The “Past, Present, Istanbul” Exhibition Opened its Doors at the Sakıp Sabancı Museum


Realized with the support of Sabancı Holding, the “Past, Present, Istanbul” exhibition makes an assessment on the state of Istanbul from the perspective of 22 young artists. Sabancı Holding CEO Cenk Alper, saying that as a group focusing on sustainability, they are by the side of leading and exemplary projects in the context of supporting culture and arts as in all their fields of activity, added; “we think that the arts and the artist has a significant role in raising awareness towards the social and environmental issues we experience and creating sustainable solutions.”

Sabancı Holding invests in the youth and future, in line with its “Sabancı of New Generation” vision and continues to be one of the main supporters of culture and arts. Within this context, the “Past, Present, Istanbul” exhibition realized with the support of Sabancı Holding, opens its doors at Sakıp Sabancı Museum on Friday, September 3, 2021.

The exhibition that brings together 22 artists who are alumni of Sabancı University's Visual Arts and Visual Communication Design program who have responded to the call of Murat Germen, an academic instructor at Sabancı University and an artist, displays Istanbul’s past and present, also enables us to think about its future. The opening of the exhibition was realized with the participation of Sabancı Holding CEO Cenk Alper, Sakıp Sabancı Museum Manager Dr. Nazan Ölçer and Murat Germen.

“We believe in the transformative and healing power of art where the young play the leading part”

Sabancı Holding CEO Cenk Alper speaking at the opening, said, “Last year, while going through the pandemic very severely in the world and in our country, thanks to the investments we have made until now, we successfully managed our businesses and found the opportunity to focus on the future.” He added, “Within this scope, making sustainability our main focus as well, we renewed our Group Promise as ‘We unite Turkey and the world for a sustainable life with leading enterprises’. Our group, always acting upon Ömer Sabancı’s principle of ‘Sharing what we have obtained from this land with its people’ with its past nearing 100 years, continues to be a pioneer and an example not just in economic means but also in areas like culture, arts and educations we can characterize as the backbone of social development.” Cenk Alper also made these statements: “Despite humanity going through extremely difficult times, as Sabancı Group we always believed in the transformative and healing power of the arts and just for this reason we said the arts… The arts where the youth play the leading part. We thought creative perspectives would create awareness, turn a light on, raise hope. The ‘Past, Present, Istanbul’ exhibition is a result of this belief of ours. We think that the arts and the artist have a significant role in raising awareness towards the social and environmental issues we experience and creating sustainable solutions.

Sakıp Sabancı Museum Manager Dr. Nazan Ölçer, in her speech said: “  In our historical exhibition ‘From Byzantion to Istanbul: 8000 Years of a Capital’ we opened in our museum in the year 2010 we tried to depict the colorful crowd of Istanbul it had throughout its history and still, the energy this dynamic mass carries with it, its ability to keep up with all kind of novelties, the youthfulness it reflects despite its past of thousands of years and its capability to absorb anything new. 11 years have passed since. Not only in the world but also in our country and of course in Istanbul many things have changed. Huge buildings rising one after the other, road networks connecting continents, tunnels passing under the sea, make Istanbul the host of borders expanding to unite it with neighboring cities and masses that exceed the population of many European countries. We struggle to follow the developments and expansions and the new towns built. We see that Istanbul that has taken in and absorbed all kinds of migration and crowds with its windows open to the world throughout the history, is struggling too, against this sudden migration of millions, foreign to its culture.

In the Past, Present, Istanbul exhibition, we will be looking at Istanbul this time not from the eyes of history and archaeology but the contemporary perspective of young artists…

In the exhibition; we will see works produced exclusively for this exhibition and independent of each other by 22 young artists whose paths have passed through the Sabancı University, brought together by the call of Murat Germen, architect, faculty member and an artist who watches the change of Istanbul closely and reflects this in his photographs. We will feel the inspiration Istanbul gives the artists and also the mission to build memory. I believe that the energy of the youth in the “Past, Present, Istanbul” exhibition will be good for all of us.”

“What can we do for an archaic but tired city?”

Sabancı University faculty member and artist Murat Germen said, “Our intent before making the call to these 22 artists whose paths went through Sabancı University was to discover what we could do for the archaic but tired Istanbul, following the ‘creating and developing together’ principle of Sabancı University. Germen, stating that even though there were no physical meetings due to the global pandemic, the artists came together on online platforms, said, “We have come to these days with a pluralist and interrogative approach. In the exhibition titled Past, Present, Istanbul we see the traces of this approach. The works that are the products of the artists’ own volitions are not similar to each other, but they communicate with and complete each other. They care about Istanbul, seek answers to the questions ‘ how can we reply to the emergency call, how can we bring this city back its uniqueness?’”

An Accessible Exhibition, an Accessible Istanbul!

The Past, Present, Istanbul exhibition is comprised of the works of Ahu Akgün, Aslı Narin, Begüm Yamanlar, Beril Ece Güler, Burak Dikilitaş, Canan Erbil, Cemre Yeşil Gönenli, Deniz Ezgi Sürek, Didem Erbaş, Ege Kaynar, Eren Sulamacı, Eser Epözdemir, Korhan Karaoysal, Mekânda Adalet Derneği, Neslihan Koyuncu Bali, Nora Bryne, Onur Özen, Örsan Karakuş, Serkan Taycan, Sıla Ünlü İntepe, Sinan Tuncay and Zeynep Kaynar. The exhibition where the artists contemplate on Istanbul’s past and the present and make an assessment on Istanbul’s condition also invite the visitors tı think on the future of Istanbul.

Site-specific works exhibited in the show involve interpretations of city dynamics in light of themes such as animal population, urban gentrification, social life, historical sites, water resources, transportation, and utopia/dystopia. Exhibited works were produced using a variety of mediums such as oil, drawing, installation, photography, video, and serigraphy.

In spite of setbacks due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and restrictions caused by total and partial lockdowns, many institutions and residents of Istanbul contributed to the production processes of the works, which deal with many places in the city.

Thanks to the collaboration between the social initiative Erişilebilir Her Şey (All That is Accessible), selected this year as part of the Sabancı Foundation Changemakers Program and Sakıp Sabancı Museum, the Past Present Istanbul exhibition is made accessible to individuals with visual and hearing impairments. The wall texts in the exhibition are available in sign language, and the visual descriptions of all the video pieces, installations, and images are provided as well. These descriptions also include the gallery plan, exhibition route, all accessible via QR codes, rendering the event accessible.

Past Present Istanbul is open between September 3 - November 28.