Cherished Istanbul

24 Μαΐου - 3 Δεκεμβρίου 2023

The “Cherished Istanbul” exhibition will be held in the Galata Greek Primary School from 24 May to 12 November 2023. Curated by Dr. Fani-Maria Tsigakou and Hülya Bilgi, the exhibition presents a selection of Istanbul-themed paintings from the collection of the Athanasios & Marina Martinos Foundation (AMMF) and ecclesiastical objects from the collection of Vehbi Koç Foundation’s Sadberk Hanım Museum (SHM). Contact between the AMMF and the Vehbi Koç Foundation (VKV) was made when the AMMF chose Ark Construction, a company belonging to the Koç Group, to undertake restoration of the Galata Greek Primary School. Both the restoration of the building and the exhibition have been sponsored by the AMMF.

This special exhibition is being held to celebrate the opening of the restored Galata Greek Primary School building. It consists of the 18th and 19th century oil paintings and watercolours by European artists depicting Istanbul from the AMMF collection and ecclesiastical silver and mother-of-pearl objects produced at workshops in Istanbul over the same period from the SHM collection.

The paintings reveal the fascination of European artists with Istanbul, while the silver and mother-of-pearl objects record how the city was a source of artistic creativity that gave rise to works of spectacular craftsmanship. The works by European painters bring to life the captivating panorama of the magnificent Istanbul in the 18th and 19th centuries, while the objects that were produced for churches in the city during the same period reflect its cosmopolitan character. Viewed in unison, these two groups of objects that share the Istanbul theme convey to the visitor the splendour, multifaceted aspect and lure of Ottoman Istanbul. This combination further reinforces the prestigious position of Istanbul in the international cultural world.

Hülya Bilgi, Director of the Sadberk Hanım Museum, said, “Vehbi Koç Foundation’s Sadberk Hanım Museum, which is Turkey’s first private museum, has a wide range of collection consisting of distinguished artifacts belonging to several civilizations that settled in Anatolia from 6000 BC to the Ottoman and Turkish Republic times. The museum brings these works together with art aficionados from time to time through exhibitions organized around different themes. Among the works of art produced in Istanbul and whose artistic creativity was inspired by the city are graceful examples of silverware and objects inlaid with mother-of-pearl that formed a significant part of the ecclesiastical objects used in church ceremonies in Istanbul, reflecting the splendour, multifaceted aspect and lure of Ottoman Istanbul. Thanks to this exhibition, visitors will experience the versatility and charm of Ottoman Istanbul in that period.”

Fani-Maria Tsigakou said: “These works, created by artists who came to Istanbul, keep the memory of that period alive while depicting scenes from real life. We are delighted to present our collection, which provides evidence for the aesthetic diversity and differing aspects of European pictorial traditions in the Galata Greek Primary School.”

Pictures and Panoramas
Among the 34 exhibits from the AMMF collections in the exhibition are works by artists such as Amadeo Preziosi, Joseph Schranz, Michel-François Préault, Clara Barthold Mayer, Louis Lottier, Anton Ignaz Melling, Louis-François Cassas, Thomas Allom, Alfred-Marie-Joseph de Courville, Antoine-Laurent Castellan, and Konstantin Kapıdağlı. The majority of the works are by artists who lived in Istanbul from the beginning of the 19th century until the last quarter of the century. In addition, there are two very rare 17th century panoramas, two panoramas in oil dating from the 18th century and three lithograph panoramas based on drawings made around the middle of the 19th century.

These panoramas, portraits, and scenes from real life are mostly by artists who came to Istanbul as members of foreign embassies, and encapsulate memories of past times. They also provide evidence for the aesthetic diversity and differing aspects of European pictorial traditions. Depictions of Istanbul produced by European artists in the 19th century bear witness to the varied approaches within those traditions. Pictures of Istanbul by the Bosphorus Painters are more closely based on observation and include many visual details. On the other hand, works by Orientalist and Romantic artists present the artist’s own vision of a fairy-tale city and invite viewers to share its impact in captivating scenes.

Silver and Mother-of-Pearl Objects
Among the works of art produced in Istanbul and whose artistic creativity was inspired by the city are graceful examples of silverware and objects inlaid with mother-of-pearl that formed a significant part of the ecclesiastical objects used in church ceremonies in Istanbul. The exhibition features 25 ecclesiastical objects from the Sadberk Hanım Museum collections, displaying the heights achieved by Ottoman craftsmen and reflecting the cosmopolitan nature of the city. The glittering silver objects and wooden boxes decorated with mother-of-pearl and ivory inlay, with their magnificent craftsmanship and powerful spiritual significance, were produced in Istanbul’s workshops between the 18th and early 20th centuries. They consist of liturgical objects used during mass (patens, chalices, Eucharistic bread containers, rosewater sprinklers) and diverse containers and votive objects used in other religious ceremonies. Most of the silver objects are stamped with the tuğra mark. Made to meet the needs of Ottoman Christian communities, they were designed in a synthesis of styles with various origins by master silversmiths of different faiths working in Istanbul.

Exhibition Catalogue
AMMF art consultant Dr. Fani-Maria Tsigakou and Sadberk Hanım Museum director Hülya Bilgi wrote the texts for the catalogue, which has the same title as the exhibition and includes both Turkish and English texts in a single edition.

Visitor Information
The exhibition is open six days a week from Tuesday to Saturday between 10.00 and 18.00. Entrance is free.
Address: Kemeraltı Caddesi No: 49 Beyoğlu 34433 Istanbul, Türkiye

The Athanasios & Marina Martinos Foundation
The Athanasios and Marina Martinos Foundation (AMMF) was established in 2016 to support society in the fields of health, religion, education and culture. All activities are guided by a profound awareness of the foundation’s social aims and endeavour to improve the quality of life. Its broad-scoped activities are implemented through AEGEAS, a non-profit non-governmental organisation. In the health sector, the AMMF provides financial resources for the modernisation of hospitals and improvement of health clinic facilities. Its contributions to the health sector include the creation of the revolutionary Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging in cooperation with Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It supports education by means of donations to schools and other educational institutions for the improvement of infrastructure, enlarging libraries and providing scholarships. As well as supporting museums and cultural heritage institutions, the foundation sponsors archaeological excavations, publications, art exhibitions and cultural events in order to encourage cultural development, and aims to preserve the religious heritage by restoring churches and monasteries in Greece and other countries. In 2022, the AMMF renovated in Türkiye, the Greek community school in Gökçeada, restored the Greek Primary School in the Galata neighbourhood of Istanbul and renovated the Church of Haghios Dimitrios in Büyükada.

The Vehbi Koç Foundation
The Vehbi Koç Foundation (VKV) is the first private foundation of the Turkish Republican era, established in 1969 by the late Vehbi Koç with the object of reviving the deep-rooted foundation tradition. The foundation engages in a broad range of activities in the educational, health and cultural sectors, which it has selected as those of primary importance for Turkey. The foundation serves society by establishing institutions that are each a centre of excellence designed to set an example and by conducting wide-ranging projects. In cooperation with the relevant ministries and local institutions, the foundation supports social development by building and donating schools, dormitories, hospitals and medical centres, and also by awarding scholarships to thousands of talented young people. The Vehbi Koç Foundation’s activities in the fields of culture and art began with the establishment of the Sadberk Hanım Museum (SHM) as Turkey’s first private museum in 1980. The museum is home to both Turkish-Islamic artefacts and archaeological artefacts belonging to Anatolian civilisations. By establishing numerous cultural institutions and research centres throughout Turkey, the foundation has further expanded its contributions in the cultural field. Among its extensive cultural activities is funding for the extension and renovation of the two Ottoman art galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and cooperation with other world famous institutions.

The Galata Greek School Foundation
Galata Greek School was built in the neo-classical architectural style in 1885. Located in Galata, which is one of Istanbul’s oldest districts, the school closed down in 1988 due to insufficient student numbers. In 2012, the school building was returned to the Istanbul Greek community and since then, as the Galata Greek School Foundation, it has been the venue for many cultural events. The foundation’s aim is to serve as a cultural, art and educational centre that embraces Istanbul as a whole; focusing principally on Greek identity and cultural heritage but also including all the other cultural identities and legacies. The foundation building has been restored by the architect Murat Tabanlıoğlu, with the support of the Athanasios & Marina Martinos Foundation, and in 2023, it opens its doors to every high-quality, experimental and free creative mind and project whose object is to research the history, memories and future of the school and the city.

Project Partners
Athanasios & Marina Martinos Foundation
Galata Greek Primary School Foundation
Vehbi Koç Foundation

Athanasios & Marina Martinos Foundation

Dr. Fani-Maria Tsigakou
Hülya Bilgi

Bahattin Öztuncay

Exhibition Design & Execution
Nilüfer H. Konuk

Makbule Merve Uca

Defne Karakaya

English Translation
Priscilla Mary Işın

Graphic Design
Yeşim Demir Pröhl

Exhibition Preparation
Maria Mersynia (AMMF)
Havva Furat Ay (VKV)
Berrin Caka (VKV)
Yeşim Ecevit (VKV)
Lale Görünür (VKV)
Makbule Merve Uca (VKV)

AMMF Conservation Team
Sadberk Hanım Museum Conservation Team

Lighting Design
Kemal Yiğitcan
Cafer Çelik (Technician, VKV)

Orphee Beinoglou International Forwarders S.A.
Bergen International Movers

Logistical Support
Kenan Coşkun (VKV)
Taner Coşkun (VKV)

Tuğçe Kutlu Serintürk (VKV)

Galata Greek Primary School
Marika E. Komorosano, Chairperson
Executive Committee Members
Esra Aysun, Consultant

Tuğçe Akbaytogan
Ayşen Anadol
Rahmi Asal
Bora Aşkın
Fatih Bozbek
Ömercan Çakır
Umut Durmuş
Sinan Ercan
Şebnem Eryavuz
Muharrem Hayır
Cihan Lokman Koç
Duygu Narçin
Gregory Penelis
Turgut Saner
Murat Tabanlıoğlu
Bahadır Taşkın
Oğuz Toprakoğlu
Gülcay Yağcı