Elgiz Museum of Contemporary Art – a gem amongst the high rises in Istanbul’s financial hub

Perched on the European side of Istanbul, Maslak is the typical business district with soaring steel buildings, sparse pedestrian traffic during the day, plenty of congestion at rush hour and eyecatching neon lights at night.

Hence it was a huge surprise for me to discover a museum embraced by all the towering steel and glass buildings where most of the daily activities revolve around business plans, long meetings, fancy power point presentations, financial figures and lots and lots of coffee breaks.

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Proje 4L Elgiz Museum of Contemporary art was the treasure trove of the week – thank you TEB private banking for the invitation to the Trace 14 exhibition gala and cocktail to acquaint us with the spectacular artwork. For me the encounter was akin to a child’s discovery of a candy store…that overwhelming joy, that bliss is difficult to put into words.

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Proje4L was apparently founded by passionate art collectors Sevda and Can Elgiz under the name of “Istanbul Museum of Contemporary Art” way back in 2001 when the number of non-profit institutions dedicated to contemporary art were pretty much non-existant. The initial mission being to promote the development of contemporary art in Turkey with a focus on endorsing young Turkish artists on the arts scene by providing exhibition space and support.

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The current Trace 14 exhibition presents a selection from the private Collection to commemorate the 14th year of the museum’s opening displaying the remarkable work of the artists whose crafts have definitely left a visible trace on the Elgiz collection.

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All the guests at the evening were incredibly elite, passionate about art, eager to listen, observe, explore, understand but above all keen to appreciate the imagination of all the artists. What made the evening so very remarkable was the guidance of Billur Tansel. It was her incredibly rich background, elegance and soft spoken voice that provided the lyrics to the magnificent artwork. Her personal highlights resonating in the astounding ingenuity of these contemporary creators.

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It is as always so remarkable to “rediscover” how art reflects the social and political environment “du jour”, sometimes mixing tragedy with comedy, sometimes triggering thought, sometimes soothing but always enlightening. Both the temporary collection and the work displayed at Trace 14 exhibition range from painting, to photography to sculptures to video art. Some of the work is autobiographical, some confessional, some philosophical, some political, some pure entertainment, but all very rich and inspirational.

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There are pieces by Tracey Emin, the first woman to occupy the role of Eranda Professor of Drawing at the Royal Academy. One of Britain’s most celebrated living artists, her work sells for huge sums. She has a neon installation residing at 10 Downing Street and has had the privilege of meeting the Queen.

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There is a very large piece by Azade Koker who lives and works both in Istanbul and Berlin. Currently a professor of art at the Braunschweig Technical University, she has designed several sculptures for public places of the German capital such as squares, hospitals and museums as well as sculpture and installation projects in Japan, Korea and the USA.

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Russian born Oleg Dou’s photographic transformation of a young girl into a little piglet was immensely interesting. Apparently his parents gave Dou a copy of a Photoshop at the age of 13, after which he began altering images of his school friends’ and teachers’ faces. He is reputed for producing images that are both alluring and unsettling.

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And the museum grants the opportunity to ‘enjoy’ one of the Belgian artist Jan Fabre’s “dresses” fabricated by real jewel beetles. Well known both at home and abroad as one of the most innovative and versatile artists of his day, he has been producing work as a visual artist and is the co-founder, publisher, and co-editor of Janus, a quarterly magazine on art and culture. He conveys that beetles having survived millions of years by adapting themselves to their changing environment, have the greatest memory and possess the depest information. He loads the empty spaces of his bodies with that memory.

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There was also a site-specific graffiti work “in production” by Umit Turgay Durgun who apparently became acquainted with graffiti on the streets upon taking up rollerblading in the 90’s. Using mixed media and spray paint he produces under the pseudonym “copikstar” his spontaneous improvisations reflect the themes of daily agendas.

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As Henry Ward Beecher once said “Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.”
I always thoroughly enjoy every split second that I immerse myself in these outstanding achievements and revere in the greatness a human being is able to deliver.

Thank you Banu Taskin for the invitation to the exhibition, it was such an enriching evening.

The museum is free of charge to the general public.
The exhibition can be visited until March 10, 2014.

More information is available on the museum’s website.

http://www.elgizmuseum.org/en#museum

The phenomenal display of work whose creators have obviously left a trace on the collectors are:
Alex Prager, Alexander Liberman, Andreas Gefeller, Bedir Baykam, Giuseppe Belvedere, Burak Delier, Burhan Uygur, Friedrike Feldmann, Guillermo Mora, Günther Förg, Halil Vurucuoğlu, Haşim Nur Gürel, İrfan Önürmen, Liam Gillick, Maria Kılıçlıoğlu, Matthew Monahan, Mehmet Aksoy, Nan Goldin, NERAM, Oleg Dou, Peter Bonde, Ramazan Bayrakoğlu, Saim Bugay, Sarah Morris, Stephen Dean, Tomur Atagök and Tulin Onat.

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