The Elgiz Museum of Contemporary Art ~ Turkey’s First Contemporary Art Museum

The Elgiz Museum of Contemporary Art ~ Turkey’s First Contemporary Art Museum

via Art Knowledge News

Contemporary art may not be the first thing that springs to mind when you think of Turkey, but for the last 25 years, the country has developed a thriving market and some spectacular artists. During the 1980s, the country opened up to western artistic influences and the social elite started to collect contemporary works. Auction houses, which had previously sold only antiques, carpets and traditional Turkish paintings, soon began catering to these collectors and in 1987, the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts launched the Istanbul Biennale, a major international contemporary art event that today ranks with the biennials of Venice and São Paolo.

But it was one young couple, Can and Sevda Elgiz, who in 2001 single-handedly changed the very structure of the Turkish art world and created a climate that would support contemporary artists within Turkey for the first time. With the help of curator Vasif Kortun, curator of the third Istanbul Biennale and already an internationally known figure at the time, they founded Proj4L and later the Museum Elgiz, the city’s first museum for modern and contemporary art, with holdings from their own collection.

Originally established as a gallery, and located in the Levent district of Istanbul, Proj4L evolved, while maintaining its mission to promote the development of contemporary art in Turkey. During its first 4 years many well-known contemporary Turkish artists of the day were presented to the world art stage at Proje4L, as they were given the chance to open their first exhibitions. The institution was also the first Turkish contemporary art space to house exhibitions of Turkish artists that were known internationally but not yet recognized in Turkey. Halil Altındere, Kutluğ Ataman, Hüseyin Çağlayan, Aydan Murtezaoğlu, Bülent Şangar, Ergin Çavuşoğlu, Cengiz Çekil, Hale Tenger, Fikret Atay, Erinç Seymen, Cengiz Tekin, Haluk Akakçe and Leyla Gediz are only some of the artists whose works were shown in Proje4L between 2001-2005. Hans Ulrich Obrist, Charles Esche, Chris Dercon, Dan Cameron, Kari Immoen, Ayşe Erkmen, Francsco Bonami, Jerome Sans, Erden Kosova, Marta Kuzma, Ali Akay, Suhail Malik and Paolo Colombo all gave lectures and joined panel discussions at Proj4L. Maintaining high quality standards, the museum quickly gained an international reputation in a very short period and supported Turkish artists in the world-wide contemporary art scene.

However, as new art institutions and museums bloomed in the Turkish art scene, the need for gallery space became less urgent and the Egliz was re-opened (at the same location) on the 25th of December, 2004 as a fully-fledged museum, under the name ‘Proje4L/Elgiz Museum of Contemporary Art' to host the Elgiz Collection. In 2011, while celebrating its 10th anniversary, the museum moved into a new, purpose-built structure designed by Dr Elgiz under Beybi Giz plaza, one of the many sky-scapers in Maslak business district of Istanbul. With over 2,000 square meters of space, the Elgiz Museum is an international standard museum with a world class collection of Turkish and international contemporary art. Aside from the main hall, reserved for displaying selections from the Elgiz Collection, there are two large temporary exhibition galleries (known as the ‘Project Rooms’ and generally used to promote young Turkish artists, often with their first solo exhibitions), an archive room, conference hall and cafe. Lectures and seminars are regularly held in the conference space by inviting International collectors to share their enthusiasm and their experiences in collecting art. Visit the museum’s website at

Consisting of works by influential Turkish and International artists, 'The Elgiz Collection' represents a wide range of progressive art in different media (including painting, photography, installations, sculpture and video) and illustrates the unerring passion for collecting of its founders. The objective at the 'Elgiz Museum of Contemporary Art' is to create a common message through Turkish and International art, promoting visual and cultural diversity. By integrating the work of Turkish artists with that of established International artists the museum effectively facilitates the globalization of Turkish art. The Elgiz Collection contains works by influential Turkish and international artists, such as Ömer Uluç, Fahrelnissa Zeid, Ibrahim Koç, Abdurrahman Öztoprak, Tracey Emin, Jan Fabre, Barbara Kruger, Fabian Marcacio, Cindy Sherman, Jonathan Meese, Peter Bonde, Roman Lipsky, Tine Benz, Gilbert & George, Andy Warhol, Peter Halley, Won Ju Lim, Paul McCarthy and Robert Rauschenberg. The eclectic content of the collection allows the viewer to enjoy a comprehensive journey through the major contemporary art movements of the last two decades. With the integration of new works by young artists the Elgiz Collection maintains its dynamism and prevalence. Turkish and foreign masters and young artists, are included the Elgin Collection, style, genre and represents a wide range of materials. Conceptual structure of the collection is eclectic and stylistic diversity of contemporary art movements in the last two decades in the viewer on a journey to invite. The collection of the local and international artworks are exhibited together with great pride and exceptional displays of their fine art.

The Elgiz Museum 10th Anniversary Program, under the title of “Now New: New Works, New Space”, runs throughout 2011, taking advantage of the new museum space to show a selection of previously unseen works from the Elgiz Collection alongside recent acquisitions in the main gallery. The first exhibition, entitled “Unbounded” is on show from 23 February-20 August 2011 and comprises works from the Collection that have never been on view before. The show also includes recent acquisitions such as works by Chinese artists Luo Jie and Liu Chun Hai, Norwegian artist Bjarne Melgaard, Turkish artists Azade Köker and Pınar Yolaçan, English artist Paul Hodgson and the American artist Donald Baechler.

The first of the 2011 ‘Project Room’ exhibitions consisted of works by Halil Vurucuoğlu and ran from February 23rd until March 19th, 2011. Vurucuoğlu’s site-specific sound and light installation is based on the adaptation problem of today’s individual in dealing with the nature/city dichotomy. The artist uses the metaphor of oxygen intoxication to manifest the vertigo and the chaos of the urban dweller as he can live in harmony with neither the city nor nature. Simultaneously, a second ‘Project Room’ exhibition by Semra Özümerzifon took visitors under water with an installation made with fishing nets.
A group exhibition entitled ‘The Fold’ takes over both ‘Project Rooms’ between March 23rd and May 21st 2011. Young curator Nazlı Gürlek, a rising star in the Turkish contemporary art scene, has been given the opportunity to select works to include in “The Fold”. Nazli Gurlek decided to focus her research on the possibilities of the museum’s collection, and chose one particular work from the collection, Hale Tenger’s “Self-Portrait (Broken Record/Perpetual Motion)” from 2005 as the source of inspiration for the exhibition concept. Fold presents Hale Tenger’s ”Selfportrait” in relation to both new and old work by Asli Cavusoglu, Francesca Grilli, Joana Kohen, Sumer Sayin, Emrah Sengun and Ignacio Uriarte. Hale Tenger’s ”selfportrait” brings together the photograph of a second hand shop, and Perpetual Motion’s record ‘Keep on Dancing’ spinning silently non-stop.

The experience of the passing of time through the use of accumulated images, objects and memories become the source of inspiration to question the existence of an affinity between her work and Asli Cavusoglu, Francesca Grilli, Joana Kohen, Sumer Sayin, Emrah Sengun and Ignacio Uriarte’s manifold researches on the complex nature of self-representation. Emrah Sengun’s sculptures contain assembled fragments of ceramics and clay that the artist has collected. Francesca Grilli’s video work shows the artist and her 87-year-old grandfather Giordano Bruno conversing while bowling, and reflects upon heritage, identification and distance in human relationships.

Asli Cavusoglu appropriates an anonymous graffiti sign from the street and brings it into the exhibition space as a neon objet d’art. The object contains the term ”revolution” masked by its anonymous creator. Ignacio Uriarte looks for the possibilities of artistic creativity using the methods and tools he has acquired while working as an administrator, and with ”routine” as his main focus. A number of sculptures and printed material brought together by Sumer Sayin create an uneasy, fragmented, and slippery space, and question the individual’s relationship with both natural and constructed environment. A specially designed sound system is set inside the exhibition. Works are accompanied by each artist’s song of choice from which to take bearings, special paths to recognition, or mysterious elements that confront the visuality of the pieces.

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