Introduction to “Artistic Awakening in Ankara,” “The Artist and Politics,” and “The Burden of the Intellectual” by Bülent Ecevit

This essay analyzes three polemic newspaper articles written in the early 1950s by the art critic, gallerist, and future Turkish prime minister Bülent Ecevit (1925–2006), “Artistic Awakening in Ankara” (1953), “The Artist and Politics” (1954), and “The Burden of the Intellectual” (1956). It argues that Ecevit’s articles document a local intelligentsia’s efforts to theorize the role of art in Turkish society at a crucial moment of political transformation. As Turkey abandoned its authoritarian past in order to conduct its inaugural experiment with multi-party democracy, Ecevit’s columns took up two of the period’s most pressing questions: the extent to which the state should control the local art world, and in what ways Turkey’s newly enfranchised citizens might enact their individual rights within the realm of culture. The essay also demonstrates the importance of these three articles to Ecevit’s subsequent political and intellectual trajectory: they were central to his lifelong efforts to continue the progressive social and political modernization project of the early Turkish Republic, while developing new forums for its critique, reinterpretation, and reinvigoration.

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