First Dalí exhibition in Turkey

The Sakip Sabanci Museum in Istanbul is holding the first ever retrospective devoted to the surrealist artist Salvador Dalí in a Muslim country


“Salvador Dalí: a Surrealist in Istanbul” (until 20 January 2009) has been curated by Montse Aguer, the director of the Centre for Dalínian Studies at the Fundació Gala—Salvador Dalí in Figueres, Spain, which has loaned all of the works on show.

The retrospective consists of 269 works: 33 paintings, 113 drawings, 111 engravings and 12 lithographs, displayed alongside artist’s letters, photographs and manu­scripts. The show is being exhibited at the Sabanci Group’s private museum and is sponsored, in part, by Akbank, one of Turkey’s leading financial institutions. The bank donates around $21m per year to arts and cultural projects, with $1m earmarked for the Dalí show. Akbank chief executive Zafer Kurtul told The Art Newspaper that the bank “believes that the arts play a key role in society and feel that it is our duty to help develop cultural initiatives, especially since the state sometimes cannot or will not recognise their importance”.

The mission of the Sakip Sabanci Museum is, according to the organisers, to create a dialogue between east and west. For the people of Istanbul and Turkey, it is a chance to engage directly with the Catalan artist’s work (following exhibitions on Picasso and Rodin in 2006).

For the Fundació Gala—Salvador Dalí (a private foundation which manages the artist’s estate), it is the final stage in a world tour to promote Dalí’s oeuvre, which began in Venice in 2004 with a retrospective celebrating the artist’s centenary. It continued in Philadelphia, Tokyo, London and New York.

The Sakip Sabanci Museum is located in Emirgan on the banks of the Bosphorus, one of Istanbul’s oldest quarters. The museum was built in the mid-19th century as a summer residence, and was used by various high-ranking members of Turkish and Muslim society, including the Egyptian Prince Mehmed Ali Hasan who commissioned the Italian architect Edoardo De Nari to renovate the villa in 1925.

The property was bought from the Prince in 1951 by Haci Omer Sabanci, and following his death in 1966 became the permanent home of his second son, Sakip Sabanci, who installed the family’s rich collection of Ottoman art.

Sakip Sabanci (1933–2004) became one of Turkey’s most successful businessmen, founding one of the world’s leading industrial groups which currently has a stake in 64 companies. He was also a philanthropist who made an enormous social contribution to Turkey through his educational initiatives. In 1999 he set up the Sabanci University and entrusted it with the running of the museum, which finally opened to the public in 2002, complete with state-of-the-art facilities and a new annex for temporary exhibitions (The Art News­paper, June 2002, p22).