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Connoisseur 53

Striking figures and joyous new art

Three of the best: the birth of the Turkish nude, a shirt that weaves magic, and pure gold in a landscape

  • Heinz Mack, The Sky Over Nine Columns at the Sakıp Sabancı Museum, Emirgan, 2012 (photo: Murat Germen)
  • Şükriye Dikmen, Reclining Nude, 1947 (Pera Museum)
  • The 1583 Ottoman talsimanic shirt that sold for £185,000 at Sotheby's in October 2015


The Sky Over Nine Columns (2012) took over the Bosphorus terrace of the Sakıp Sabancı Museum (SSM). The glowing golden pillars by Heinz Mack, a founder of the ZERO project, are covered in almost 15 million tesserae glittering with 24-carat gold leaf. They will shimmer on at the SSM until April 2016, beyond the exhibition of which they are part. The SSM often holds fascinating exhibitions. But for pure joy nothing can beat ZERO: Countdown to the Future (until January 10, 2016). Like pomegranate juice it lifts the spirits today just as much as in 1957, when ZERO was an avant-garde project dreamt up in Düsseldorf in the darkness of post-war Germany.


Bare, Naked, Nude (Üryani, Çıplak, Nü): A Story of Modernization in Turkish Painting (Nov 25 – Feb 7, 2016) crowns the Pera Museum’s 10th anniversary celebrations. The first full-blown exhibition of its kind, it traces the revolution in art that gave birth to Turkish painting in the 20th century. Sent by the sultan to study under salon artists in Paris, students returned at the outbreak of the First World War, bringing with them a whole new set of values.


A verse in the Koran relates how the Prophet Joseph gave his own talismanic shirt to his father, miraculously restoring his sight. No such feat is recorded for the shirt from the Worcester Art Museum recently sold at Sotheby’s London, but verses from the Koran, numbers and invocations promise protection to the wearer. Painted in striking geometric designs, bold colours and bright gold on cotton, it is of the highest quality, probably made for an official of high rank. Most such shirts are in the Topkapı, so it is rare to find one at auction.


According to Art Review, Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev is the 19th most powerful person in the art world. She was also the drafter – as she prefers to be described – of this year’s Istanbul Biennial, her first major exhibition since the extraordinarily well-received Documenta in 2012. Christov-Bakargiev pulled together a masterful list of more than 200 artists, many of whom produced unbelievably exciting and successful work for the 14th Biennial, which ran until November 1. Following the logic of Documenta, which famously spread out its works across the city of Kassel, the Biennial seemed to draw its sometimes reluctant visitors across Istanbul and into its depths, forcing an engagement with the city which white-cube approaches often avoid.

Other stories from the Connoisseur pages of Cornucopia 53

Also see Eastern Nuance: Tim Cornwell on the Liotard show at the RA

To read the full article, purchase Issue 53

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Issue 53, Autumn 2015 Istanbul Unwrapped: The Princes Islands
£15.00 / $19.49 / €17.82
Other Highlights from Cornucopia 53
  • History on a plate

    Three groundbreaking archaeological exhibitions shine a spotlight on great Anatolian empires and their champions. Istanbul showcases John Garstang’s illuminating work on the Hittites. Berlin celebrates the work of Friedrich Sarre, who brought the Seljuks to life. And treasures from the Phrygia of King Midas head for Philadelphia

  • The Empire Unvarnished

    Luigi Mayer made his mark with lively, quirky scenes for the British ambassador to Constantinople, painting viziers and villagers, soldiers and servants across the Ottoman Empire. He deserves to be plucked from obscurity, argues Briony Llewellyn

  • Eastern Nuance

    The 18th-century Swiss portrait artist Jean-Étienne Liotard (1702–1789) is widely regarded as the first Orientalist. The four years he spent in Turkey from 1738, drawing and painting Western merchants and diplomats as well as Ottoman citizens, made him the first serious European artist to find his subject matter in the East.

  • The Grandest Vizier

    Few statesmen of the turbulent last years of the Ottoman Empire can have held more illustrious titles – at a less auspicious time – than the diminutive Küçük Said Pasha. David Barchard looks back over the eventful and chequered career of a man of many parts.

  • The Princes Islands

    Owen Matthews introduces our portrait of the Princes Islands, from busy Büyükada, via pretty Heybeliada, one-hill Burgaz and arid Kinaliada, to the haunting, deserted Yassıada

  • Broad Bean Feast

    Besides being quite delicious, the simple broad bean is nothing short of a little bundle of magic. Rich in minerals and vitamins, it contains the chemical L-dopa, which feeds dopamine and adrenaline to the brain and body.

  • Büyükada: the Writer’s Island

    Since he became enchanted by the ‘Big Island’ 15 years ago, Owen Matthews has enjoyed its seasonal changes and watched its popularity grow – not least among soap-opera fans

  • Heybeliada: Notes on a Smaller Island

    Heybeliada is more compact and less showy than Büyükada, but just as fair

Good places to stay
Buy the issue
Issue 53, Autumn 2015 Istanbul Unwrapped: The Princes Islands
£15.00 / $19.49 / 644.90 TL
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