Despite a strong contemporary art scene and a rapidly evolving art market in Istanbul — as well as a population of more than fifteen million — the city contains a very limited number of large-scale venues dedicated to contemporary art. The situation is no better for research-based artistic facilities; there is hardly a proper and stable residency program for artists, researchers and curators. In this respect, after launching exhibitions first in Dubai and London, the Moving Museum’s temporary existence is a much-needed substitute in the city of Istanbul.
The Moving Museum is an independent organization founded by Aya Mousawi and Simon Sakhai. Over the past three months, it has brought thirty-five international and eleven local artists together in Istanbul for intensive research, production and public engagement. Yet, these artists’ areas of interest, research and collaboration were even more extensive than one might think at first glance. For instance, Haig Aivazian studied the production techniques of ouds and the infamous oud player Hrant Kenkulian; Mai-Thu Perret produced her work by visiting traditional rug weavers in Van; Ben Schumacher traced the old Ottoman telegraph cables buried deep in the Black Sea; and Jumana Manna conducted research on Syrian refugee camps both in Istanbul and Gaziantep. Other artists, such as Amalia Ulman and Emanuel Rossetti & Phillip Zach, used Istanbul as the backdrop of their works. The research and the works resulting from the residency were brought together in a large-scale exhibition encompassing the three floors of the Sishane Parking Lot, right in the heart of the city. Another remarkable aspect of the project was the spatial design of the exhibition, which demonstrated different approaches for each 80,000-square-foot floor. Artists such as Volkan Arslan and Hannah Perry contributed to both the physical and mental transformation of the space with their outstanding works.