That Turkey – and Istanbul in particular – has a modern and contemporary art scene is not unexpected but it is difficult to find for the common-or-garden tourist. Istanbul Modern is so new that it is not in the current Eyewitness Guide (2004).
In the initial year+, I think the I-Mod has done the proper thing with its primary installation, tracing the history of Turkish Modernism from the end of the 19th Century to the present. There are few names familiar to a second-class Western art follower like me, though Arslan is one. I said proper above but what I really meant was instructive...I do not know modern Turkish art and was glad to be able to see its rise.
Barbara created some participatıon art and I joined her. The cloakroom gave us small metal tags for our winter coats...numbered tags on tiny rings. Barbara put hers on her glasses, it was a great idea; so I dıd the same and we wandered throughout the I-Mod wıth them, jıngling away up and down the aisles. The attendents had a bit of a laugh and we enjoyed it.
There is also a fine Venice-Istanbul Bienalle exhibition with a typically hilarious outdoor piece by Juan Munoz, along with works and installations by Donna Conlon, Bruna Esposito, Subodh Gupta, Mona Hatoum, Emily Jacir, William Kentridge, Bülent Şangar, Berni Searle, Valeska Soares, Pascale Marthine Tayou, Joana Vasconselos, Robin Rhode and Antoni Tapies. The Guerilla Girls are always a treat and always provocative.
The biggest surprise (for us ignorants) was the art of a remarkable Turkish woman, Semiha Berksoy, whose paintings are a single facet in the career of a genuine barrier-buster who died at the age of 94 still making art and life happen. Her art from the 60s and the 70s is just plain stunning in the simplicity of its statements.
So – do not miss the I-Mod when you come to Instanbul. It be an education.
*The most interesting and enjoyable part of the day was our visit to OYKU/Dialogue International, of which much more in a coming post. Berksoy paintings from www.universes-in-universe.de with thanks.