Pera Museum celebrates 10th anniversary with British artists’ work

In order to mark the 10 year anniversary of its founding, the Pera Museum in Istanbul is hosting two new exhibitions featuring the works of two significant names from the world of British art: 20th-century artist Cecil Beaton and contemporary artist Grayson Perry.

The common thread linking the work of these artists from different centuries is the fact that they both delve into the many different layers of social life in British society in their respective work. While Beaton’s portraits presented a world of fame and success in flamboyant settings, Perry’s tapestry and pottery works subtly tease human nature’s tendency to have an extravagant lifestyle.

On the third floor of the museum, a selection of black and white portraits by Beaton, who had relentlessly photographed many significant figures between the 1920s and 1970s — from Marlene Dietrich to Pablo Picasso and from Sir Winston Churchill to Rudolf Nureyev — gives a glimpse of his rich oeuvre. Beaton had a great passion for photography from an early age and although he produced through many mediums such as painting, illustration, caricature, theater and film costume design, his photographs were the most celebrated among his artistic productions.

Also using his family connections and social abilities, his work became very popular and published in magazines such as Vogue, Life and Harper’s Bazaar. Beaton was a two-time recipient of the Academy Award for Costume Design for his work on the musicals “Gigi” and “My Fair Lady.” In 1977, he transferred his private archive to Sotheby’s and more than 100,000 negatives, 9,000 vintage prints and 42 scrapbooks of his photographs are currently protected by the auction house, from which the works on display at Pera are on loan.

An avid traveler, Beaton visited Turkey three times and shot a number of black and white photos in Istanbul. One of his Turkish models was Princess Durruiehvar, daughter of Sultan Abdulmecid II of the Ottoman imperial family. Beaton took her portrait for the first time during the 1937 coronation of King George and Queen Elizabeth in London. The second was at her palace in India in 1944, after the royal family was forced into exile upon the foundation of the Turkish Republic. The portrait included in the Pera show, in which the princess is shown in occidental props which were quite common at the time, is from their third meeting.

Beaton’s “Portraits,” curated by Terence Pepper, curator and consultant to photographs at the National Portrait Gallery London, also features photographs of Marlon Brando, Lucian Freud, Rolling Stones, Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Frank Sinatra, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote and Grace Kelly.

On the fourth and fifth floors of the museum, several works by Perry — a Turner Prize and British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) award-winner — shed light into issues related to class and culture in Britain. Titled “Small Differences,” the show takes its name from a collection of tapestry work that the artist did in 2012 titled “The Vanity of Small Differences.” These works are loosely based on a series of prints by 18th-century British artist William Hogarth and were acquired by the British Council for its collection.

Apart from this series, 13 additional works featuring Perry’s ceramics and imaginary maps on plate prints offer an insight to his colorful and complex world. Considering the classical ceramic works at Pera Museum’s permanent collection together with Perry’s works, Linsey Young, curator of the show from the British Council Visual Arts team, explains that the show is an overview of the artist’s mature period, quotthe references for which are highly relevant to the rich and complex mixture of historic and contemporary influence that is part of the vibrant makeup of modern Istanbul.quot

“Perry has stated that we can find ourselves through historic artifacts — be they in museums, in religious buildings or market stalls — by ‘seeing’ oneself, one’s personal concerns as a human being, reflected back in the objects made long ago by fellow men and women with similar, equally human concerns. In the teeming streets of Istanbul, the agricultural province of Kutayha [where the ceramic works are produced] or within the walls of a modern Turkish museum, the themes that preoccupy Grayson Perry can be read as having an intimate resonance with Turkey and its people,” Young explained during a press preview for the show on Tuesday at Pera.

Perry rejects conceptual art as the sole claimant of quotideasquot and champions the decorative and intimate qualities of handmade objects with stories to tell. Motifs such as planes, shopping centers, churches and temples, mobile phones and even the artist’s beloved teddy bear appear repeatedly in many different guises in Perry’s work, which can be sampled in the Pera exhibition.

Both quotPortraitsquot and quotSmall Differencesquot continue until July 26 at the Pera Museum. For further information, visit

A portrait of actress Audrey Hepburn by 20th century British artist Cecil Beaton.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman