all images ©missyweimer 2017

all content ©missyweimer 2017

Monday, January 5, 2015

Istanbul Modern

IstanbulModern was founded in 2004. For Istanbul, where the "new" mosque is over 300 years old, it is a baby in its early infancy. The museum has a stunning view of the Bosphorus Strait and I have viewed it many times from the ferry. This made it all the more confusing when it was almost unrecognizable from the street. The Museum, due partially to construction, is completely blocked from the pedestrian eye-line on the busy street of Meclis-i Mebusan Cad. Set up well for car traffic, there is ample pay parking with a street entrance, at this time, there is no designated foot traffic entrance. Coming from California, where pedestrians have the right of way, Istanbul is more like - Please walk into this driveway, which is also a dangerous construction zone, around the car gate and into the security check point.

The museum showcased a number of international artists, but definitely prioritized Turkish painters and artists. To my delight, many women and a number of younger artists were represented as well. I have decided to leave my photography specific review for another day. However, the three Things I Liked (the most) are, I would argue photo-based and none appear in the photography exhibit.

Things I liked - in no particular order:

Nilbar Güreş, 1977 Istanbul, Turkey
Soyunma, 2006 (Undressing) 
Awesome (video of a) performance by the artist. As the video opens, Güreş is covered in a number of headscarves. She begins to take them off one by one, with each one stating the name of a woman whom she knows, including 'anne' (mother in Turkish) and 'babaanne' (grandmother in Turkish). She says, “The majority of Muslim women living in Europe, with or without a head scarf, first and foremost, represent their individual selves not religious or nationalistic ideas.”  (taken from the wall text which accompanies the work.)
As the scarves come off, one can see that her face is obscured. She pats her head and feels her face, looking for the start and end to the scarf which she is removing. One can see the face covering moving in an out as she breathes below the fabric, causing tension for the viewer.
Each second of the video is a powerful image. For me the last 3 “frames” bring the performance forth, breaking even beyond her stated intent and further into the long, rich visual history of the world. The last scarf is pale blue and is worn not unlike the Virgin Mary in common representations. She is faceless Mary. A “virgin”(?). She feels her face and head through the fabric, removing the final scarf. Sweat stains the cloth. She pauses for a moment in her beige head covering and suddenly I see the woman from Magritte's “the Lovers”. Wishing and wanting to connect, this woman struggles to be heard, understood and even seen. Finally, her own face appears.
Güreş says her work relates to the shared state of womanhood, its realities, as opposed to its generalities. Indeed, Nilbar Hanim.
    image at right taken from -

Yangin, 2010 (Fire)
Ramazan Bayraoglu, 1967 Baliksir, Turkey

Working with found images Bayraoglu reinterprets the images through a tedious medium, in this case acrylic. The powerful image dominates a wall (225 x 300cm) and appears almost photo-realisic from a distance. Moving closer one can tell that the image is obviously not a 'photograph' in the traditional sense. A detailed view shows beautiful, delicate pastels in organic shapes which comprise the image. Each one seeming to represent a memory lost in the fire. The colors and shapes expose the rich beauty of the flames as it destroy a family's home. It is tragedy reinterpreted, blown up, made softer, more visible and transformed through labor. Stunning.
Alisveris, 2011 (Shopping) Sabire Susuz 1967 Kütahya, Türkiye

Formerly working as a printmaker, is she still?, Susuz has recently shifted to large scale works with fabric, seemingly hitting upon a sweet spot in her work. Made from clothing labels which she collected from friends and family, she references the social creation of the individual self. By using shopping labels she speaks to pop culture, fads, fashion and completely constructed, artificial values placed on brands. To this end, she pins the work together - unstitched, the piece is easily deconstructed. Depicting a shark, a formidable creature in nature, it undermined by the flimsy construction. It's form appearing only from a distance. Upon closer inspection, the shark disappears, replaced by small bits of pinned together fabric, its true contradictory nature is revealed.

I want to special mention this painting:Çocuklugumun Bahçeleri, 2002 (Gardens of my Childhood) Alaettin Aksoy, 1942
oil on canvas 140 x 168cm
And this painting:
Painting Şerif 6-7-8, 1982 (Sheriff) by İpek Duben, 1941
Sheriff oil on canvas
130x 245 cm
There are many great things to see at the museum, this is just a few highlights. Here is my overall review of the facilities.
The museum boasts a bright cafe with great views and library on the bottom floor. The store is charming with some nice, reasonably priced, offerings. I would have liked to see more books and more jewelry (strictly a personal preference). A shop twice the size would sell twice as much. On at least two (2) occasions I saw a security guard chatting up a woman, whilst a patron in very near proximity to said guard touched or, in one case, leaned onto some art to take a selfie/have a photo taken. I was too busy having a panic attack to get a shot of that. As an artist, I assure you it was horrifying. The work on the left was the piece I saw most fondled by patrons (DOUBLECHERRY, 2011 - by :mentalKLINIK, Aluminum cast, high gloss spray paint finish 117 x 72 x 170 cm). Putting a huge pair of shiny black balls right in the middle of your museum and letting people run their hands all over it is not exactly accidental racism, but it's something...

The entrance fee of 17tl seemed a bit high for locals, but not high by international standards. This, as well as the aforementioned car preference seems to cater to tourists. None of my Turkish friends have ever been to the museum, though all of them have visited historic sites and antiquities museums within the city. A discount for locals with ID (like Hawaii), or a day when it is free to Istanbul residents seems like a nice idea.
Istanbul Moderns is well on its way to becoming a world-class venue for Modern Art.

Keep reading for my side-eye:
My experience at the ticket counter was rude and unprofessional. After consulting the website before my visit, I planned to buy a membership. As I am currently a student here in Turkey, I hoped to get the discounted student rate.* The woman dismissed my student ID and refused to clarify what type of student ID they would accept eventually telling me "International Universities only." Also, she would not discuss other membership options with me. It's possible this women was just having a very bad day and did not want to talk to another non Turkish speaker. But, I'll be back!

* Document(s) proving applicants’ status as student, teacher, retiree, or senior must be presented during the application process."

The library.

The view.

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