Thursday, March 15, 2012

Eclectic art in an unexpected location

Artistic rabble-rouser Robert Rauschenberg photographing puppies? A serene sunset cityscape by the sexually provocative Nan Goldin? A photograph by Cindy Sherman without the artist in any of her many guises?

Collectors Can and Sevda Elgiz enjoy finding and buying works by artists that depart from their best-known styles, Billur Tansel, the manager of the Elgiz Museum of Contemporary Art, told me on a recent tour. Starting with the first pieces by Turkish artists that the couple acquired in the 1980s, they have let "gusto" guide their collecting decisions.

The result is an eclectic, eye-catching mix of works in various mediums -- from a mannequin-like figure made out of dead beetles (by Belgian artist Jan Fabre) to an inflatable PVC "cloud" shot through with rays of sunlight (by Turkish artist Iskender Yediler) that expands and contracts as if it is breathing above the viewer's head.

A selection from the collection is currently on display as part of the museum's 10th-anniversary celebration. If you haven't heard of the Elgiz Museum before, you're not alone; according to Tansel, the institution is much better known to people outside of Turkey than to local art-lovers. Despite the quality of work exhibited, this doesn't come as that much of a surprise; the museum's location behind an office tower in the Maslak business district is far off the typical Tophane/Nişantaşı/Galata gallery-hopping trail, but well worth a visit.

When Can and Sevda Elgiz decided to use some of the wealth from their construction business Giz İnşaat to establish the museum's predecessor, the Proje 4L art space in 4. Levent, back in 2001, platforms for contemporary art were limited in Istanbul. That is now far from the case. It will be interesting to see how the Elgizes maintain their reputation as trendsetters now that nearly every major family-managed firm or holding company in the city seems to have an art space to its name.

TO VISIT: The 10th-anniversary exhibition "Elgiz 10 Istanbul" is on view until this Saturday, March 17, at the Elgiz Museum of Contemporary Art in Istanbul's Maslak district. The museum is open Wednesday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free. Take the metro from Taksim to the İTÜ Ayazağa stop and walk toward the Beybi Giz Plaza building. The museum is around the back to the right of the main entrance.

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