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By any standard, Hüsamettin Koçan’s mountain-top Baksı Museum, in the northeastern Anatolian village where he was born, deserves a place among the world’s top ten remote museums. This immense gallery, dedicated to contemporary and ethnographic art, is a heady fusion of the urbane and the bucolic. Photographs by Kerem Ayhan Yanik
From Bayburt, the capital of a little-visited province in the northeast of Turkey, roughly between Erzurum and Trabzon, it takes a 50-kilometre drive along the road to İspir to reach the Baksı Museum.
Poplar and birch trees are clumped in neatly planted rows along the Çoruh river, slow and meandering in this wide grassy valley. In late May streaks of snow are retreating to the highest mountain slopes, which rise in every direction to a white-flecked blue sky. Roadside villages are quickly left behind, save for a tractor chugging along the otherwise empty grey tarmac, or the occasional herd of cows.
Eventually the valley walls begin to creep closer, you cross the river and begin to climb. When the road levels out, halfway up the mountainside, a strange-looking structure appears in the near distance, resembling an early sci-fi moon station, built where an observatory ought to be.
The Baksı Museum is the brainchild and second home of Hüsamettin Koçan, an Istanbul-based artist who was born in the village a stone’s throw away when it, too, was called Baksı, literally “Shaman”, before being renamed Bayraktar. Koçan’s father used to travel for work, returning to the village only every two years or so, a schedule which his son – a thick-bearded, charismatic man in his 60s – enjoys telling me is reflected in his seven siblings’ relative ages. They would await their father’s return, keeping a keen eye on the hilltop which the museum’s elliptical roof has now replaced.
After moving to Istanbul in his youth, Hüsamettin became a renowned artist and later dean of Marmara University’s Fine Arts Faculty, where he continues to teach part time. After a while he stopped coming home in the summer, and only returned in order to lay his father to rest in the village from which he had been absent for so much of his life. It was then, in 2000, that the idea of setting up a museum in this remote corner of Turkey began to form in his mind, but it would be ten years before Hüsamettin and his wife, Oya, a ceramics artist and director of the foundation which supports the museum, would realise their ambition.
From the beginning, the museum had to serve the village as well as visitors from the city. Local women are taught to create updated versions of traditional designs at a weaving workshop on site and men are employed as watchmen and caretakers. An ethnographic collection preserves everyday local heritage threatened by Turkey’s breakneck pace of change, and two exhibitions have sought to promote dialogue between traditional crafts and contemporary art.
The whole enterprise challenges the role of art institutions in society – a topic raised before but by no means exhausted in Turkey, and one especially relevant to Istanbul, where so much of the nation’s creative talent is focused.
The nearest town to the Baksi Museum is Bayburt, 1.5 hours’ drive from Erzurum airport and 2.5 hours from Trabson. Email email@example.com to book your stay.
The Baksi Museum was awarded the 2014 Council of Europe Museum Prize.
The war of 1853–56 was a calamitous clash of imperial ambitions. Turkey sustained heavy losses, but without them she might have ceased to exist. David Barchard puts the conflict in context
With its healing brine baths and golden beaches, its wealth and variety of architecture, and its layers-deep history, this resort offers something for everyone – from hedonist to hypochondriac
Yevpatoria in Crimea was the home the young Anna Akhmatova, an icon of Russian literature, who fell foul of Stalin
Like many writers, Chekhov made his way to Crimea to nurse his TB in a milder climate. His two houses, now museums, became magnets for artists. One he left to his sister, the other to his wife.
Philip Mansel on the future Edward VII’s Ottoman expedition
This silver goblet was one of more than 600 medieval treasures from Central Asia crowding Bonhams’ elegant rooms in Edinburgh for six days in January.
Thomas Whittemore, the American scholar and philanthropist, was instrumental in restoring the Byzantine treasures of Ayasofya. Robert S Nelson delves into his enigmatic life
Mulberries come in an array of hues: black, white, pink, purple; some enticingly sweet, others astringent and healing. As Berrin Torolsan can testify, having grown up with them in her Istanbul garden, all are adored – by man, mallard and pine marten alike. Here she traces the history of this lucious fruit
From the towers of Tatary to the tombs of Scythian kings, from clifftop citadels to an underground castle, from Balaklava to the beaches of the Tsarist Riviera, Crimea is a land to fall in love with, waiting to be enjoyed, not destroyed
The V&A’s Tim Stanley eyes up the Louvre’s astonishing new Islamic offering
Aard Streefland tells the story of the Dutch orientalist Marius Bauer (1867–1932)
As the Sadberk Hanım Museum celebrates the art of embroidery, Min Hogg marvels at the motifs of palaces, fruit and flowers, sea and cityscape, wrought stitch by stitch, to adorn every Ottoman home
The Crimean khans founded their capital in the fertile foothills of the Crimean Mountains in the 15th century. This was the nucleaus of the land known as Cim Tartary. The garden palace of Bahçesaray is a glorious reminder of the khans’ 350-year reign
Dramatic and picturesque, Crimea’s southern coast became a resort for doomed royalty and a refuge for ailing literati
Two ports – Sevastopol and Yevpatoria – rule Crimea’s flat west coast. One was built for war, the other for recreation. Both played a part in the Crimean War
Geonese merchants, a millionaire painter and a symbolist poet brought fortune and fame to the eastern stretches of Crimea’s south coast and its fertile hinterland
Balaklava, Sevastopol, Inkerman, the Valley of Death – in Britain, where the savage toll was so acutely felt, these names still have the power to arouse pride and fury. Algernon Percy travelled to Crimea to visit the evocative battlefields
From the Danube to the Caucasus, conflict raged. The Ottomans were fighting for their territories and their lives, but the full story of their courage is only now being told, says the military historian Mesut Uyar
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