Antrepo 5, the future home of the Istanbul Painting and Sculpture Museum. Photo: Alper Tuzunoglu.

Istanbul Museum of Painting and Sculpture Opening Delayed Again

The Istanbul Museum of Painting and Sculpture (IRHM), which has been closed since 2008 and was scheduled to reopen this spring before the reopening date was pushed back to September, seems unlikely to welcome visitors in 2020. Though its $25 million Emre Arolat–designed building, which will also house the collection of Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University, served as the Istanbul Biennial venue last fall, it continues to face difficulties in funding, staffing, and construction.

Curator Vasıf Kortun, who was named the museum’s founding advisor last May, quit in December. One of the problems raised by Kortun was that a core selection of the museum’s holdings are on indefinite loan to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Palace Collections Museum in Istanbul, including paintings by Abdulmejid II, the last caliph of the Ottoman Empire. “The museum cannot open without these,” Kortun said. Previously the director of research and programs at SALT Istanbul from 2011 to 2017, Kortun served as a consultant on the museum’s renovation project before he was hired to lead the institution, which has a 12,000-piece collection with works dating back to the late Ottoman era. 

Though he had promised an approach “powered by critical contemporary ideas,” Kortun ultimately stepped down: “You cannot have the state run an institution like this,” he told the Art Newspaper. “Technically, bureaucratically, financially, ideologically—it’s just the wrong combination. . . . I realized it was absolutely impossible to work through this because I was not given the authority to change things.”

Curator Duygu Demir, who worked with Kortun and took over after his departure before she, too, left her post in February, said: “I couldn’t raise money, curate a show about 120 years of Turkish painting and sculpture, think of the next show, and run an institution on my own.”