On Thursdays the Palace is Closed But the Museum Is Free

What started as a trip to Dolmabahce Palace became a trip to the Istanbul Modern. It was Thursday, and we didn’t know that the palace is closed on Thursdays. So after going through security and walking up to the ticket booth we saw and read the sign that said the palace is closed on Thursdays.

Disappointed, I suggested to Stephanie that we head over to the Istanbul Modern. It was a short ride on the tram from Kabatash, and it’s one of the places we hadn’t yet seen.

She told me I took the palace being closed well. She said she had been worried I was going to have an episode. I said, see, I’m getting better.

The Istanbul Modern is another place I should have viisted sooner. This art museum, which specializes in contemporary art, is in a beautifully renovated former warehouse set on the Bosphorus near the Tophane tram stop.

From the tram stop there are signs pointing you where to go. But the last stretch confused us a little. You have to walk down a narrow street next to a construction site before you get to the parking lot of the museum and can then access the entrance.

IM_street

One thing we didn’t know before going to the Istanbul Modern is that every Thursday entrance is free to residents of Turkey. Which means we, as legal residents, got in for free. Woo-hoo!

Since it’s located on the Bosphorus, the view from the museum is fantastic. You can see where the Bosphorus meets the Golden Horn and the Sea of Marmara. You can also see Topkapi Palace and the Hagia Sophia.

IM_view

This view, as fantastic as it is, does not overshadow what’s inside.

The current exhibitions include several audio-visual pieces. One piece called Women Who Wear Wigs by Kutluğ Ataman consists of interviews with four women who wear wigs, each playing simultaneously. One woman wore wigs because in the early 70’s she needed to escape the government due to her activism, another because she lost her hair thanks to chemotherapy treatments for cancer, another who wears a wig over her head covering so she can attend university (head scarves at universities is a no-no because it’s seen as a political statement), and a transgender woman whose hair was cut off by the police. The woman whose hair was cut off by the police was the least of it; the police regularly arrested, harassed, beat, and raped transgender sex workers. It was one of the most provocative and poignant pieces of art I’ve seen in awhile.

Here’s a sample of some of the pieces currently on view.

Pae White’s Northern Smoke

IM_noprthern smoke

Ghada Imer’s Sunset in Isfahan

IM_sunsetisfahan

IM_isfahan_detail1

IM_isfahan_detail2

Sabire Susuz’s Shopping

IM_shopping

If you look closely you can see that it’s made entirely of clothing tags/labels.

IM_shopping_detail1

IM_shopping_detail2

:mentalKLINIK’s Double Cherry.

IM_doublecherry

Mihri Musfik’s Portrait or, as I like to call it, Portrait with Rich’s Silhouetted Reflection in the Glass Covering the Painting.

IM_portrait

I should note that the Istanbul Modern is not just an art museum. There is also a movie theater in the building where they host many film screenings. A few months back they screened several films by Krystof Kieslowski. Currently, their screening 10 films from Hong Kong under the program title “Hong Kong Panorama.”

I might try to visit Dolmabahce Palace one day next week. But our last full week in Istanbul is already filling up with obligations, from a school outing to a class party, to saying goodbye to friends, not to mention packing before we head to Bodrum…

Advertisements

Suleymaniye Mosque

There are several important mosques to visit in Istanbul. One of them is Suleymaniye Mosque. It’s one of much-revered architect Mimar Sinan’s most beloved buildings. Built at the orders of Suleyman the Magnificent, it was completed in 1557, taking seven years to complete. (Mimar Sinan also designed the Selimiye Mosque in Edirne.)

This is also the mosque I can see from the terrace of our apartment. At night it’s lit up, so it glows white.

Image

Last Thursday, I finally paid a visit to this mosque. Since the Metro stop at Vezneciler opened, the mosque, which is next to Istanbul University, is easy to get to.

The grounds of the mosque are quite large and well-landscaped.

ImageImage

Like Sultanahmet Mosque (the Blue Mosque) it’s a working mosque, so visitors have a separate entrance and are not allowed into certain areas. But as you can see, it’s a large beautiful building with great attention paid to details.

ImageImageImageImageImageImage

The sky was overcast on the day I was there, so the pictures didn’t come out as well as I had hoped they would. though I did manage to take a nice shot from the grounds down at the Golden Horn. You can see the Galata Tower and the Galata Bridge.

suleymaniye_view

The tombs of Suleyman the Magnificent and his wife Roxelana are located next to the mosque. But people were not allowed inside.

roxelana_glass

roxelana_tomb

Here people are peering inside to look at Suleyman’s tomb.

suleyman_tomb

While making my way to see the tomb of Mimar Sinan, I saw the Hamam built at the same time as the mosque. It’s just outside the grounds.

suleymaniye_hamam

Mimar Sinan’s tomb is located near the grounds of the mosque on the northeast side. The tomb is in a small, raised garden that’s not accessible.

Here’s the locked door.

mimar_sinan_door

Here are the grounds. The man on the left was selling fresh sweet cherries.

mimar_sinan1

Here’s as close as you can get to the tomb of one of history’s most famous architects.

mimar_sinan2

As magnificent as the mosque built for Suleyman the Magnificent is, I still think Selimiye Mosque in Edirne is more beautiful.

“Pissing Against the Moon” – Stephen Chambers at the Pera Museum

Yesterday I shared photos from my vista to the Pera Museum to see the Warhol exhibition. One of the other artists whose work was on display was Stephen Chambers. This enjoyable exhibition provided a survey of over two decades worth of the artist’s work.

One wall was dedicated to showing his large work The Big Country. (Yes, Gen-Xer that I am, I was promptly afflicted with the ear worm from that 80’s band.)

The Big Country is a collection of inter-linking panels with little stories depicted in one panel or across several panels.

Image

It’s inspired by the Gregory Peck-starring movie of the same name from 1958. I’ve never seen the movie.

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Several other works were exhibited including, Harvest (of heads?!)

harvest

Scissors. You won’t be needing those wings now, will you…

scissors

My favorite was The Indestructible Tree.

indestructible_tree

Among the works were a few commissioned specifically for this exhibition. Each piece was inspired by a different part from the Flemish painter Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s Twelve Proverbs.

“To play dice at the wrong time, to keep drinking when he is drunk, impoverishes man’s name and makes him stink.”

drunk

“In one hand I carry fire, in the other water. With chatterboxes and gossips I keep my mouth shut.”

fire_chatterboxes

“No matter what I pursue I never reach it, I always piss against the moon.”

Image

The last is funny but also for me evokes the myth of Sisyphus and P.B. Shelley’s Adonais: An Elegy on the Death of John Keats.

Peace, peace! he is not dead, he doth not sleep,

       He hath awaken’d from the dream of life;
       ‘Tis we, who lost in stormy visions, keep
       With phantoms an unprofitable strife,
       And in mad trance, strike with our spirit’s knife
       Invulnerable nothings. We decay
       Like corpses in a charnel; fear and grief
       Convulse us and consume us day by day,
And cold hopes swarm like worms within our living clay.

Specifically the “unprofitable strife” and “cold hopes” bits. Yet the figure of the dog and the light colors bring a smile to my face as I contemplate those bleak words.

Warhol at the Pera Museum

Warhol. In my mind, the name brings up images of Campbells soup cans, famous people with bright colors painted on them, the cover of the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers album, and a bespectacled man with white hair. Warhol’s images are instantly recognizable as was the man himself.

There’s an exhibition of some of Warhol’s work currently on display at the Pera Museum here in Istanbul. I don’t know what took me so long to visit the Pera Museum. It’s a place I should have visited much earlier. It’s near Istiklal Street and easy to find, across from a surface parking lot (one of the few I’ve seen in the middle of the city), near the Italian Cultural center. It’s not a very large museum. It lacks size, but not in quality.

There are several exhibitions at the museum, all worth seeing. For purposes of brevity in this post, I’m only including photos from the Warhol exhibition. In the coming days I’ll post some photos from the others.

The Warhol exhibit is the largest currently at the museum. It takes up the top two floors of the six-story museum. Even the elevator doors were covered in Warhol prints. This one was covered by Annie Oakley.

Image

The beginning of the exhibit is marked in a very understated way.

Image

This is the first time I’ve seen an exhibit of Warhol’s work. I’ve seen pieces here and there in various museums I’ve visted over the years. Grouped together, you can see a remarkable amount of playfulness in his work.

There was Martha Graham, Satyric Festival Song.

martha_graham

There was a Mother and Child from the series Cowboys and Indians.

mother_child

There were Endangered Species.

endangered_species

There were Grapes.

grapes

And fermented grapes, La Grande Passion.

grapes_fermented

In addition to a pair of Lenins, there were these four pieces known as Hammer and Sickle.

hammer_sickle

Torso was the only piece that could be considered risqué in any way.

torso

On one wall was a row of these small paper prints that you were free to take. So I took one of each.

warhol_freeprints

I’m not sure what I’ll do with them, just yet. But they’re nice keepsakes from the exhibition.

Istanbul Mosaic Museum

Two weeks ago, on one of our children’s days off from school, we headed to Topkapi Palace. The plan was to see the royal jewels armory. When Stephanie and Henry had come in 2010, that room was closed for renovations.

Unfortunately, after dragging the kids all the way from our apartment to the entrance of the palace, we realized that the palace was closed, like it is on every Tuesday of every week. We had forgotten.

The kids, already cranky from being made to go somewhere they did not want to go, were then bribed with some ice cream. And their mood improved. That’s when I remembered that we had yet to visit the Mosaic Museum. It was something Stephanie and I have been wanting to see.

The Mosaic Museum is tucked away not far from the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia. It’s located southwest of the Blue Mosque in a small market area with many shops selling scarves, jewelry, carpets, backgammon sets; all of the things you can buy in the Grand Bazaar but the prices are cheaper.

market

We followed the signs to the museum, entered for free thanks to our Muzekart, and were allowed to marvel at some very old mosaics that were unearthed during excavations in that area of the city. They date from 450-550 AD.

mosaic1

mosaic4

mosaic2

The floor mosaics are enormous.

mosaic3

The kids, made happy by ice cream, found the mosaics to be exciting. Therefore, though I am not a licensed physician or nutritionist, I recommend ice cream to enhance the mood of children.

As a bonus, here are some photos of the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. It was such a sunny day it would have been a shame not to take pictures.

bluemosque

hagiasophia

Istanbul Archeological Museums

This past Saturday we took the tram to Gülhane Park to see the Archaeology Museum. Technically there are three museums in the complex: the Archaeology Museum, the Ancient Orient Museum, and the Tiled Kiosk Museum. One ticket gets you into all three.

We only had time to enter the Archeology Museum. The kids were interested for a little while and then they became hungry. But we did get to see many interesting sarcophagi and statues.

Afterwards we ate lunch at a nearby restaurant. Since the kids were disappointed the restaurant was out of dondurma (ice cream) for dessert, we walked across the street to a small shop. Lo and behold they had ice cream. And there was much rejoicing.

We strolled through Gülhane Park with the rest of the Turks and tourists, while the kids enjoyed their ice cream. It was a mostly sunny day. We wandered and found a different entrance from the one we entered and emerged near the Sirkeci train station. The station has a stop on the newly-fabled Marmaray, the subway line that goes under the Bosphorus. We have yet to take a ride on it. We need to do that before we leave just to say we did it. The funny things is, we have to go out of our way to do it because the four stations currently open on that line are far from where we live.

My wife and I will return some time soon on a weekday, without the kids, so we can wander some more. Also, it won’t cost us anything. Because one other thing I did was get my Müzekart. I got my Müzekart because I’m a legal resident of Turkey. For 50 lira I can now enter many museums throughout Turkey as often as I like for the next year. Not a bad deal, eh?

Here are some of things we saw.

Alexander_Sarcophagus

Alexander Sarcophagus (no, Alexander the Great was not put in that sarcophagus)

sidamara_sarcophagus2

Sidamara Sarcophagus

roman_floor_mosaic_detail

Detail of a Roman floor mosaic

sarcophagus

Detail of a sarcophagus

alexander_the_great

Alexander the Great

hermaphroditus

Hermaphroditus

caryatid

Caryatid

Image

Sappho

Image

Marcus Aurelius

Image

Cornelia Antonia

Image

Bell from Galata Tower

Image

Gülhane Park

Anish Kapoor Exhibit at the Sakıp Sabancı Museum

No time like the last day of an exhibit to finally seeing it. One event I had been wanting to see since hearing about it shortly after our arrival in Istanbul many months ago was the Anish Kapoor exhibit at the Sakıp Sabancı Museum.

Chicagoans know Kapoor for his instantly iconic contribution to Millenium Park: Cloud Gate. Which every Chicagoan calls “The Bean.” Here are some photos I took of the Bean two-and-a-half years ago.

ImageImage

Image

My wife Stephanie and I kept saying we should go and the months went by and finally I looked at the museum website and saw the exhibit was ending. So we went yesterday, Sunday.

The Sakıp Sabancı Museum is far from where we live. It’s up the Bosphorus, past the second bridge. We took the bus recommended on the museum’s website…over two hours later we arrived at the stop for the museum. It was stop-and-go traffic the whole way. The bus driver was nice enough to tell me when the stop was coming up. When we’d boarded the bus at Taksim, I had asked the driver if the bus stopped at the museum and he’d said yes. This is the amazing thing about Turkish bus drivers: they will personally tell you when it’s your stop. I’ve seen them do this not just for tourists but for plenty of native Turks.

We didn’t go into the museum right away because after that long bus ride we (especially the kids) needed to eat. So we ate lunch at a busy restaurant next door.

After lunch, we walked to the museum. The line at the ticket booth wasn’t long, moving quickly. When I asked for two adult and two children’s tickets the woman handed me the tickets and said I didn’t have to pay. I was confused. I thought, okay, maybe I have to pay when we enter the museum itself. No, not there either. We simply showed our tickets to the security guard. So, even though we endured a 2+hour trip both ways (a feature of life here in Istanbul), we were able to enter the museum for free.

Image

Sky Mirror

The museum is on the beautiful grounds of a former mansion. That building now contains antique furniture and many ornate Ottoman era calligraphic manuscripts. The modern addition contains several galleries, a restaurant, and a gift shop.

As much as I appreciate and love art, sometimes abstract art like this brings out the smart-ass in me. The targets are so obvious…and so tempting…like this one.

Image

It’s called Untitled and it’s made of onyx. I like it. But I couldn’t help thinking it looked like the Eye of Sauron. Or a vagina.

Museum rules forbid flash photography so some of these photos did not come out as well as I’d hoped.

Image

Immanence

Image

Eight Eight

Image

Untitled (made of sandstone)

Image

My Body Your Body

Image

Tongue (aka “water slide”)

ImageImage

Mollis

Image

Archeology and Biology  (This intriguing piece I called “Lava Vagina.”)

Image
Dragon

“Where are the dragons?” asked my son. “I don’t get it.” The photo doesn’t show the contours of the pieces, which are difficult to see even in the light provided. The purple is the deepest, most light-absorbing purple I’ve seen. You have to stare for a bit to see the bumps, edges, and waves in the stones.

Image
Yellow

“I don’t see the art in this,” said my son. Stephanie explained to Henry how that’s how art is sometimes; some pieces move you, others don’t. There were a few others that did nothing for me, mostly the ones I called “Half-Holes in Stone.”

The Kapoor exhibit was excellent, worth the trip, and definitely worth the entrance fee. There is great beauty in many of the forms created out of such large pieces of stone. They are compelling to look at and the workmanship is easy to admire. Despite being made from such hard materials and the chattering crowds of people nearby, I found the works  to be peaceful and comforting.