Last year when we visited Istanbul I saved back a few snaps from a visit to the truly awesome Museum of Innocence. In anticipation of The Barbican’s new exhibition this month ‘Magnificent a obsessions: The artist as collector’ (which I will definitely visit) I thought I’d share our experience of Turkey’s finest exhibit. The Museum of Innocence is a wonderful novel published a few years back by Nobel prize winning author Orhan Pamuk. It’s a pretty incomparable work, a love story detailing the often excruciating obsession of Kemal for Fusun and a modern social history of twentieth century Turkey. In its almost 750 pages Kemal collects objects which tell the story of their love in intimate and banal detail.
Pamuk’s museum, like his novel, is a poem to the spirit of collecting and a challenge to what is regarded as beautiful or artistic. The objects collected are immense treasures to their owner and significant touchstones in the story of his love affair with Fusun. The novel and the museum which is it’s companion piece (entirely funded by the author and free to those with ticket printed on page 713 of the novel) is such a unique and grand artistic statement.
Each exhibit works in tandem with a chapter of this long novel and there are 83 exhibits in all, it is a truly awesome experience. The book offers rationale and context to what may appear to the casual spectator a vast mass of seemingly unassuming and unconnected objects. It challenges conventions of what should be displayed in hallowed spaces for artistic consideration or curated to tell our social history.
I had loved this incredible novel, it had made me want to visit Istanbul with urgency and this shrine to the novel that inspired it didn’t disappoint. If you are ever in Istanbul visit it and of course do read this gem of a novel, it may even inspire you to go there too.