"Guests: Artists and Craftspeople" at Istanbul Modern

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 collaborate with local craftspeople. The new works produced by these artists in collaboration with the artisans are on view in the exhibition “Guests: Artists and Craftspeople” between February 26 – October 18, 2020.

Opening on February 26, the exhibition “Guests: Artists and Craftspeople” is the first exhibition to be organized within the scope of Istanbul Modern’s International Artist Residency Program. The project will contribute greatly to the promotion of Turkey abroad and is supported by the Innovative and Creative Istanbul Financial Support Program of the Istanbul Development Agency (ISTKA). 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.

"Guests: Artists and Craftspeople", the first exhibition of Istanbul Modern’s International Artist Residency Program, will be open to the art-loving public from 26 February onwards. The exhibition invites viewers to think about Istanbul's centuries-old craft heritage through contemporary lens. The exhibition's press conference was attended by Oya Eczacıbaşı, Chair of the Board of Istanbul Modern, Dr. Fatih Pişkin, Deputy General Secretary of the Istanbul Development Agency (İSTKA), exhibition curators Öykü Özsoy and Ümit Mesci, and participating artists and craftspeople.

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. “Guests: Artists and Craftspeople” features the works of 10 international artists who have been inspired by the crafts of Istanbul.

From Baku to London, Mexico City to Copenhagen

Participating artists focus on the themes of craft and tradition in their production processes or work with different materials and techniques. They have also participated in international biennials and exhibitions and their works are featured in the collections of leading museums and art institutions worldwide. The participating artists are: 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).

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 and with which they interacted, 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 “Guests: Artists and Craftspeople” will be on view until August 23.


Oya Eczacıbaşı, Chair of the Board of Istanbul Modern:

"Guests: Artists and Craftspeople" is the first exhibition of our International Artist Residency Program, a program we believe can make a significant contribution to Istanbul's global profile, and builds on previous projects to create encounters between traditional and contemporary art.

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. 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.

Dr. Fatih Pişkin, Deputy General Secretary of the Istanbul Development Agency (İSTKA)

With its unique history and dynamic structure, Istanbul is a wellspring for both innovative design ideas and traditional arts and crafts. The great economic potential of creative industries means this sector can be an important driver of development not just in Istanbul but nationwide. Our agency, which works under the coordination of the Ministry of Industry and Technology, aims to assist the creative industries increase their contribution to Istanbul's economy and to promote Istanbul's branding as a design and creative industry city. Hence, we are especially happy that this project undertaken by the Istanbul Foundation for Modern Art is promoting the creative potential of Istanbul worldwide.

Exhibition curators Öykü Özsoy and Ümit Mesci:

Through the International Artist Residency Program, we aim to create an environment that supports the creative processes of artists we invite to Istanbul through collaboration with local craftspeople. Artists reside in Istanbul for a period of time and collaborate with craftspeople at their workshops, the present-day representatives of Istanbul's centuries-old craft heritage. These cultural treasures are in the center of Istanbul, easy to reach, and are known for their high quality. Our guest artists were surprised and delighted to find that the craftspeople they worked with were enthusiastic about collaborating with them and brought tremendous expertise and talent to the project, thus enabling them to realize their projects very quickly.

From metal spinning to quilt making: 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).

Videos documenting the art and craft journey

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, artists talk about 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.

Exhibition catalogue

With texts in Turkish and English, the exhibition catalogue for “Guests: Artists and Craftspeople" includes texts and photographs of the artists and their works, as well as texts prepared for the International Artist Residency Program and the exhibition. It also has an essay by project advisor Aslı Kıyak İngin titled “In Companionship with Crafts” as well as accounts by artists of their experiences in the International Artist Residency Program, which is the first of its kind in Turkey to be organized by a museum.