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First comprehensive survey of Gülsün Karamustafa's art opens at Hamburger Bahnhof
Gülsün Karamustafa. Chronographia. Ausstellungsansicht. Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Thomas Bruns.

BERLIN.- Gülsün Karamustafa (b. 1946, lives and works in Istanbul) is one of the most important artists of the second half of the 20th century in Turkey, where her practice has had a major influence on younger generations of artists since the 1990s. Following the first retrospective of her work at SALT Istanbul in 2013, the Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin is now presenting the first comprehensive survey of Karamustafa’s art to be shown in a museum outside Turkey. Spread over 1,000 square metres of exhibition space, “Gülsün Karamustafa. Chronographia“ presents around 110 works dating from the 1970s to the present day.

Gülsün Karamustafa gained international recognition for her contributions to the 3rd and 4th Istanbul Biennials in the early 1990s, and since then her work has been shown in numerous exhibitions and biennials around the world. Her oeuvre spans four decades and encompasses a variety of media, including painting, installation, performance and video. Exploring themes such as migration, politically driven nomadism, pop culture, feminism and gender, Karamustafa often critically examines the traditional Western view of the Middle East. Since the immediate post-Cold War era, she has been investigating how politics, religion and history influence everyday life in an increasingly globalised world.

Assessing and visualising the impact of Western modernity and political transitions in Turkey since the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire – from the series of military coups that took place between 1960 and 1980 through to the current political situation in the country – is a key aspect of Karamustafa’s practice. She is particularly interested in exploring how internal and external migration has affected social and (pop) cultural mechanisms in Turkish society. The visual and iconographic codes that are shaped by historico-cultural realities and represent different societal forms, as well as personal biographies, provide valuable source material for her compositions. Karamustafa is known for her liberal and flexible use of textiles, everyday items, kitsch objects and found footage; characterised by diversity and individuality, her work resists conventional arthistorical categorisation.

The rigour and consistency with which Gülsün Karamustafa explores and frequently revisits themes of identity, integration and emancipation is reflected in the way she weaves the individual works together to form a dense network of reference and association. In the exhibition at the Hamburger Bahnhof, which has been prepared in close collaboration with the artist, these ramifications and connections across time are emphasised by the fact that the presentation is not chronological; it has been arranged thematically to create a dialogue between multiple artworks. This mode of display highlights the broad scope and continuing relevance of Karamustafa’s singular practice. In addition to well-known works such as the textile collage An Ordinary Love (1984), the installation Mystic Transport (1992), the video work Memory of a Square (2005) or the Prison Paintings from the 1970s, the exhibition “Gülsün Karamustafa. Chronographia“ includes many works that have rarely been on public display. Key pieces from the 1990s such as Kültür: A Gender Project from Istanbul (1996) or NEWORIENTATION (1995) are being exhibited here for the first time since their initial showing. Karamustafa’s current practice is represented by works such as Porters Loading (2013) or The Monument and the Child (2010), along with a new piece she has created especially for this exhibition, entitled Monument for the 21st Century (2016).

To accompany the exhibition, a comprehensive monograph on Gülsün Karamustafa is being published by Verlag für Moderne Kunst in July 2016, with contributions by Meltem Ahiska, Ovul O. Durmusoglu, Gülsün Karamustafa, Marion van Osten and Melanie Roumiguière.

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