Working in and with Turkey

Collections and Galleries

The V&A has a world-class collection of Turkish art from the Ottoman period, covering the fifteenth to nineteenth centuries. It is particularly rich in Ottoman ceramic vessels, tiles, textiles, and carpets. 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 published the collection of Haremeyn textiles in the V&A in 2012.

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 Museum is also beginning to extend its collecting into the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in areas such as print-making and artist’s books.

The best of the historical collection is shown in the 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 2010–2011.


At the V&A

  • A Treasured Collection (1 December 2012 – 1 September 2013) wasexhibited at the Museum of Childhood in 2012 on identity and private collections, including displays involving the belongings of immigrant children in both Turkey and the UK.
  • Jameel Prize 3 (11 December 2013 – 21 April 2014): The biennial Jameel Prize is an international award for contemporary art and design inspired by Islamic traditions. The Jameel Prize 3 winner was Dice Kayek,the Turkish fashion label established by sisters Ece and Ayşe Ege. Their collection Istanbul Contrast evokes Istanbul’s architectural and artistic heritage. Works by all short-listed artists were on show at the V&A from December 2013 – April 2014. The exhibition attracted over 147,000 visitors. The Jameel Prize 3 exhibition tour travelled to Hermitage-Kazan Exhibition Centre, Kazan (May – August 2014) and the New Manege,Moscow (October – November 2014), the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilisations (March – June 2015) and will be opening at the Nanyang Technological University Museum in October 2015. The three dresses by the winner, Dice Kayek, have recently been acquired by the V&A.

In Turkey

The V&A began touring exhibitions to Turkey in 2009.

  • Masterpieces of World Ceramics (May – July 2009): An exhibition of 120 outstanding works in this medium, it was presented at the Pera Museum in Istanbul in 2009.
  • The Jameel Prize 2009 (November 2010 – January 2011): The show visited the Sakıp Sabancı Museum in Istanbul and 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 invited to attend.

V&A Loans

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 also lent to the exhibition From Byzantium to Istanbul (June –
September 2010) at the Sakıp Sabancı Museum in Istanbul.

Learning and Audience Engagement

For adults

Recently, the V&A ran two short courses that explored different periods of
Turkey’s history: The Arts of the Byzantine Empire (January-March 2014)
and The Islamic Mediterranean: 1000-1500 (April-June 2014).


Institutional Collaborations

  • To enhance the capacity of the Diyarbakır Museum in Anatolia, the V&A
    Museum of Childhood (MoC) participated in an 'International Dialogue
    programme' funded by the European Union and Turkey in 2012. The
    partnership between the museums included a higher education Museum
    Studies programme in Istanbul during which MoC staff, along with Yildiz
    Technical University, Istanbul, delivered The Museum’s Role in
    Society and Reaching New Audiences
    for 35 staff at Diyarbakır Museum.
    The initiative also entailed international visits and staff training in a
    variety of topics, such as conservation, audience development and
    learning materials. It also included a children's project dealing with
    identity and belonging amongst immigrant children in both Turkey and
    the UK which culminated in a 2012 MoC exhibition, A Treasured

Diplomatic Relationships

  • At the invitation of The Turkish Presidency, Boris Pretzel, Head Scientist,
    Collection and Conservation Management, participated in the 2014
    International Symposium on Preventive Conservation held in Istanbul in
    June 2014 and hosted by Mrs Gül, First Lady of Turkey.
  • Mrs Sare Davutoglu, wife of the Turkish Prime Minister, accompanied by
    the Turkish Ambassador’s wife Mrs Esra Bilgic, visited the V&A in
    January 2015. Martin Roth, Director, welcomed the first lady.
  • Martin Roth, Director, met with Ms. Güler Sabancı, Chair of Sakip
    Sabancı Museum in Istanbul, at the V&A on 4th June 2015. Martin Roth
    is on the International Advisory Board of the Sakip Sabancı Museum.

Special Projects

Provision of Professional Advice in connection with the 14th Istanbul
(April – October 2015): Johanna Puisto, Sculpture Conservator,
provided contacts and information about the V&A’s plaster cast of David, its
plinth and the fig leaf for Swedish / Turkish born artist Meriç Algün Ringborg,
who used this information and images for her installation entitled ‘Have you
seen the fig tree blossom’. This was displayed at the 14th Istanbul Biennale.


In May 2006 the Development department ran a Travel with the V&A trip for
the Museum’s Patrons and visited several sites in Istanbul including the
Sokullu Mehmet Pasa Mosque, the Ibrahim Pasa Sarayi Museum of Turkish
and Islamic Arts and Emperor Justinian’s great church of Aya Sofya. Over
four days the group enjoyed a number of informative lectures and was kindly
hosted by local residents including Mehmet Kutman and Greg Kiez at the
Topkapı Palace.


The V&A holds a collection of European depictions of the Ottoman Empire,
which is the largest in the world and has 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.