Istanbul Modern puts on a collaborative show
For the first time, Istanbul’s public is getting a chance to see the fruits of a collaboration between global artists and craftspeople in Istanbul. Launched by Istanbul Modern in October 2018 with the support of the Istanbul Development Agency (ISTKA), the International Artist Residency Program invited 10 artists from around the world to Istanbul to join forces with local craftspeople.
The new works produced by these artists went on display at Istanbul Modern on Feb. 26 as part of the exhibition “Guests: Artists and Craftspeople,” the first of its kind to be organized as part of Istanbul Modern’s International Artist Residency Program.
The project, which will contribute greatly to Turkey’s promotion abroad, is supported by ISTKA’s Innovative and Creative Istanbul Financial Support Program. In a first for Turkey, the program is arranging for artists from all over the world to collaborate with craftspeople in Istanbul under the auspices of a museum.
The exhibition invites viewers to think about Istanbul’s centuries-old craft heritage through a contemporary lens. With the aim of enhancing the global visibility of Istanbul, the program has invited artists to collaborate with masters in a variety of traditional crafts ranging from wood carving and carpet weaving to metal spinning and quilt making.
The 10 participating artists, who have participated in international biennials and exhibitions and shown their works in leading global museums and art institutions, focus on the themes of craft and tradition in their production processes or work with different materials and techniques.
All told, Faig Ahmed (Baku), Rana Begum (London), Benji Boyadgian (Jerusalem), Rodrigo Hernández (Mexico City), Servet Koçyiğit (Amsterdam), Outi Pieski (Utsjoki and Numminen), Randi & Katrine (Copenhagen), Wael Shawky (Alexandria and Philadelphia) and Jorinde Voigt (Berlin) are participating in the project.
In addition to the new works created by reinterpreting traditional production techniques from a contemporary perspective, the exhibition showcases the artists’ research and production processes in Istanbul, the resources in the city that inspired them, as well as information about the craftspeople they worked with.
Inviting the viewer to think about Istanbul’s long-established craft heritage, the exhibition also includes historical objects that shed light on the cultural richness of Istanbul. These were borrowed from the Harbiye Military Museum and the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality’s Libraries and Museums Directorate.
Curated by Öykü Özsoy and Ümit Mesci of Istanbul Modern’s Curatorial Staff, the exhibition will be on view until Aug. 23.
“In our 2010 exhibition ‘From Traditional to Contemporary: Cultural Memory in Modern Turkish Art,’ which we organized on the occasion of Istanbul’s designation as a European Capital of Culture, we debated the meaning of tradition in artistic production,” Oya Eczacıbaşı, the chair of the board of Istanbul Modern, said at a recent press conference.
“In 2015, we launched ‘From Crafts to Design,’ a project that created a platform where artists, designers and craftspeople from Turkey can collaborate on new ideas and works. With the experience we gained from these initiatives, we invited 10 artists who focus on crafts and traditional themes using different materials and techniques to take part in our International Artist Residency Program. We are now delighted to provide viewers the opportunity to see the works that artists produced jointly with craftspeople. We are confident that our program will contribute greatly to the evolution of Istanbul into an important center of contemporary art production and look forward to continuing the program.”
Istanbul’s traditional crafts
The craftspeople taking part in the International Artist Residency Program and contributing to the global promotion of Istanbul’s established craft culture were as follows: Artin Aharon (metal working), Lokman Çilingir (metal spinning), Abdullah Doğan (upholstery), Betina Hobeş (modelling), Nesime Kantar (paper marbling), Abdullah Karahan (quilt making), Özgü Karcı (embroidery), Veliye Martı (block printing), Erhan Ör (carpet weaving), Zeki Topbaş (metal hammering) and Gökmen Uzun (carpentry).
The exhibition also features videos of different stages of the International Artist Residency Program in order to provide a context for the project.
In recorded conversations, the artists discuss their research in different parts of the city and the production process with craftspeople.
Through these videos, Istanbul Modern also introduces viewers to the workshops that continue to function in the center of Istanbul and the other actors who support the continuation of this craft-based production culture.