Istanbul Modern’s new collection exhibition “Artists in Their Time” focuses on how artists position their work and themselves as individuals within the concept of time.

“Artists in Their Time” takes as its starting point the words of Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar (1901-1962), one of Turkey’s foremost intellectual and literary figures: “I am neither within time nor completely outside of it.” Inspired by Tanpınar’s interpretation of time, the exhibition reveals how artists from different geographies come to terms with the past, present, and future.

Curated by Istanbul Modern Director Levent Çalıkoğlu with the assistance of Artistic Programmer Birnur Temel, the exhibition offers a roadmap for understanding the intertemporal and existential journey of artists through the notion of time that informs the core of Tanpınar’s work. In an age in which a variety of times are perceived simultaneously, the exhibition reminds us of the comprehensive breadth of Tanpınar’s views.

Featuring 186 works by 115 artists, the exhibition brings together different periods around certain themes and proposes a conceptual ground pertaining to the connection and reckoning between an artist’s time and societal, cultural, natural, and universal notions of time.

The exhibition highlights how artists experience their own times, the anxiety and frustration they feel in the face of time that emerges from the past and flows into the future, and the depth of closeness they form between their own internal time and that of others. It also presents a base for discussing the place of an artwork in the face of transience and change, and its transformation. Which times does an artwork pass through to become a part of the present, of the moment we are now observing? What is the meaning of the temporal relationships it establishes with other artworks? What conditions do artworks resist, or what conditions are they absorbed into, in order to last in the future?

“Artists in Their Time” brings together works with shared emotions about such themes as the responses of abstract art from different periods; the role of materials and studios in the artistic production; the evolution from the tradition of landscapes and still lifes to the perception of nature in contemporary art; seeking identity; attraction to the sublime and the spiritual; existential issues; body politics; feminist attitudes; the complex problems imposed by the new urban culture; the struggle against war, death and destruction; life stories from Istanbul, a metropolis defined by water and embracing the sea; and efforts to understand the people of Anatolia.

  • The collection catalogue for “Artists in Their Time” presents new articles by two guest authors, Ahu Antmen, art historian and critic, and Handan İnci, literary historian and expert on Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar. Through the context of time, Antmen focuses on modernization in Turkey, and interaction between generations and their coming to terms with one another. İnci, on the other hand, presents a biographical account of Tanpınar with references to the notion of time as reflected in the author’s work.
  • Exclusively for this exhibition, 13 artists have been invited to write texts about an artist with whom they feel an affinity. Installed next to specific works in the exhibition space, these texts draw attention to artists, who have maintained their connection with previous periods in terms of their thoughts and expression. This emphasis is also achieved in part through the scenography of the exhibition that brings together modern and contemporary artists.
  • In line with the expanding collection through new acquisitions, “Artists in Their Time” brings together artists from distinct geographies. Having boosted the presence of international artists in its collection, Istanbul Modern is exhibiting for the first time works by Doug Aitken, Allora ve Calzadilla, Georg Baselitz, Liam Gillick, Elliott Hundley, Anselm Kiefer, Hermann Nitsch and Matt Saunders.
  • The exhibition features 32 new acquisitions of local artists, including works by Hüseyin Bahri Alptekin, Vahap Avşar, Ardan Özmenoğlu, and Murat Pulat, which are shown for the first time in the new collection exhibition. The exhibition also features ten works by Kutluğ Ataman, Fikret Atay, Hüseyin Çağlayan, Ergin Çavuşoğlu, Cevdet Erek, Ferhat Özgür, Vahit Tuna and Burcu Yağcıoğlu, all of which have been shown in temporary exhibitions of the museum before they entered the museum collection.
  • In addition to exhibiting the works of 18 artists for the first time, the collection exhibition features photographs by Aziz Albek, Ali Alışır, Coşkun Aral, Barbara and Zafer Baran, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Manuel Çıtak, Murat Germen, Şahin Kaygun, Yıldız Moran, Gökşin Sipahioğlu, Atilla Torunoğlu, and Cafer Türkmen, from Istanbul Modern’s Photography Collection.
  • A making of video for the exhibition can be watched online and by smartphones.
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