectuals, as well as their international interlocutors, used art to work through key principles of development ideology, including the legitimacy of foreign versus local expertise, the relationship of masses and elites within institution-building, the role of dissent in democracy, new definitions of citizenship and political participation, and the tension between the ideals of political conditionality and national sovereignty.