Trasformations in arts and museums
Turkey is usually considered a bridge between Europe and Asia with muslems, christians and jews living together, each contributing to a very rich multicultural society. The recent excavations in Istanbul clarify the knowledge that cultural and anthropological developments of 8000 years from the Mesopotamian and Anatolian moved onto Europe through the city. The Turks, on the other hand, moving into Anatolia as soldiers of Islam settled in Asia Minor. After taking over Istanbul ending Byzantium and establishing it as the capital of Ottoman Empire in 1452, the empire moved onto Europe as well as Middle East and Northern Africa. The nomadic background of Turks allowed inhabitants to live in accordance with their traditions and religion without much pressure from the State. However although cultural heritage was not forced to change, churches have been transformed into mosques with the religious images covered with white wash.
The idea of preservation of movable objects were not emphasized till the moving of these objects from excavations made by Western museums brought the attention to the State founding its museums. The Westernization of Ottoman Empire started in the middle of 19th century. Arts, sciences, museums, schools paralel to the Western Civilization were introduced to the society; the interest in western classic music as well as the arts started in the royal palaces, moving onto the closer circles of the palace. The Academy of Arts opened in 1883 with a move towards making a collection of copies of the famous art works. The more serious move towards museums took charge with the rules of excavating rights and building the new İstanbul Museums of Archeology in 1911 after Osman Hamdi’s return from Paris where he studied both art and law.
Atatürk, the founder of Turkish Republic immediately set up education and museums under the Ministry of Education. More museums were added with old mosque-churches accepted as cultural heritance. The responsibility of the State Museums under the Ministry of Education were transferred to the Ministry of Culture in 1971. There has been two art museums in Ankara and Izmir under the Ministry, while Istanbul Painting and Sculpture Museum with the most important collection of Turkish art had been founded in 1937 by Ataturk under the Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University. Collecting art started with the leadership of the State. The works in the competitions were bought by the State, encouraging others. Banks developed their own collections in early 60s and 70s. Universities, business men and private foundations have been collecting in the 70s and 80s with a result of founding art museums recent years.
Istanbul Modern founded in 2005 by Eczacibasi Family is a private art museum with a collection that reflects art from 50s to the present. A women artists exhibiton titled “Dream and Reality” in paralel to the International Istanbul Biennial shows 74 artists’ work. The aim of this exhibition is to show changes in the social and cultural history according to the Chief Curator Mr. Levent Calikoglu.
Another private art museum in İstanbul Giz Contemporary Art Museum is celebrating its 10th year in 2011. The collection is made of international world and Turkish art. The collection is made up of mostly post-modern art bought by Elgiz Family.
Another Family that started an art museum is Sabanci Family. The collection is made of Turkish art, while Pera Museum is a founded by Koc Family. Both of these museums have started with a particularly small collections moving on with remporary exhibitions, It is extremely important that the private museums are competing with each other with their educational programs and publications. The move is towards communication. The cultural heritage is preserved better with people who understand and appreciate art and culture. The artists as well as the collectors and the specialists in the field grow in number making a more creative field for everyone.
BIO | Tomur Atagök is an Istanbul-born artist who graduated from the Robert College (USA) received her BFA and MA in the States after attending Oklahoma State University, College of Arts and Crafts and University of California, Berkeley before she returned to Turkey in 1973. While she was working on her Post-Graduate thesis, she took the Ass. Director Position at the Museum of Painting and Sculpture under the Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University between 1980-1984. She transferred to the Yildiz Technical University as the Director of Culture and Public Relations while working in the Department of Fine Arts. She founded and chaired the first Museum Studies in Turkey in the Graduate School in 1989 until her retirement. She headed the founding of the Faculty of Arts and Design in 1997 and she was assigned to be the Dean of the Faculty between 2004 and 2006. Tomur Atagok opened 40 one-person exhibitions in USA, Holland, Balkan Countries and participated in the both international and national group exhibitions besides curating exhibitions and organizing projects and wrote and lectured on art and museology.