Something that is present: Idil Tabanca on immersing within the Turkish landscape

25.07.2019 | Art , Blog | BY:

Cover image: by Idil Tabanca Gökhan Polat

Idil Tabanca isn’t someone you would necessarily assume to be a Chairperson of a museum. Her alternate title, Creative Director, absolutely clicks with the persona of the woman that founded and ran New York’s loved fashion and culture title Bullett Magazine, but a chairperson? If the role of a chairperson is to allow fair and open discussion of matters, Idil is set to be a total coup – the expectation of others, matched with the vision of herself seems like a task she is more than equipped to handle. Bringing a fresh standpoint she is sure to provide: now that is vital to the success of any Institute. 

We are here to talk about OMM, the Odunpazari Modern Museum, that Idil is holding these integral positions within. Opening in September in the Turkish city Eskişehir, OMM will be a foundry of both global and local vision. 

“OMM will have education programmes, residencies, and pairings with global and local artists – opening up the doors to create an institution that will be a stepping stone for a lot of young artists. We want this place to be like an exchange for artists – creating spaces for people to come together and have these intercultural dialogues. There will be a hotel attached for artists to stay, and a quadrangle, with a vegetarian café which is almost unheard of in Turkey! Giving people options and breathable space to come together and create. The building itself will be a feat of architectural beauty, designed by the respected Japanese Kengo Kuma and Associates. I don’t see OMM as a museum – it’s a platform, a bridge, for young people to have their voices heard”.

With an education in film and digital media, you see this influence impact Idil’s approach to presenting the Museum on a global, innovative and connected scale. Her editorial background gives Idil a lateral and relevant viewpoint: the threat facing museums is that they face cultural extinction unless they adapt to new audiences – if anyone can speak about creative agility as a necessity you need not go further than anyone in the magazine trade.

“It is very similar work – you are still creating content but instead of a magazine page you are working with a gallery wall. You are giving someone a platform for display.”

Idil has grown up since her DIY New York days. From pulling together character love letters with celebrities, Idil is now invested in the importance of educational awareness of her beloved museum within the surrounding art schools of the heavy university town she finds herself in.

Her eyes still sparkle when she speaks of the projects and the collaborative partners ahead; a natural thinker and doer, mover and shaker.

Did Bullett set her up effectively for this role she is undertaking? 

“I think it set me up to manage people more than anything else to be honest! Juggling different people and personalities is always tough, especially when you are working in fashion and art, and managing all these moving parts. Creatively Bullett helped me shape my vision – I can’t imagine if I didn’t do Bullett how I would see things.”

Marc Quinn, Mekong Delta İce Floes, 2008, Photo by Ozan Çakmak

So why has Eskişehir been chosen as the favoured site for an interactive, cutting edge cultural institute? 

“There are 3 universities here, and they are all art universities – for all the cities in Turkey it is a very secular city and a very intellectual city. It is also geographically quite central, so easy to get to from the other surrounding cities. It was in 2004 that the first contemporary art gallery happened in Turkey, so we only have a very short history of museum culture here. Now it is somewhat challenging as we are creating something that hasn’t been there before. Sure, in Istanbul, but not in other places. We did a study and found out 80% of people hadn’t done a cultural activity in their lives – rates that were astonishing. What is exciting about this situation is for me to change that.”

Will the OMM be more about creative expression rather than strictly art?

“Absolutely – we want to carry collaboration into every aspect of what we are doing.”

Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu, İsimsiz, tuval üzeri yağlıboya karışık teknik 1956

And Fashion?

There will be a store selling a small line, and a big name designer will be creating the uniforms for the staff. Hey, you can take the chick out of New York fashion… 

And a global outlook?

“We want to have a global outlook, but want to ensure we are starting by getting local communities involved. The city has the potential for this. Our mission is to ensure that we are also educating global audiences that we are a destination: have this connection with the rest of the world.”

Tanabe Chikuunsai IV Installation photo by Kemal Seçkin

There will be work showcased by the local and the international, starting with a permanent collection made up of Marc Quinn, Julian Opie and Sarah Morriss, to Turkish artists such as Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu, Ramazan Bayrakoğlu and Canan Tolon. A site-specific commission by bamboo artist Tanabe Chikuunsai IV will be installed for opening in September.

While we can’t say we knew Idil before,  and we can only imagine this role has led her into a new direction – museums and galleries must ensure the voices of the next generation are accounted for, and Idil seems set on bringing her native country into the realm she finds most familiar: of the innovative, the creative, the outsiders, the brave.

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