Home Magazine Füsun Onur as future protagonist of the Turkey Pavilion

Ready to look into the future. Yes, because if times seem to undergo a glaciation process, we must think ahead and work on our tomorrow. Keeping this thought in mind, today we are going in-depth on the Turkey Pavilion artistic proposal for the 59th International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia (May-November 2021), curated by Cecilia Alemanni.

The curator of the pavilion will be Bige Örer, currently director of the Istanbul Biennial and contemporary art projects at İKSV. There she directs the artistic vision and programme for the Istanbul Biennial as well as a wide variety of cross-disciplinary projects, including the Pavilion of Turkey at la Biennale di Venezia; learning, residency and public programmes which are developed together with a multitude of international and local collaborators. She has a background in political science and public administration as well as sociology. Bige Örer's breadth of activity embraces both the artistic and the academic fields. Her curatorial projects include exhibitions Flaneuses, Istanbul (2017), Linear Transcendency, Amman (2016), and Agoraphobia, Berlin (2013, co-curated with Fulya Erdemci). She participated in curatorial residency programmes at Whitechapel Gallery (2016) and Palais de Tokyo (2018). Her contributions in various publications include the research she co-conducted on the financing of international contemporary art biennials. She co-authored the children’s book A Colourful Journey in a Time Machine: Istanbul Biennials for Children with Sureyyya Evren. Örer has written extensively about biennials and taught courses on the subject at Istanbul Bilgi University. She was a consultant and jury member of numerous arts institutions and has been the vice-president of the International Biennial Association since its foundation in March 2013. She is also on the editorial board of the association that conceptualised and edited the inaugural issue of its journal, Pass.

While, the artistic protagonist will be Füsun Onur, one of Turkey's pioneering contemporary artists. Her works deal with potentials of space, time, rhythm and form that are inherent in simple, everyday materials charged with narrative and oblique autobiographical references. In her prolific career that spans over half a century, Onur defied boundaries between painting and sculpture, becoming a pivotal figure to introduce avant-garde into the artistic canon in Turkey in the early 1970s. Onur participated in solo and group exhibitions at the Augarten Contemporary, Vienna (2010), Istanbul Modern (2011), Maçka Art Gallery, Istanbul (2012), and ARTER, Istanbul (2014). Her works were featured at the Kunsthalle Baden-Baden (2001), ZKM, Karlsruhe (2004) and Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven (2005) as well as in the Istanbul Biennials (1987, 1995, 2011, 2015), the Moscow Biennale (2007), and dOCUMENTA(12), Kassel (2012).


Fusun Onur, Counterpoint with Flowers, 1982. Courtesy WikiArt.


Pavilion of Turkey  We, Elsewhere Commissioner- IKSV. Curator- Zeynep Öz. Exhibitor- İnci Eviner. Venue- Arsenale, Sale d'Armi  © Photo- Haupt & Binder


A graduate of Üsküdar American Academy for Girls, Onur studied Sculpture in the Academy of Fine Arts in Istanbul, became a student at Hadi Bara Atelier, and moved on to her post-graduate studies in Sculpture at the Maryland College of Art with a Fulbright scholarship in 1960. Her first solo exhibition was presented by Taksim Art Gallery in 1970, which was followed by participation in many other exhibitions such as the 7th Biennial of Young Artists in Paris (1971) and ‘Open Air Exhibitions’ organised by the Istanbul Archaeology Museums (1974 and 1977). Onur lives and works in Istanbul.

The Advisory Board of the Pavilion of Turkey at la Biennale di Venezia consists of Serhan Ada from Bilgi University; General Manager of Suna and İnan Kıraç Foundation, Culture and Arts Enterprises Özalp Birol; artist İnci Eviner; Director and Curator of the Fiorucci Art Trust Milovan Farronato, and Editor of Sanat Dünyamız and art writer Fisun Yalçınkaya.

The Advisory Board commented on Onur: “As the Advisory Board of the Pavilion of Turkey at the 59th International Art Exhibition, la Biennale di Venezia, we are very honoured and excited to leave the Pavilion of Turkey in Füsun Onur's hands. Füsun Onur is one of the rare artists to form a poetic relationship between life and art beyond just artworks but as a way of being. Onur explores the fundamental orientations of conceptual art through her own poetry. The words, particles of daily life and tales that she scatters into the air, crystallise as fragile objects as a result of the spontaneous relationships they form. Onur does not see art as an expression of grand narratives, but as a boundless spring of creativity that stems from the individual space in between herself and the Earth. The installations of Füsun Onur stand out with their ability to erase the universally defined boundaries such as identity, culture and language, and to linger as a musical note in living beings, regardless of place and space.”

Cover image: Fusun Onur, Photo by Ege ART. 

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