Venice - Istanbul

Türk Telekom

With its second international exhibition "Venice-Istanbul," The İstanbul Museum of Modern Art is bringing a selection of works from the 51st Venice Bienale through the sponsorship of Türk Telekom. Thus for the first time in its 110-year history, the Venice Biennial, which sets the standard in contemporary art, is traveling to our country.

The exhibition brings together works by Semiha Berksoy, Donna Conlon, Bruna Esposito, Regina Jose Galindo, Guerilla Girls, Subodh Gupta, Mona Hatoum, Emily Jacir, William Kentridge, Rem Koolhaas, Nikos Navridis, Robin Rhode, Bülent Şangar, Berni Serle, Valeska Soares, Antoni Tapies, Pascale Marthine Tayou, The Center of Attention, and Joana Vasconcelos. Including the work of 20 artists, the exhibit will be on display in various areas of Istanbul Modern between October 18, 2006 and January 28, 2007.

The Istanbul Municipality, Tepta Lighting, Sony and our international sponsors the British Council Istanbul, the Mondriaan Foundation, Amsterdam, the Goethe Institut, Istanbul, the Italian Cultural Center, and the Consulates General of Sweden and the Netherlands.

The Venice Biennale is known for combining a series of national pavilions with the International Exhibition, curated by relevant experts in the field of contemporary art. While the national pavilions organized and paid by individual countries, present major local figures, the international exhibition offers a significant reflection of the state of the arts without separating the artists according to nationality. After 110 years of male directors, the curatorship of the 51st Venice Biennale was, for the first time, given to two women.

Maria de Corral and Rosa Martinez, who is also the head curator of İstanbul Modern, organized two separate exhibits. While Maria de Corral provided a historical and classical selection of works in her exhibit entitled, "The Experience of Art," Rosa Martinez used an experimental exhibit style to emphasize new developments in art in "Always a Little Further."

The exhibit "Venice-İstanbul," including works selected from the biennial by its co-curator and İstanbul Modern’s chief curator Rosa Martinez, brings together exciting works carrying traces of the past and seeds of the future from these two exhibits. The exhibit, which considers numerous issues, brings together leading contemporary artists and will enable Turkish audiences to see their fascinating works at an Istanbul venue.

Coinciding with the celebrations of the 150th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Turkey and Italy and the subsequent declaration of Istanbul and Venice as sister cities, the exhbit will bring out the strong interaction between this two cities with rich historical pasts.

Explaining that the exhibit "Venice-Istanbul" can be an excellent vehicle for erasing boundaries and reducing the historical, institutional, and educational ties between cities through art, Rosa Martinez says, "The project "Venice-Istanbul" shows how art can travel from biennales to museums and gain new meanings in this process of transit." Martinez says that this will be an unforgettable event in terms of showing how the international spirit which emerges from biennials can comfortably coexist with museums that aim to construct art history.

The works of the artists contributing to the exhibition "Venice-Istanbul" take up numerous themes, which can be broadly construed under the idea of rebellion; the social and cultural role and problems of globalization, particularly for women; forced migration, being out of place, and lacking a home; resistance, war, exile, disappearance, and political boundaries; life and death; consumer society, urbanization and modern lifestyles; rebellion agaist political decisions; resistance to the pressures of gender identity, tradition, and critiques of globalization.


In concert with the "Venice-Istanbul" Exhibition, the museum’s education department, library, and screening room will engage various programs, and the museum cafe will prepare an Italian menu in honor of the exhibition. Throughout the exhibition, participating artists will give talks on various subjects, and there will also be lectures about the content of the exhibition.

"Venice-Istanbul" Travel Journal
The İstanbul Modern Department of Education and Social Services will impliment a creative art project designed for participants age 6-16 to help young people uncover the secrets of the works the encounter during their museum visit. Throughout the project, children will keep an exhibition journal, join art projects, create imaginary spaces, put together sound collages, and take their friends on guided tours.

"Venice-Istanbul" Documentary
As was the case for "Center of Gravity, a documentary about the realization of the exhibition "Venice-Istanbul" and including interviews with the artists with the support of CNN Türk.

The First Multimedia Tours
İstanbul Modern is also introducing multimedia tours for the first time in Turkey with the support of Nokia NSeries. This multi-functional tour system will provide visitors with an audio tour, images of the exhibition, and documentaries. In addition, visitors with sight and hearing impairments will benefit from the audio and written texts concerning works in the exhibition. The Istanbul Modern library will provide books and other source materials about the artists and their works.

Selections from the Venice Film Festival and Beckett on Film
With the support of Petrol Ofisi, İstanbul Modern Cinema will present a selection of films from the Venice Film Festival. In addition, parallel with both Nikos Navridis’s work "Breath" in the exhibition and the 100th anniversary of the Irish playwrite Samuel Beckett’s birth, the series "Beckett on Film" will be shown. During the months of December and January, 19 works realized by renowned directors and actors based on plays by Beckett will be screened. In addition, in celebration of World Italian Language Week, Italian Films on Food will be shown.


The portion of the exhibit which takes place in our parking lot shows the project "Expansion/Neglect" by the "architect-intellectual" Rem Koolhaas (Rotterdam, Holland, 1944). He sees architecture as a platform where social, economic, technological and even political issues can be considered. Koolhaas questions the museum’s function, its role, and its future position in the cosmopolitan city.

In addition to six posters which criticize sexual discrimination in art from earlier exhibits, the Guerilla Girls, who see their mission for the 21st century as reinventing feminism, join the exhibition with a poster entitled "The Future of Turkish Women Artists," which looks at Turkey’s artistic fortune as though in a coffee cup. The group, which hides their real names and numbers, criticizes patriarchal society using humor and a sharp wit.

In Thirteen Laughing at Each Other, on view in the sculpture garden, we host work by one of the most important artists in reviving European sculpture, Juan Munoz (Madrid, Spain, 1953- İbiza, Spain, 2001). These figures create a narrative space of dialogue.

Through his site-specific installations, Pascale Marthine Tayou (Yaunde, Cameroon 1967) examines issues of globalization, intercultural communication, and its effects. He joins us with a work of colored plastic bags on the fence, which move in the wind, becoming a moving painting. The rubbish and references to recycling hint towards the volatility of time and the infinite nature of space, culture and thought. In his frequent travels, Tayou finds the inspiration and the materials through which to tell the story of a country, a continent, even the world.

With white charcoal, Robin Rhode (Cape Town, South Africa 1976) draws a motif on the floor, on concrete sidewalks, or brick walls, and then by interacting with his drawings, he gives them a new life. His work emerges from the urban cultural context of basketball, break dance and graffiti. Managing to conjoin elements of street culture with art, he reflects on a variety of social issues such as violence and political uncertainty. While he often deals with contemporary South Africa, his work can easily be extended to a great variety of social and cultural contexts in today’s world.

One of the most important new Portuguese artists, Joana Vasconcelos (Paris, France, 1971) gives new meanings to objects, traditionally associated with women and the domestic environment. In The Bride, a captivating chandelier with fourteen thousand meticulously rolled up tampons instead of crystals, the Portuguese artist examines the condition of women in today’s society, and concentrates on the relation between tradition and modernity. By displaying something intimate in such a public setting, she makes us reconsider the relation between the private and public spheres.

Taking our relationship with our own trash as a central theme, Donna Conlon (Atlanta, USA 1966) gathers discarded objects, plastics, disposables, or cigarette butts, and comments on today’s consumer society, urbanization and modern lifestyle. Her work makes us face the consumer society, as she cleverly reminds us that our cultural heritage is bound to be constituted by our consumption as much as by our production. Günlük davranışlarda ve atılmış objelerde saklı hikâyeler sayesinde insan davranışlarını tanımlayıp eleştirir. Yaptıkları çevresinde olup bitenin sosyo-arkeolojik bir incelemesi gibidir. In Urban Phantoms, Conlon succeeds in transmitting a set of ethical values through her light and yet ironic tone, transforming the skyline of the urban center of Panama City into a composition of garbage, which only appears as trash when we pay attention.

With her flamboyant hats, vulgar lipstick, painted cheeks, and flagrant lingerie, Semiha Berksoy’s (Istanbul, Turkey 1910 - Istanbul, 2004) every moment was a performance. Constantly in search of her self, she was probably aware that she herself was her ultimate medium, her final masterpiece. Berksoy has never feared anything, not even herself. On the outset, she represents idealism, heroism, comedy, or the challenging of tradition; yet, her works give us hints of her inner world, a world of imagination, poetry, passion and eroticism.

William Kentridge (Johannesburg, South Africa 1955) has long worked with notions of equality, justice, and responsibility, often depicting the psychological charge of the apartheid era in South Africa. Today, he is recognized through his use of animated drawings, where he erases his charcoal drawings only to redraw them, leaving gray marks on the white background. In his exhibited works, Journey to the Moon, Day for Night and 7 Fragments for Georges Méliès, he uses primitive filmmaking techniques.

In the video projection, Breath, Nikos Navridis (Athens, Greece 1958) pays tribute to the Irish play writer Samuel Beckett’s less than a minute long theatre piece, which consists of rubbish instead of protagonists, crying noises, and a background of breathing in and out. By choreographing rubbish, light and especially breathing, Navridis makes a clear allegory of life. The viewer becomes involved in this process while moving through the rubbish projected on the floor. Navridis’ work extends Beckett’s concerns with metaphysics, performance and particularly the human body. Navridis subtly points to the frailty of life, reminds us of the proximity of death, and thus, underlines their intertwined relationship.

In her video installation Tonight, in which ghostly figures dance with imaginary partners in an empty dancehall, setting off all the senses, Valeska Soares (Belo Horizonte, Brazil 1957) fundamentally transforms the viewer from observer to participant in the piece. Soares explores opposites such as restraint and excess, structure and chaos, reason and emotion, and thus considers the fragile boundaries between control and desire.

In Swansong, a group of artists, The Centre of Attention considers music as the ultimate form of expression, questions the new tendency to plan one’s own funeral, and reiterates the immortality of art through sound and performance.

Bülent Şangar’s (Eskişehir, Turkey 1965) Suret uses nine similar pictures which differ in subtle ways. What they all share is that, in contrast to most photographs, they hide the faces of their subjects. In these photographs, he forces us to ask what kind of shame the image represents. Şangar condemns the passivity and silence around him, which is the key to the loss of individuality, courage and thus freedom.

Mona Hatoum (Beirut, Lebanon, 1952), whose work uses everyday objects and the body through video, performance, and large and small objects to explore political and cultural interactions, joins the exhibit with + and -. Often dealing with provocative themes such as violence, oppression, or voyeurism, Mona Hatoum’s work explores the human realm, considering its strength and vulnerability. Hatoum’s work makes show of remarkable intensity and delicate political consciousness. Constantly playing with opposites, and highlighting the uncanny, Hatoum generates ambiguities of meaning.

The Catalan artist Antoni Tàpies’s (Barcelona, Spain 1923) approach explores the transformative qualities of material, resulting in textural richness. His work stresses the significance of spontaneity in art and the need to improvise away from tradition. Tàpies investigates the relationship between man and nature, and society’s resulting ambiguities. He has always absorbed the political and social events of his times. His work is not only contemporary, but also presents a record of his own past: "Art is life and life is transformation."

Regina José Galindo (Guatemala City, Guatemala 1974) is the only Central American artist to have received the Golden Lion award at the Venice Biennale in 2005, in the category of ‘artists under 30’. Resistance, non-indulgence, courage and potency are surely her main weapons and constitute her artistic style. Through her art Galindo reacts to the political incongruities in her native country of Guatemala.

Emphasizing a lifestyle without borders in her works, Emily Jacir (Bethlehem, Palestine, 1970) has spent the last six years moving between Ramallah and New York. In her video work Ramallah/New York, she shows a hairdresser, deli, restaurant, and café in order to exhibit similar spaces in the two cities. She shows how people in exile carry their cultures with them. Jacir’s work examines political borders, forced migration, the pains of exile, resistance, and the meanings of being Palestinian. She examines identity, globalization, and freedom through questioning the meaning of movement, changing place, and survival.

In Plumb-line and Pearl by Bruna Esposito (Rome, Italy 1960) a thin and transparent thread supports a pearl and a lead plumb, hanging from the ceiling without reaching the floor. The pearl, usually associated with a necklace implies feebleness. Hanging on a thin rope, this imagery serves as a metaphor of the frailty of life. A plumb on the other hand, used in construction to determine a vertical surface such as that of a wall, is reminiscent of gravity. Through this pendulum, minimalist in style and baroque by association, Esposito expresses her personal view, while allowing the viewers to shape their own.

Subodh Gupta (Khagaul, India 1964) is one of the rare artists who completely disregard disciplinary boundaries in the contemporary art scene of India. In Curry, the luminous and pristine surface of this "kitchen", which lacks the main ingredient, food, highlights the contradiction of absence and presence. He examines the relationship between modern lifestyles and Indian traditions using the forms of contemporary Western art, examining the tensions of globalization.

Berni Searle’s (Cape Town, South Africa 1953) growth as an artist parallels the evolution of democracy in South Africa. She is recognized today for her more intimate and lyrical body of work with photography-based installations and video work, which are reflective and mobile. Such media, she finds "useful to work with in terms of the immediacy with which [she is] able to express [herself]". In the context of rapid change which has characterized South Africa’s recent history, the themes she addresses - race, identity, and the collective – come into focus through these performances. Berni Searle’s constant interrogation, exploration and discovery of such essential topics, not only present a gateway to Africa, but also explore far broader models of cultural, racial and aesthetic change.

Municipality of İstanbul
Technology Sponsor: Sony
Lighting Design: Tepta Aydınlatma

Mondriaan Foundation Amsterdam
Consulate-General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
British Council
Consulate General of Sweden in Istanbul
Goethe Institut İstanbul
Italian Cultural Institute in Istanbul