Karşıdan Karşıya /Across:
The Cyclades and Western Anatolia in the Third Millennium BC.
Sakıp Sabancı Müzesi (SSM)
Sakıp Sabancı Caddesi, Emirgan – Istanbul
May 23 – August 28, 2011
’ (from one side to the other) is a much better name than ‘Across’. Still, the SSM’s latest show is a gem – made all the more interesting as the first official cooperation between museums from Turkey and Greece. Exploring art in the third millennium BC from the Cyclades to Western Anatolia gives a pleasing impression of the linkages in the region in that period; the exhibition makes much of its replica of a Cycladic boat, and this notion of travel underpins the whole show. The artefacts in this exhibition are drawn primarily from the Goulandris Museum of Cycladic Art and the Museum of Turkish Civilisations in Ankara; they come from excavations dotted across the wider Aegean region.
It is easy to forget the elegance of Cycladic art: its geometric forms and minimalism make it look shockingly modern for objects that are 5,000 years old. The famous figurines or idols remain mysterious to archaeologists; it is not clear whether their function was religious or not. The majority are stylised representations of the female form, which has led to their being compared to other representations of fertility goddesses or the ‘great goddess of nature’.
It must be said that the elegance of these fantastic examples of Cycladic art is somewhat diminished by the lighting and visual effects which have become such a feature of exhibitions at the SSM. For a museum with such a famously well-designed restaurant, the dramatic lighting seems unnecessary and tacky – a strange contrast to the ethereal beauty of the figurines themselves.