V&A working in and with Turkey
The V&A has relationships with Turkey, through its collections, touring exhibitions and partnerships.
Collections & Galleries
The V&A has a world-class collection of Turkish art from the Ottoman period, covering the 15th to 19th centuries. It is particularly rich in Ottoman ceramic vessels and tiles and in textiles and carpets, which were greatly admired in Britain both at the time they were made and more recently. Acquisitions began immediately after the V&A was opened to the public in 1852. This reflected the belief of the Museum’s founders that the principles they detected in Ottoman art could contribute to the reform of British design. The collections are now valued for what they tell us about the brilliance of Ottoman culture. They have been researched by both British and Turkish scholars, including Dr Selin İpek of the Topkapı Palace Museum, who has recently published the collection of Haremeyn textiles in the V&A.
Recent acquisitions have included an impressive gem-set jade tankard made in Istanbul in the later 16th century, which is our first major example of Ottoman hardstone-carving, and two miniature portraits on ivory by court artists. One, from about 1870, is an official portrait of Sultan Abdülaziz, painted after a photograph by Abdullah Frères of Istanbul, a copy of which is also in the V&A collection. The second, dated 1850, is by Rupen Manas and shows Kabuli Mehmed Pasha, who was Ottoman chargé d’affaires in London at the time; the pasha gave the portrait to the daughter of an Italian political refugee called Giulietta Anicini, whom he greatly admired. The Museum is also beginning to extend its collecting into the 20th and 21st centuries in areas such as print-making and artists’ books.
The best of the historical collection is shown in the splendid Jameel Gallery of Islamic Art, opened in 2006 in the presence of H.E. Mr Abdullah Gül, then Turkey’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Mrs Gül. Many more items from the collection can also be seen in the Museum’s materials and techniques galleries, especially the new Ceramics Galleries, opened in 2010–11.
Another great resource held by the V&A is a collection of European depictions of the Ottoman Empire, which is the largest in the world and has also been the focus of both British and Turkish scholarship. The most recent publication on the subject is Images of the Ottoman Empire by Charles Newton (V&A Publishing, 2007). Turkish specialists who have worked on the collection have included established scholars such as Professors Atasoy, Renda, Inankur and Germaner and younger specialists such as Nurdan Surbahan Küçükhasköylü.
V&A Exhibitions in Turkey
The V&A began touring exhibitions to Turkey in 2009, when Masterpieces of World Ceramics – an exhibition of 120 outstanding works in this medium – was seen at the Pera Museum in Istanbul. A second exhibition, The Jameel Prize 2009, visited the Sakıp Sabancı Museum, also in Istanbul, in 2010. This show was devoted to 25 contemporary works by the artists and designers short-listed for the Prize, who included Istanbul jeweller Sevan Bıçakçı. An evaluation of the Jameel Prize 2009 tour took place in Istanbul in October 2011, with participating venues, the V&A and the British Council being invited to attend.
The V&A has loaned objects to temporary exhibitions in Turkey for some years. An important group of examples of 19th-century British design were lent to Istanbul Modern for the Design Cities exhibition in 2008. More recently, the V&A lent an object to the Sakip Sabanci Museum in Istanbul for their exhibitions From Byzantium to Istanbul (June-September 2010).
Learning and Audience Engagement
The V&A contribute to a World Collections Programme seminar on Learning & Interpretation held in Istanbul to coincide with the Masterpieces in World Ceramics exhibition in 2009.
The V&A has reached the final stages of a programme on Intercultural Dialogue in museums between Turkey and Europe. This is a partnership between the Museum of Childhood and Diyarbakir Museums in south east Turkey and includes a higher education Museum Studies programme in Istanbul. The initiative entails international visits, staff development with related learning materials. It also includes a children's project dealing with the issue of belonging amongst immigrant children in both Turkey and London which will culminate in an exhibition.