Held Together with Water*

Art from the Verbund Collection

10 September 2008 – 11 January 2009

International Collection Presentation At the İstanbul Museum of Modern Art

* Title of a work by Lawrence Weiner from the year 1993

Gabriele Schor, Director of the Sammlung Verbund
Levent Çalıkoğlu, Chief Curator of the İstanbul Museum of Modern Art

İstanbul Modern’s new exhibition titled “Held Together with Water” presents a special selection of works from the Sammlung Verbund for the first time outside Austria. The “Sammlung Verbund” brings together the most prominent artists among international contemporary arts as well as young artists who have influenced the impressive works of today. The curators of the exhibition which can be seen from September 10th, 2008 to January 11th, 2009 in the Permanent Exhibitions Hall are Gabriele Schor, the Director of the Sammlung Verbund and Levent Çalıkoğlu, Chief Curator of the İstanbul Museum of Modern Art.

The exhibition shows 116 works from 39 artists who have influenced the modern art world, like Cindy Sherman, Gordon Matta-Clark, Jeff Wall, Ernesto Neto, Gilbert & George, Francis Alÿs, Nan Goldin, Sarah Lucas, Fred Sandback, Eleanor Antin, Cecil Beaton, Bernd-Hilla Becher, Johanna Billing, VALIE EXPORT, Kate Gilmore, Birgit Jügenssen, Louise Lawler, Ursula Mayer, Urs Lüthi, Gabriel Orozco, Loan Nguyen, Ed Ruscha, Markus Schinwald, Simon Starling, Gillian Wearing, Lawrence Weiner, Francesca Woodman, and Nil Yalter.

The exhibition is realized with the help of the sponsor EnerjiSA which is closely related to the owner of the ‘Sammlung Verbund’ Verbund Österreichische Elektrizitätswirtschafts AG. The supporters, headed by Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality are Tepta Aydınlatma, Marshall, Mas Matbaa, Acarlar Makine and Borsa Lokantaları A.Ş.

With its rich variety ranging from sculptures to photographs, film to video, slides and sound installations the Sammlung Verbund reflects recent positions in contemporary art since the 1970s following many movements up to more current trends.

“Performance” and “Spaces / Places”

The exhibition titled "Held Together with Water” with its themes “Performance” and “Spaces / Places” tells about female as well as male contemporary artists abandoning painting and turning to completely new forms of expression and transforming their works into photography, video and spatial installations.


"Performance” reflects a process starting in the 1970s, when artists where discovering their own bodies, thinking about identity, and orientating towards feminist rebellion. Cindy Sherman's lesser known early works - on view in Istanbul for the first time on this scale - take up the struggle of women against the corset of conformity. The harsh auto-portraits of VALIE EXPORT inspiring feminist movement and Nil Yalter’s belly dance video from Turkey making a fetish of the female body, are the most well-known works in this section. Exemplary 'Feminist Avantgarde' works are set in the context of more recent positions in feminist art. It's exciting to see how completely different aesthetic strategies of the past thirty years are used until today to address similar issues. Sarah Lucas, for instance, provocatively unmasks masculine and feminine stereotypes. Kate Gilmore, in her video "With Open Arms" (2005) stages the struggle for emancipation of women with a good sense of humor. In "Electrodoméstica" (2003 - 2004), Laura Ribeiro draws upon the role-play in Cindy Sherman's "Untitled Film Stills" (1977-1980) to focus on cliché representations of women in the media.

“Spaces / Places”

“Spaces / Places” makes visible the possibility of how spaces can be demolished and constructed again by artists by focusing on the interaction between art and space. Parallel in time with the "performative turn" a new understanding of dealing with the phenomenon of space emerged. In "Splitting" (1974), Gordon Matta-Clark cut a building in two, or, in "Conical Intersect" (1975) cut a conical form through two houses, thus giving space a completely new identity. On the other hand, Fred Sandback approaches space in a contemplative mood and creates seemingly tangible surfaces with his thin acrylic yarn sculptures: an imaginary space. In his cage-like, organically shaped installation "Tractatus IDeuses" (2005) Ernesto Neto creates a completely different experience of space. A further aspect of this part of the exhibition presents the various approaches to the phenomena of place, gestures and poses in photography. Jeff Wall is concerned with the "inofficial use of public places" while Loan Nguyen's recent photographs poetically demarcate the periphery and urban non-places.

Oya Eczacıbaşı, C.E.O. of Istanbul Modern states that the exhibition “Held Together with Water” is an exemplary reflection of the mission of allocating ample place to contemporary approaches of Istanbul Modern, which is ready to be a prominent bridge between local and international culture. For Eczacıbaşı, the Sammlung Verbund is a young collection that specifically assesses main aspects of the last forty years of contemporary art history and intertwines thematic criteria and innovative art trends with their transformations and intersections. “The Sammlung Verbund as well as İstanbul Modern aims at bringing together diverse approaches and art forms using collective themes or topics and demonstrates this way that art is able to establish a vision for society. ‘Held Together with Water’ also coincides with the exhibiting concept of our museum being a young, dynamic art institution focused on the present.” says Eczacıbaşı.

Verbund CEO Michael Pistauer states: One of our most successfull international engagements is our partnership with Sabanci Holding in our Turkish-Austrian joint venture Enerjisa. “We are proud and happy to show our collection for the first time outside of Austria here in Istanbul. Besides our core business it is most important for us to focus upon corporate social responsibility.”

Gabriele Schor, the Director of the Sammlung Verbund, says that the collection brings together many movements from the 1970’s till today and is juxtaposing them with more recent positions of contemporary art, trying to realise a dialogue in line with its maxim “Depth before Breadth”. Schor adds that the title of the exhibition is the story of a declaration of love. “Verbund employees know one work of the Sammlung Verbund best: it is the sculpture 'Held Together with Water' by Lawrence Weiner. The stainless-steel letters discreetly sunk into the Terrazzo floor of the foyer of the main Verbund building in Vienna induced us to use Weiner's textwork as the title of the first publication and public exhibition of the Sammlung Verbund. Which title could be more appropriate for a corporation whose lifeblood, as it were, really is water? No wonder employees feel a deep affinity with this floor sculpture and behave towards 'Held Together With Water' as they would behave towards a ‘beloved’.” Gabriele Schor says that the collection's aim is to expose thematic links and 'lines of contact' between established artists and their younger, less well-known counterparts.

Chief Curator of the İstanbul Museum of Modern Art, Levent Çalıkoğlu, emphasizes that in this exhibition legendary artists meet international young names. Many of them will be seen by viewers from Turkey for the first time. Çalıkoğlu mentions “I believe that this come-together will draw the attention of visitors from all social segments, in particular the attention of young people. On the other hand, I think that this displaying will bring serious couplings in the context of art history on the agenda. In the long run, intersections and parallels between local histories and great international histories have opened up towards new areas of research in the art history of the last twenty years. A moment of encounter of this sort may point to the relation between the international and the local, breeding different processes of reading”. Çalıkoğlu states that Nil Yalter from Turkey who recently joined the collection and who, both as representative of a 'Feminist Avant-garde' and her original contributions to video art, is an important name, an harbinger of the moment of intersection in this historical flow: “This collection with its specific specimens may constitute a positive example and may act as a guide to contemporary art collectionism lately being formed in Turkey. It can bring a healthy suggestion to the great, turbulent argument on how to navigate among images and on which works are liable for significant and integral relations.”