The Institute of Contemporary Arts has appointed Bengi Ünsal as its new director. In March 2022, she will become the first woman to hold the post of director of the organization in 55 years.
The first director appointed under the chairmanship of Wolfgang Tillmans, Bengi joins the ICA as it prepares to celebrate its 75th anniversary.
The arrival of Ünsal heralds a new era for organization and a rebalancing of its multidisciplinary program across all arts, all media and all spaces of the ICA building on The Mall.
“My colleagues and I are extremely happy that Bengi has agreed to join us at this crucial moment in ICA history. Bengi has already started to develop and share her ideas and plans on how she will shape a program in all art forms and all areas of our building, bringing the organization back to its multidisciplinary heyday with a firmly established program. anchored in the here and now. I can’t wait to see what she brings to the CIA. ‘
Wolfgang Tillmans, President of the ICA
Along with ICA’s thriving visual arts, film and education programs, Bengi will seek to commission, produce and present a wider range of live performances; build on the success of recent CIA nighttime programming; and further expand the digital arts program that developed during the COVID-19 pandemic with the launch of the Cinema 3 digital platform.
During Bengi’s tenure at the Southbank Center, she was responsible for an annual program of more than 200 contemporary performances that have received critical acclaim. His responsibilities included overseeing the collapse festival, with guest curators MIA (2017), Robert Smith (2018), Nile Rodgers (2019) and Grace Jones (scheduled for 2020, postponed to 2022 due to COVID-19); launch new initiatives, in particular Purcell sessions, a series dedicated to multidisciplinary artistic innovation; Concrete delays, the Centre’s first late-night series; and future, a high-level public performance platform showcasing the best untapped talent in UK and international music. Ünsal also commissioned works such as Cowpuncher (2018) and cowpuncher my ass (2020), which brought together choreographer Holly Blakey, composer Mica Levi and designer Andreas Kronthaler for Vivienne Westwood.
Prior to joining the Southbank Center in 2016, Bengi was Artistic Director and General Manager of IKSV, Istanbul’s multi-arts fair, where she built the brand from scratch – successfully raising 100% of her funding entirely. from brand partnerships, sponsorships and ticketing revenue.
She was also the general manager of Doublemoon Records in Istanbul, ran her own events company, started a festival and worked for radio stations, music TV channels, Universal Music and BMG. Director of the Music Venue Trust and the Nest Collective, Bengi succeeds the ICA to Stefan Kalmár, who was director of the ICA from 2016 to 2021.
“I am incredibly proud to join one of the most iconic and progressive organizations for contemporary arts in the world, one which is such an inspiration to me and to so many others.
“We live in an age that challenges everything we know about work, life, the world, our connectivity. In an age of such questioning, it is vital that the space of culture, art and expression be preserved to help us make sense of it all. We need our cultural institutions to be the platforms that allow artists to do just that. Today’s artists are fluid and connected, their expression limited only by their imagination. The ICA, with the diversity of its spaces and its specialists, can become a place of creation and inspiration for these artists; a space where our rapidly changing communities are represented and welcomed more faithfully; a crossroads of creative encounters. “After all, this is the legacy of the CIA. From indie band to musicians, filmmakers and thinkers, for 75 years it has been a place where artists can be bold and challenge the status quo. I look forward to working with my incredible new colleagues to shape its future as a platform for independent and contemporary art and culture and the ultimate hotbed for cultural expression on a global scale. ‘
Bengi Ünsal, new director of ICA,
Mark Westall is the founder and editor-in-chief of FAD magazine Founder and co-editor of Art of Conversation and founder of the @worldoffad platform