Inside Museums: Istanbul

BBC News Channel (2 x 30 mins)

Join art critic Alastair Sooke as he discovers how museums around the world are changing from grand, intimidating treasuries for objects to something much more dynamic and inclusive.  

In episode 1, Alistair is in Turkey’s biggest city, exploring the recently-built new home of Istanbul Modern.  He finds out what makes the art born at this unique meeting point of cultures so special and learns about Turkish culture as seen through the eyes of the country’s most acclaimed modern artists. 

Alastair gets a personalised tour of the gravity-defying new building from architect Renzo Piano, meets Refik Anadol, a superstar artist working on the cutting edge of AI driven creativity and discovers the fascinating story of Fahrelnissa Zeid, one of the forgotten geniuses of 20th century painting. He finds out more about the work of İnci Eviner, a Turkish artist who interrogates the complex layers of Turkish national identity and has an emotional encounter with a beguiling installation by Gülsün Karamustafa that deals with the dark past of the Bosphorus Strait.  

In episode 2, he explores Istanbul’s Pera Museum's collection of Orientalist painting and discovers how the people of Turkey today feel about it. The Pera Museum, has a unique collection that charts the relationship between East and West, and in particular how Western painters in the 19th Century appropriated the culture of the Near East for their own ends – an art movement today known as Orientalism.

Alastair learns about how Osman Hamdi, known as Turkey’s only Orientalist, used the form to reclaim the culture he was a part of. He meets Istanbul artist Ardan Özmenoğlu who tells him how the Orientalist artists depicted women of the Ottoman era and takes Alastair on a tour of the authentic Islamic works that inspire her at the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art. During a studio visit with Ardan, Alastair discovers how she is reappropriating the imagery of the Orientalists on her own terms and in her own spectacularly colourful way.