Spring Break: Day 2 in Istanbul with Peter Drake

Erdal Kara took us to Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University to meet with the Rector, Yalçin Karayagiz; Faculty Emeritus, Kemal Iskender; Professor, Mahmut Bozkurt and Erdal himself. The first part of our meeting was spent remarking on how similar our two programs were and how unique they are in the larger world of art education. I also spent a fair amount of time being dazzled by Yalçin Karayagiz’s stunning office overlooking the Bosphorus. The entire Mimar Sinan campus is magically situated on the Bosphorus with studios and dining facilities that look out on to Asia. 

Janice & Peter meeting with the Rector
There was an immediate rapport between all of us and I couldn’t have felt more at home if I was on Franklin Street. We discussed future residencies, faculty and student exhibitions and Mimar Sinan’s plans to open a 40 million dollar Museum devoted to its unique collection of Turkish masters. We later found out that Yalçin was meeting with the Prime Minister that afternoon for final approval to begin construction. The design is amazing and will only further burnish Mimar Sinan’s reputation as the most important art academy in Turkey.

Janice and I spent the next hour touring painting, printmaking, fresco and stained glass studios. The fresco studio was particularly fascinating as all of the work was being done on the walls with the knowledge that they would all be scraped off the next year.  

This has been the practice for over a hundred years. The student work was stunning with copies of Pontormo and Michelangelo right next to self-directed work. Most students were working on wet lime plaster with pure pigments but some were working with fresco-secco getting a range of values that was really astonishing.


I had a lecture scheduled for that afternoon about my own work and an overview of the Academy. I started off the lecture impressively by spilling a bottle of water in my lap. I managed to recuperate quickly and spent the next hour talking about life in the arts and the strengths of the Academy’s approach to art education. Quite a few students came up to me afterwards to inquire about applying to the Academy. Most kept their distance when I asked for more water.

Peter lecturing about the Academy
We went back to the Rector’s office where we were pleasantly surprised to learn that they had prepared a protocol to advance the cooperation between our two institutions. This will require further approval on our part, but it speaks well for the possibility of a residency for four Academy students this summer. I would kill for this myself; there are very few cities in the world that are as warm, welcoming and as magical as Istanbul.

At the end of the day Janice and I met with Ali Bilge and his family to view their two thousand-plus collection of modern and contemporary art. 

They are in the process of cataloging the entire collection for an upcoming public exhibition. This should be amazing as the collection covers everything from Turkish masters like Nurullah Berk and Eren Eyüboglu 
to contemporary Western stalwarts like AR Penck and emerging artists like our own Angela Gram. 

Ali’s father, Muhsin Bilge has been collecting for over forty years and is considered one of the most significant collectors in all of Turkey. 

Ali and his sister grew up tripping over extraordinary paintings and sculptures and this lifelong passion has been handed down to each of them like it was in their DNA.

Check back on future blog posts on the rest of Peter's trip scouting Istanbul for a future artist-in-residence program for Academy students.

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