May 8, 2015 - Pavilion of Turkey at the Venice Biennale - Sarkis’s Respiro at the Pavilion of Turkey
May 8, 2015

Sarkis’s Respiro at the Pavilion of Turkey

Design: A Practice for Every Day Life, London.


9 May–22 November 2015
Sale d’Armi Nord
with additional messenger sites

Curator: Defne Ayas (Director, Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art)
Commissioner: Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV)

Respiro by the influential conceptual artist Sarkis (b. 1938, Çaylak Sokak, Istanbul) is now on view in the Pavilion of Turkey at the 56th International Art Exhibition, la Biennale di Venezia. The installation can be seen at the Sale d’Armi, Arsenale, from 9 May through 22 November 2015. 
Of all the work that Sarkis has produced to date, Respiro has been the most personally challenging for him.
Revealing his profound engagement with the concept of Kriegschatz (the spoils of war) and acknowledging art historical canons such as The Battle of San Romano by Paolo Uccello, the Isenheim Altarpiece by Matthias Grünewald, and The Tempest by Giorgione, the installation consists of two site-specific neon rainbows and two large-scale mirrors with fingerprints applied in watercolour by seven children—Abay, Anna, Aren, Helin, Karla, Claudia and Linda. In addition, it brings together several of Sarkis’s iconic sculptures, including an altar made out of red glass cut to the exact size of the one surrounded by Caravaggio paintings in the church of San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome. 36 stained-glass panes created with a medieval technique thread the installation. These illuminated panes feature images that encrypt pain, war, eros, and autobiography through a pictorial orchestra so as to point to a deft but subtle critique of humanity: the palm of a hand cups a flame, a seraph peeks through high on the wall of Hagia Sophia, Hrant Dink smiles against a background of pomegranates, a sleepy Sergei Parajanov gets caught off guard, and the Great Architect Sinan’s embrace of Mihrimah Sultan comes together with an image of Sarkis’s parents’ grave, just to name a few.
Respiro, meaning “breath” in Italian, is complemented by a musical composition by Jacopo Baboni-Schilingi, which is based on the artist’s rendering of the rainbow’s seven colors as a system of partitions. The music is played day and night, together with the neon works breathing in and out for the duration of the exhibition.
Respiro took its first breath on 3 April and became fully alive on 23 April 2015.

As a prelude to Respiro, Sarkis has gifted a site-specific work titled Altın Ikona (Golden Icon) to the newly opened venue of the Hrant Dink Foundation in Istanbul. The work is presented as a golden square, in the same scale as Sarkis’s stained glass of Hrant Dink’s photograph that is on view in Venice.  As with Respiro, this intimate gesture is complemented by Jacopo Baboni-Schilingi’s composition. In addition, a new video work by Ali Kazma, titled Atelier (2015) was premiered at the Hrant Dink Foundation on 7 May. In this video, which is part of his “Resistance” series, Kazma turns his camera to Sarkis’s studio in Paris—the current home of his artistic production, which spans over 50 years.

Five “messenger” installations, in addition to Sarkis’s Respiro in Venice and Golden Icon at Hrant Dink Foundation in Istanbul, are  simultaneously on view in Château d’Angers, Angers, France; Domaine de Chaumont-sur-Loire, Chaumont-sur-Loire, France; Mamco, Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Geneva, Switzerland; Musée du Château des ducs de Wurtemberg, Montbéliard, France; and the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, Netherlands.

A new publication accompanies the exhibition. Conceived as a cross-referencing, it includes key essays by Defne Ayas, David Kazanjian, and Wendy Meryem Kural Shaw, with short image readings by Ruben Arevshatyan, Tûba Çandar, Rakel Dink, Özge Ersoy, Uwe Fleckner, Karin Karakaşlı, Aaron Schuster, and Jalal Toufic. Edited by Ayas and designed by A Practice for Everyday Life in London, the volume is available online, upon request from İKSV and at the Biennale bookstore..
The exhibition in the Pavilion of Turkey at la Biennale di Venezia is curated by Defne Ayas (Director of Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art), and organised by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV). It is located at Sale d’Armi, Arsenale, in the main venue of the Biennale. The exhibition is sponsored by Fiat, with the production support of SAHA Association. The Pavilion of Turkey, a dedicated long-term venue at the Arsenale, is an initiative of İKSV, also supported by the generous contributions of 21 sponsors.

For further information: and
For images:

For international media inquiries, please contact:
Elif Obdan, Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts: elif.obdan [​at​] / media [​at​]
Diana Babei, Pickles PR: diana [​at​]

Pavilion of Turkey at the Venice Biennale
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