Orhan Taner shares his vision for arts, culture and inclusion

A museum in Manhattan Beach?

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  • Written by
    Sara Debevec
  • Photographed by
    Monica Orozco

Orhan Taner grew up in Istanbul and came to the U.S. about 40 years ago for college. After a long investment banking career in New York City, he decided to do some philanthropy work and in 2006 started the first international art fair in Istanbul. Named Contemporary Istanbul, it was one of the leading art fairs in the region.

For many years Orhan was an actor on a wide spectrum of contemporary art … as a collector, a gallery owner, a curator and, most recently, an elected member of the Manhattan Beach Cultural Arts Commission. Although I met him for the first time at ShockBoxx Gallery—where his unique, urban-inspired photography was on show—he doesn’t like to call himself an artist. “I am, however, married to one,” he explains with a smile.

Above all, Orhan is a visionary and a patron for the arts. “My entire life—both in business and life goals—I like starting new things. I consider myself (and others do too) a forward thinker.”

His perspective on the South Bay is equally as elaborate as his involvement in the arts. He believes in integrating arts and culture into our daily lives. He is interested in the South Bay as a community and in how art can improve our standard of living.

“Within 12 to 15 miles from here one can run into some of the best contemporary art museums in the world,” explains Orhan, “especially with the new art fair coming up in February (Frieze). Los Angeles is bound to be a major art destination.” In his opinion, Manhattan Beach and the South Bay should benefit from it and contribute to it.

“There is a tremendous and deep interest in the arts in this area, and I really respect what the artists are doing here. I call it beach-inspired contemporary art (or BICA, for short).”

A lot of people in the South Bay are involved in producing art as a hobby, and sometimes the quality is superb. As part of the city of Manhattan Beach’s Cultural Arts Commission, Orhan and his fellow commissioners recently asked the community to submit proposals for the beautification of utility boxes. They were greatly surprised to discover how many hidden artists there are in Manhattan Beach.

“There is a tremendous and deep interest in the arts in this area,” he explains, “and I really respect what the artists are doing here. I call it beach-inspired contemporary art (or BICA, for short).”

Consequently, he started the Manhattan Beach Art Foundation with the aim of integrating the art of the South Bay into the world and integrating the art of the world into the South Bay. The goal of Manhattan Beach Art Foundation is to invite beach-inspired contemporary artists from all over the world—including California, Hawaii, Australia, Indonesia as well as Southern and Northern Europe.

“We want to make that connection between the ocean, the beach and contemporary art, and we want to be in the center of it. It will involve a lot of site-specific installations, most of which will be right on the beach itself and some of the structures on the beach, such as the piers. It will also involve quite a bit of exhibitions in various buildings: schools, churches, existing art centers, government buildings, as well as in the parks.”

One of his ideas is to build a Manhattan Beach contemporary art museum that will serve as a flagship venue for a future beach-inspired art biennale. It will house a permanent collection and allow the residents of the South Bay to frequent a world-class museum right in their neighborhood. Orhan hopes it will also encourage the community to visit other local museums regularly, including LACMA, The Getty, The Broad, Hammer Museum and MOCA.

As a father of a 12-year-old, he adds, “The general idea behind Manhattan Beach Art Foundation is to educate people on the value of art.” He states that while our schools do an excellent job in teaching basic skills to our students, “we as a community, as parents, together with the schools need to inject a higher dosage of creativity into our education system, and the perfect way to do that is through art.”

Orhan’s project involves long-term planning, “and these things don’t happen overnight. But with the right partners—both civic and corporate—I believe this will become one of the most sought-after art events in the South Bay.”