Turkish Museum Hosts Russian Avant-Garde Exhibition

The Sakip Sabanci Mardin City Museum – Dilek Sabanci Art Gallery in southeast Turkey’s Mardin province is hosting a Russian avant-garde exhibition only now because of the delays caused by the pandemic, to great enthusiasm.

The Sakip Sabanci Mardin City Museum is hosting a new exhibition called The Russian Avant Garde: Dreaming the Future through Art and Design. The city museum in southern Turkey is in  former Ottoman army barracks restored by the Sabanci Foundation thanks to the will of businessman and philanthropist Sakip Sabanci. It is now a museum and art gallery.

The pieces in the exhibition, held in Dilek Sabanci Gallery, are on loan from Thessaloniki State Museum of Contemporary Art – the Costakis Collection, and portray the rich placement of the Russian avant-garde movement in art history.

The movement is one of the most exciting periods in art history and has explored art in many aspects of life at the beginning of the 20th century, including painting, design, literature, film and theatre.

According to press materials, “The exhibition shows the Russian avant-garde artists that in the early 1900s tried to introduce art as a life changing power, the ground-breaking work of the artists in this period where the reformist atmosphere had been brought about by the October Revolution in 1917, and the social design they tried to put into practice supported by the new regime and also the wide boundaries of the future they dreamed of. The exciting technological developments and industrialisation that occurred in the early 20th century turned the avant-garde artists towards science and overcoming the boundaries of the earth, dreams of space reflected the beliefs the artists had in the future and this is very vividly reflected in the works displayed in this exhibition.”

The lender, the Costakis Collection, is considered to be the most important Russian avant-garde collection and archive in the world. It is currently held in two parts, one part in the Moscow State Tretyakov Gallery, and one part in Thessaloniki State Museum of Contemporary Art. The Russian Avant Garde: Dreaming the Future through Art and Design exhibition in Mardin is being presented through the collaboration of the Thessaloniki State Museum of Contemporary Art.

Among the artists collected by Russian-born Greek collector George Costakis are Kazimir Malevich, who is represented in this exhibition with his Black Square, Vladimir Tatlin, who by blurring the boundaries between art and production became the forebringer of a new era in art theory, and the brave pioneer of photography, painting, sculpture and graphic art Alexander Rodchenko.

Also in the exhibition representing the wealth of women artists of the era are Olga Rozanova whose work centres on the interaction between text and painting, and Lyubov Popova, whose set designs for plays have helped transform the language of theatre.

Sabanci Foundation Board of Trustees member Dilek Sabanci says the Sakip Sabanci Mardin City Museum – Dilek Sabanci Art Gallery has hosted nine remarkable exhibitions since its foundation in 2009. “With the 10th exhibition The Russian Avant Garde: Dreaming the Future through Art and Design we are opening today [June 17, 2021] we are proud to revive arts and culture activities in this ancient city,” she adds, thanking everyone who has worked on the exhibition.

Sakip Sabanci Museum Manager Nazan Olcer says that The Russian Avant Garde: Dreaming the Future through Art and Design exhibition which debuted in 2018 in Istanbul’s Sakip Sabanci Museum and was much appreciated by art lovers is finally making its way to Mardin, with a two-year delay because of the pandemic.

Noting that they had initially intended to hold the exhibition in tandem with the Mardin Biennial, which was also postponed, Olcer wishes the exhibition will be an inspiration to students, academics and art lovers in Mardin.

“We realise that Mardin has an arts memory distilled through the ages, and we are not content just to bring projects from Istanbul. I am very happy that this exhibition, like our From Document to Fiction, From Workshop to Museum – Photographs on Mardin exhibition, will host local young artists’ works [in theatre].”

Olcer says she believes they were able to create a stunning and dynamic project in Mardin, with a new surprise awaiting visitors around each corner. She praises Costakis, pointing out that “sometimes history imposes on a single person a mission such as this; this exhibition proves that one person has witnessed an era and was able to carry it into the future.”

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