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Protesters Demand Sculpture Be Removed from Contemporary Istanbul

Members of a conservative religious group angered by a sculpture depicting Abdulhamid II, the last Ottoman sultan, stormed the eleventh edition of the Contemporary Istanbul art fair yesterday, Aysegul Sonmez of Sanat Atak reports.

The group of about twenty men, who claimed to be members of the Erbakan Foundation II, demanded that the work be removed. Exhibited at the booth of Chilean gallery Isabel Croxatto, I Can’t Reciprocate Your Feelings Osman III, 2016, by Ali Elmaci, consists of a wooden sculpture of a woman with two heads, one of which holds a knife in her teeth. Standing on a table, the woman is dressed in a bikini and has an image of Abdulhamid II painted on her torso.

After the confrontation caused fairgoers to panic, the artist removed the sculpture from the booth to prevent the situation from escalating. Ali Güreli, chairman of Contemporary Istanbul, later reinstalled the work and said in a statement that it would remain on view until the closing of the fair.