"If Bedri were 16 or 18, I'd say he was a genius. You tell me he is six years old. What can I say? This work shows incredible talent."

Charles Palfi Director, School of Art Geneva, Switzerland 1963.

"Bedri Baykam is the hero of the day. Amazement is the impression which overwhelms us when we loot at his drawings. This amazement is many-faceted. His child's soul was perhaps that of a Davy Crockett, a Marshall Rommel or an Ataturk: or that of a visionary perhaps. Think of Mozart, of Chopin, of Roberto Benzi and of so many others. Bedri Baykam is certainly one of them."

Marcel Perret. L'Express Dimanche, Switzerland. 1963.

"It's impossible to describe Bedri's work, independent and original, beyond the framework of art as we know it. To find the source of inspiration or seek a resemblance to Matisse, Picasso or Dufy is a futile occupation. Everything he draws is pure 'Bedri Baykam'"

Selmi Andak, Art Critic, Cumhuriyet,, Istanbul, 1963.

"There are those who claim that one can not be a painter before the age of 14. As one who has proved that Rafael started painting at the age of six, I'm glad that Bedri confirms my theory."

Dr. Wilhelm Stein. Professor, History of Art. Bern, Switzerland. 1963.

"The work of this child is amazing. The graphic elegance, the unfaltering precision of his line which runs in precious arabesques on the white sheet, bring to life a whole world of personages, animals and objects, all admirably described and variegated. This child is born with an extraordinary gift. He is seven years old, a dangerous time for child prodigies. But this one seems up to it!"

Raymond Legueult. Professor, Ecole Normale. Supérieure des Beaux Arts. Paris, France. 1964.

"Seven-year-old Bedri Baykam does not only achieve the extraordinary within the particular style of his age of development, he is also an extremely unusual child who, with the power to shape and the feeling for form of an adult artist, carries out the task set before him with the outmost rapidity; and this as if he were playing all the time. What is astonishing is that, apart from this ability, he understands the realistic fundamentals of a difficult subject (a front view of a horse-carriage, for instance) without impairing in the least the formal qualities of the drawing."

Prof. Dr. Ludwig Hofmann. Pedagogical Institute, Viyana, Austria. 1964.

"He can draw with both hands equally skillfully, can pass from the figurative to the non-figurative, can make use of a brush, a pencil or a charcoal, and finally can enliven Matisse and Miro before our very eyes."

Le Figaro. Paris. 1964.

"To appreciate and assess this phenomenon at its proper value one can't help but cite the cases of Rimbaud, Pascal on Menuhin and remember Mozart's precociousness which had caused quite a sensation at the time.
... In the case of Bedri we are faced with a painting, and even with a pictorial art of the highest quality.
... Bedri Baykam is in fact a painter; a painter as much by his drawings as by his colors and original character.
... In Bedri's painting we are given a lesson which has not yet been fully appreciated, a way of understanding and grasping through intuition such as Dufy, Kandinsky or Chagall have passed on to us.
... In Bedri's work one discovers that instead of mastery there is intuition, which is at the basis of all perception, instead of discipline, simplicity, and instead of imperious order of the aesthetic elements, there is innate talent."

José Alcaraz. Musical-Mexico. 1966.

"This child draws, not like Raphael, but like Saul Steinberg and Paul Klee."

Andrew Hudson, Washington Post.

"Bedri Baykam is nine-year-old boy who comes from Turkey to show us these first fruits of talent which undoubtedly he has.
Young Bedri shows on the one hand an elaborate, even pathetic irony in his drawings of the lines of a face, and on the other hand a vivid sense of movement in his delineation of figures dancing, fleeing away or wrestling, and in the sudden apparition of armed horsemen on the white surface of the sheet without one excess line in the essential rendering of this sudden motion of images."

Professor Arturo Bovi. Rome, Italy. 1966.

"The composition covers the whole sheet of paper with small designs over large surfaces. There is a powerful mastery over material in such a manner that the spontaneity of expression is in no way hindered. All this has a distinctness which an adult artist can only achieve after a long process of development."

Hufvudstadsblated. Helsinki, Finland. 1967.

"In 1964 Raymond Legueult was writing the following about Bedri Baykam: 'The work of this child is astounding... His drawings are astonishing in their quality. The elegance of design, the unfaltering precision of line running through the white sheet of paper in elaborate arabesques give life to a whole world of people , animals and objects wonderfully vibrating in description and diversity'.
Bedri Baykam was seven-years old at the time. He is fifteen now. However he has kept that prodigious talent and has added to it dexterity, freedom of expression, extreme sobriety of style and especially freshness of emotion which attribute to all the themes that inspire him, to his landscapes in particular, an extraordinary poetical element. A few lines, some spots, dusky shades, some gray strokes will suffice to suggest a bridge over the Bosphorus, a hill emerging from the mist, a coast hanging between the sky and the sea. All this is expressed with a laconism which an artist can only acquire at the end of a long career."

Frank Elgar. Carrefour-Paris

"Si un artiste présente de l'intérét, il est automatiquement d'avant-garde. Mais il ne fait pas de l'avant-garde. Il fait de l'art, tout court. Peut-on faire de la recherche à longueur de vie? Picasso lui-même a voué une partie de son temps à propager ses propres découvertes. A partir d'une archétype extrémement précis, qui est le discours cubiste, Picasso a fait de la diffusion bien emballée ( du produit qu'il avait mis au point. Il y a des gens qui font cette vulgarisation à un degré moindre. Mais comme le disait Picasso lui-même, 'faire un chef-d'oeuvre dans sa vie, c'est merveilleux, en faire deux, c'est exeptionnel, en faire trois n'est réservé qu'à de trés rares élus'.
Bedri Baykam fait tomber quelques grains de sable sur le chemin afin que chacun puisse refaire la route qui le méne de ville en ville, de pays en pays à la recherche de cette peinture qui court le long du siécle."

Otto Hahn (From the Baykam catalog; Paris, Galerie Lavignes-Bastille. April 1990, see "catalogs") 26 fevrier, 90

"Since 1987, Bedri Baykam's works operate as a kind of repository. They overview and exhaust the limits of the intelligibility of Painting in paradigms of styles and currents. In 1987, Baykam began to tag his works with his famous motto: "This Has Been Done Before". At first painted boldly on a white plain canvas and then repeated at various occasions in installations, in the corner of different paintings and finally as a repeated element of depth together in his drips and other works, it did not impose a singular meaning. It pointed to a moment of crisis in the production of Art in general, the feeling of being at the end of History. At other times it would confirm a space for Baykam in the History of Art. There was also the issue of originality and authenticity which existed in every image which threw the practice of the critic into question. The critic was disarmed of his most repeated and cherished weapon, through which s/he was used to shoot down any work done in the last decades. The humor and sarcasm of the conceptual graffiti brought a light ending to a heavy crisis. As one of the early neo-expressionists, he found it hard to convey it to both words. U.S.A and Europe the demand was for an all-too-obvious "local and provincial touch": How could the Turk be a neo-expressionist?"

(From the catalog; Vasif Kortun, E.M Donahue Gallery New York 1992)​

Much of Bedri Baykam's work, while necessarily and purposely reflecting the recent past and the current situation in art is also essentially autobiographical. His brush has the stroke and drip of Abstract Expressionism. His imagery is indebted to Surrealism and to popular culture. His painting and his manner of working is partly derived from Performance and Action Art. His work is strongly effected by the fluid movement of the filmic image. (Baykam has actually worked as a filmmaker). His painting is clearly concerned with politics and with the politics of art in particular. He is an artist who has read and looked with great attention and who has written critical pieces himself. He has absorbed the art from his own Turkish culture as well as from the Western world and fused it with his personal experience to create a vital, authentic art of activated color and passionate feeling.

 

(From the catalog; Peter Selz, Dramas of Human Encounter, 1986)

Baykam, who besides being one of the leading and most popular figures on ¸the contemporary Turkish art scene, has been very active in the West during the 1980's while introducing the attitude and sophistication of an international artist to the Turkish art scene. He is also the author of very controversial articles and sees himself as the "Guevera" of third world art. In his writings, which are published in various magazines, he makes it clear and obvious that he knows not only the contemporary art world but also the fact that the things that lead to the construction of art history and art market happen "behind closed doors".

(From the catalog; Beral Madra, E.M Donahue New York 1988)

The roots of Baykam's political works lie in his art. In the paintings he has made since the beginning of the 80's there have always been references and allusions to daily politics.Some works he has displayed in his shows since 1987, (Such as "Kubilay's Room", "Democracy Box", "Protest on Censorship", "27th May 1960", "Turkish Independence War") have focused almost exclusively on the relationship between art and politics and represent important milestones to this chapter. Baykam has also created rich abstract and figurative expressionist canvas series.
The big canvases, bright colors and dynamic figures and his bold statements about consumerism, triviality, eroticism and conventions took the people by storm.

From the catalog; Beral Madra, Livart 1994

Baykam made an immediate impact on a cultural scene still overshadowed by the military coup of 1980. Most artists were still shy of public and political themes, but Baykam struck out riskly, confronting the limits of a military state that, under Ozal seemed to make repeated concessions to Islamic fundamentalism while maintaining a quasi-dictatorial squeeze on personal and political liberties.

Patrick Wright, The Guardian 1994, Saturday, November 12.

The degree to which the art-world has changed was forcefully brought home to me when I made a flu-laden dash to Istanbul and back just before Christmas. The occasion was a big retrospective exhibition of work by Bedri Baykam held at the Atatürk Cultural center which occupies one whole side of Taksim Square. Baykam, now in his forties, is perhaps the best-known contemporary Turkish artist. He exhibits in France and in America as well as in Turkey. During his time in America he protested vigorously about the way in which American museums, specifically the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, discriminated against Third World artists, almost without being conscious of doing so. He renewed this protest in Europe, at the time of the 'Magiciens de la Terre' show held in paris. This show, as he pointed out in a polemical text entitled, 'Monkeys' Right to Paint', still insisted on regarding all Third World artists as either unsophisticated primitives or as decadent imitators of Western modes. Baykam is an example of an artist fully versed in modernist sophistication who nevertheless attempts to deal with subject-matter which is often purely Turkish. Furthermore, many of his paintings deal, not with the past, but with the turbulent present of a country caught between East and West. His political commitment is such that he writes a regular newspaper column concerned, not with art but with political and social issues. The opening reception for his exhibition was therefore also a political event-it attracted not only fellow artists but those determined to support the secular state founded by Kemal Atatürk, in the face of increasing Islamic fundamentalism. No American artist occupies such a central place in the national culture and in fact no British artist does either.

Edward-Lucie Smith, Art Review, London, p-30, February 2000

Bedri Baykam is easily the most famous contemporary artist in Turkey. In his extravaganza exhibitions he includes music, video and sometimes performance art as well as dynamically explaining the art himself to anyone, old or young,who is interested. As a result of his flamboyant personality, Bedri Baykam has many fans, almost like a sports star, among people of all ages.
Preferable are Baykam's paintings after he returned to Turkey in the late 1980s and 1990s,when he was outraged by the political oppression, tortures and even murders of prominent intellectuals in those years. He is also on a campaign against fundamentalism and a major advocate of what is called "Kemalism" in Turkey, the avid followers of Kemal Atatürk. These works are straightforward both as paintings and as statements; they use bold photo transfers of shocking newspaper headlines or portraits of famous political leaders accented with brilliantly colored slashing gestures. "The Nazim Hikmet of Che, The Cuba of Nazim Hikmet" even includes an entire poem by Nazim Hikmet, a famous Turkish poet who was paid homage by Che Guevara. Baykam's style clearly takes off from Andy Warhol's portraits, particularly the famous Mao, but these works are far from deadpan. Returning to Turkey in 1989 was definitely good for his art.

Susan Platt, Art Papers Magazine, Atlanta p-54, May-June 2000 I’ARCA

For Baykam, life seems to be a continuous battlefield. After the years spent in the USA (1980-87) and in Paris (1975-80) his return to Turkey was marked by sociopolitical commitments, which found him in the fore frant for the libertarian cause of the Center-Left-wing coalition. Bedri baykam began his artistic life very early, with solo exhibitions of his work already at the age of six. An almost magical name rests upon thes political and artistic commitment of his: Suphi Baykam, the name of his father, a greatly prestigious polotical personality, with whom he shared a great feeling which is renewed today with another Suphi, his son. In actual fact, strong ideological battles are still going an in Turkey, due to non-stabilized democratic structures, difficult relationships between the East and the West-vhich affect international politics as well- religious questions and monetary inflation. But in spite of all this, and despite the fact that some of his friends have fallen, victims of terrorist attacks, this exenfant prodige from Ankara, who has been living in ‹stanbul for many years, has kept his energy intact, as well as his nature as a tireless storyteller, as a pictorial and caustic narrator. Hes has continued his battle in faor of non-Western art not by distributing handbills in the waorld capitals, but by launching powerful, vigorously expressive messages from the placid, enchanting Bosphorus-messages that declare the right to all the positive incentives of life.
This has been done before is another emblematic title. It is related to the comment that Westerners have often made on non-Westerners work; it concerns the principle of free crossing-through that Bedri has assumed, but on different grounds than those of postmodernism. Writing, scratches on the canvas, wide, liberating Pollock-like backgrounds, a minute handwriting with an impressionistic feel, overwhelming pin-ups, messages from literature, sections of photograps, etc. Are elements that he uses in various ways and that time after time take teh form of chaotic, vitalistic tales: an unrepeatable moments of myokinetci and conceptual energy, an astonishing palette.Clement’s Purity (1989) is an emblematic paintin: on an essential, abstract motif with a black background, the orange-yellow title stands out. Clement Greenberg is targeted, the theorist who, on traditional grounds, is responsible for the “purty” of Americam abstraction, although Bedri is not one of the minimalists the critic considered to be a great enemy. In his most recent paintings, Baykam has slackened and altanated a gasping beat with a more incisive and contemplative rhythm: dreamed visions, roaming shapes, like light clouds, with a lyrical character. They seem to tell us that tehe guerrilla fighter does not disdain sitting down and looking out from the Eastern and Western shores of the Bosphorus in turn.  

Nka Journal of CONTEMPORARY AFRICAN ART

 

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