Home Arts Istanbul’s new modern museum finally unveiled after five years of construction

Istanbul’s new modern museum finally unveiled after five years of construction

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Istanbul Modern, which opened in 2004 as Turkey’s “first modern and contemporary art museum”, reopens this week (May 4) after a five-year reconstruction. The 10,500 m² building was designed by the famous Italian architect Renzo Piano. “The transparent and accessible design of the new building reflects the philosophy of the museum,” reads a press release. The new space, covered in 3D aluminum panels “evoking fish scales”, includes a museum library, educational and event spaces on five floors.

Istanbul Modern was first unveiled almost 20 years ago in a former warehouse in the Karaköy district, overlooking the Bosphorus. After five years of construction, during which the collection was temporarily displayed in a nearby 19th-century building, the new venue will open on the original site of the museum.

Istanbul Modern’s new building was constructed with the joint support of Eczacıbaşı Group, the founding sponsor of the museum, and Doğuş-Bilgili Holding Group, its main sponsor. The Eczacıbaşı family, one of the country’s leading patrons of the arts, runs a conglomerate encompassing building products, consumer products and healthcare, according to the company’s website. The cost of the new building is not disclosed.

The launch program includes five exhibitions, including a chronological study of Turkish art from 1945 to after 2000, with works by Fahrelnissa Zeid, Sarkis, Ayşe Erkmen and Gülsün Karamustafa. A new installation commissioned by IA artist Refik Anadol, entitled Infinity Room: Bosphoruswill also be unveiled (the site-specific piece is informed by real-time environmental data collected from the Istanbul region).

Another show, Always here, includes 17 works by 11 women artists who were added to the collection through the Women Artists Fund established in 2016; featured artists include Mehtap Baydu, Hera Büyüktaşçıyan, İnci Eviner and Selma Gürbüz. The museum’s dedicated photography gallery, billed as the first of its kind in Turkey, will feature 22 portraits taken by filmmaker and director Nuri Bilge Ceylan in the exhibition In another place.

A new work in three parts by Olafur Eliasson, Your unexpected journey (2021), will be suspended in a central staircase while the sculptures displayed in an outdoor space include The most beautiful of all mothers (I) (2015) by Adrian Villar Rojas, by Richard Deacon Home version (2005) and Tony Cragg runner (2017).

Last year, Cragg defended his decision to lend his sculpture to Istanbul Modern after artist Mürüvvet Türkyilmaz criticized the decision.narrative The Observer newspaper: “If there is freedom of expression in Turkey, why are so many people still in prison for simply speaking out about human rights?” Cragg replied, “Art is a force for good. I expose my work for everyone, not for a specific group but for the whole, in this case, the Turkish population.

In a report last year, we highlighted how Over the past 40 years, many institutions dedicated to art have sprung up in Istanbul. “They did it under the watchful eye and under the implied threat of [president] regime of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan,” said Osman Can Yerebakan.

Istanbul Modern’s opening comes at a good time as the country is due to hold crucial presidential and parliamentary elections on May 14 that could topple Erdogan for the first time in two decades. Human rights commentators point out that during his tenure the crackdown on free speech intensified. “Basisless investigations, prosecutions and convictions of human rights defenders, journalists, opposition politicians and others have persisted,” according to a 2022 report by Amnesty.

In 2019, Turkish artistic director Fevzi Yazici was charged with belonging to a terrorist organization and sentenced to 11 years and three months in prison. According to the Swedish advocacy organization Stockholm Center for Freedom, Yazici was accused by the Turkish government of helping to organize the failed coup against Erdogan in July 2016.

He was then tried for terrorism and was sentenced to an aggravated life sentence in February 2018 along with five other journalists. The arts journal understands that he has since been released.

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