“İzmir deserves more”
Lucien Arkas is a lover of Izmir and is a member of a family that has lived in Izmir for three generations. Arkas, who has gifted many things to Izmir with investments in tourism, culture, art and sports besides being a highly successful businessman, always talks about his devotion to the city.
Arkas, who says that he invests in Izmir with the money he makes out of the city, adds that Izmir deserves so much more with the assets it possesses.
Interview: Derya ŞAHİN
Photographs: Arkas Holding Archive
You are a member of a family that has been living in Izmir for three centuries. How would Lucien Arkas İzmir?
Arkas: Izmir is important to the Arkas family. We have been living here for the past 300 years. The foundations of Arkas Holing were laid here in 1902. We love Izmir and we owe the city a lot. That is why we are working to contribute to the city in any way we can. I believe that Izmir deserves much more with its geographical location, climate, history, touristic potential, port, airport and gifted people.
You are known for your love of art and art collection besides your success in the business world. How did you start collecting art?
Arkas: I began collecting ship models 30 years ago and paintings 20 years ago. I began by purchasing the paintings I liked and commissioning the construction of ship models I admired. I never thought of collecting as bringing pieces together. Afterwards, I began working with a professional team for my art collection. We established the Arkas Collection after years of work. We gathered the paintings in two major categories: Turkish Art and Post-Impressionist Period. In the first category, there are paintings starting from 19th century all the way to the Modern Turkish art period. The second category consists of post impressionist period paintings.
My ship model collection now has 400 pieces. We cannot possibly exhibit all them at our center. Most of my ship models and antiquities are in Arkas buildings.
You are exhibiting your art collection at the Arkas Art Center and ship models and antiquities at the Arkas Nautical History Center. How did you decide to open these two institutions?
Arkas: When the French Government allocated a part of the consulate building to us for 20 years just for art purposes in exchange for the restoration of the building, I had the pleasure of gifting Izmir with an art center. There are regular exhibitions at the center which was opened in 2011. Some of these exhibitions consist of our won collection and others are works by other artists.
We opened the Arkas Art Center with an exhibition called Post Impressionism from the Arkas Collection, which was in harmony with the architectural history of the building. After the first exhibition, which included paintings by Maxime Maufra, Louis Anquetin, Émile Bernard, Maurice Denis, Maurice de Vlaminck, Édouard Vuillard and Louis Valtat, we opened our second exhibition called This Side of the Aegean from the brushstrokes of Westerners.
After these two exhibitions which included only pieces from our collection, we organized a photography exhibition by famous Turkish photographer Ahmet Ertuğ called The Echo of Silence which features photographs of famous opera buildings and libraries.
The exhibition, which began on September 15, will continue until December 30. The exhibition includes photographs of La Fenice Opera in Venice, Opera Garnier in France, Palau de la Música Catalana in Barcelona, Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris, Palácio Nacional de Mafra in Lisbon and Trinity College Library in Dublin among many more. Arkas Art Center is open every day except Mondays and entrance is free. We always displayed our ship models in our buildings but we were thinking about exhibiting them in a private space to shed light on nautical history. We turned our house in Bornova, which was built in the 1800’s into the Arkas Nautical History Center and began exhibiting our collection. There are 95 ship models, 126 ship antiquities and 67 paintings at the center.
The first trio established under a private company is also a part of Arkas Holding. Do you think of establishing an orchestra and widening the scope?
Arkas: Arkas Trio consists of three important musicians; violin soloist Tuncay Yılmaz, piano soloist Emre Elivar and German cellist Gustav Rivinius. We opted for a trio in order to introduce chamber music to the country and also took into account the mobility of a trio and the abundance of available concert halls.
As Arkas, we establish our projects for the long haul it has been a year since the Arkas Trio was assembled but they have performed greatly in and out of the country. We have had great feedback. For now, we are only focusing on Arkas Trio.
When a time where everyone points out to EXPO for the future of Izmir, you expressly point out to the importance of widening the port. Which do you think is more important for the future of Izmir?
Arkas: EXPO is of course very important; we know its contribution to the cities it was organized in. we must give our full support to the process. But EXPO will be organized in 2020. In the meantime, we have to keep working. İzmir’s richest period was when the port was working efficiently. Making the Port of Izmir operational like in the all days will greatly increase activity in the city. It is important to eliminate all the problems at the port as soon as possible. First of all, we need to scan the bay and widen the port.
While many of the companies based in Izmir moved their headquarters to Istanbul, you decided to stay in Izmir. Why?
Arkas: It is important to feel that you belong somewhere. I am happy to financially and socially contribute to the city I live in but in order to help Izmir, we need to go outside its borders, earn our money and come back and invest here.
Our headquarters are in Izmir but we have offices in 13 cities. In addition, we have offices in the Mediterranean, Black Sea and 18 foreign countries. We can manage this international structure from Izmir. Latest developments in technology and communication tools help us do business and control the operation.
You received a lot of applause during your speech at the EXPO presentation. Why do you think that happened?
Arkas: During my speech, I stated that Izmir was a city of tolerance and that people living here were very happy. Tolerance is hard to come by. If EXPO will be organized in a city where people are happy to live, then I think Izmir will be the right choice.