Füsun Onur. Retrospective

Septem­ber 16, 2023 – Jan­uary 28, 2024

Fü­sun Onur, who was born in Is­tan­bul in 1938 and cur­rent­ly based there, is one of the most out­s­tand­ing artists work­ing in Türkiye to­day. Al­though her im­pres­sive and varied oeu­vre has been read­i­ly ac­ces­si­ble to an in­ter­na­tio­n­al au­di­ence in group ex­hi­bi­tions on a reg­u­lar ba­sis, it has not been suf­fi­cient­ly ap­pre­ci­at­ed. The first sur­vey ex­hi­bi­tion of her work was held at Arter in Is­tan­bul, ten years ago. The Mu­se­um Lud­wig is now pre­sent­ing her work to a larg­er au­di­ence in a ma­jor ret­ro­spec­tive.

Over the past few years, the Mu­se­um Lud­wig has mount­ed ma­jor sur­veys on sig­ni­f­i­cant artists whose work had pre­vi­ous­ly on­ly been cur­so­ri­ly ac­knowl­edged, in­clud­ing Joan Mitchell (2015), Nil Yal­ter (2019), and Isa­mu Noguchi (2022). This ex­hi­bi­tion with Fü­sun Onur rep­re­sents another fo­cus on a body of work whose sig­ni­f­i­cance has not yet been ful­ly ap­pre­ci­at­ed.

Onur grew up in Is­tan­bul, where she studied sculp­ture at the Is­tan­bul State Acade­my of Fine Arts be­tween 1956 and 1960 dur­ing the pe­ri­od of rad­i­cal change in Turk­ish art his­to­ry of the 1950s and 1960s. As presti­gious state com­mis­sions for art de­c­lined at that time, the in­flu­ence of the state al­so waned, and artists be­gan cre­at­ing an en­vi­ron­ment in which they could ex­per­i­ment with new forms. Af­ter gra­d­u­at­ing from the acade­my, a Ful­bright scho­lar­ship took her first to the Amer­i­can Uni­ver­si­ty, Wash­ing­ton D.C., USA, where she studied phi­lo­so­phy, then to the Mary­land In­sti­tute Col­lege of Arts where she cont­in­ued her studies on art. As a stu­dent Onur had al­ready felt en­cour­aged to de­vel­op her own artis­tic per­spec­tive, and she cont­in­ues to pur­sue this goal to­day. Her ear­ly work, which can­not be cat­e­go­rized in any of the art move­ments of the time, con­veys an idea of her in­de­pen­dence. Her sculp­tures com­bine a vi­su­al vo­cab­u­lary em­ploy­ing el­e­ments of ab­s­trac­tion, Con­struc­tivism, and Min­i­mal­ism with hu­mor.

A re­oc­cur­ring el­e­ment in Onur’s work is her con­nec­tion to Is­tan­bul and her fam­i­ly’s home in Kuz­gun­cuk, where she lived with her sis­ter, İl­han Onur, who died in 2022. It is filled with fur­ni­ture and me­men­tos that date to the ear­ly twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry. Lo­cat­ed di­rect­ly on the Bos­porus, the house served Onur as a start­ing point for new works, en­abling her to cre­ate pie­ces that of­ten evoke the the ex­pe­ri­ence of liv­ing on the wa­ter with their con­s­tant­ly chang­ing, new aes­thet­ic forms.

Each new in­vi­ta­tion to par­ti­ci­pate in an ex­hi­bi­tion gives the artist the op­por­tu­ni­ty to use the venue as a point of de­par­ture for her con­tri­bu­tion. This al­lows her to cre­ate works that re­act to so­cial de­vel­op­ments and cul­tu­r­al politics. For ex­am­ple, she re­spond­ed to the paint­ing hype of the 1980s by fashion­ing paint­ings that ex­pand in­to space. Her in­s­tal­la­tions, which were pro­duced large­ly in con­nec­tion with Eu­ro­pean in­vi­ta­tions, crit­i­cal­ly re­flect on West­ern ex­pec­ta­tions in the 1990s and 2000s. Her works chal­lenge vis­i­tors to give space to their own imag­i­na­tion. This is es­pe­cial­ly the case for the synes­thet­ic in­s­tal­la­tions in which Onur trans­fers mu­sic in­to the sur­round­ings us­ing rows of ev­ery­day ob­jects. Most re­cent­ly, Once up­on a Time, her con­tri­bu­tion to the Turk­ish Pav­ilion at the Venice Bien­nale in 2022, brought her back in­to the public eye. The large-for­mat in­s­tal­la­tion con­sists of mi­nia­ture fig­ures hand-made from wire that tran­s­port vis­i­tors in­to a world of fan­ta­sy.

The ex­hi­bi­tion in the Mu­se­um Lud­wig com­pris­es nine­ty-four in­s­tal­la­tions, some of which fill en­tire rooms, from the past six­ty years. In ad­di­tion, Onur will cre­ate a new, large in­s­tal­la­tion for her ret­ro­spec­tive.

➤ A com­­plete bi­og­ra­­phy on the life of Fü­sun Onur can be found here.

You can find the ex­hi­bi­tion book­let here: in En­glish / in Turk­ish

Cu­ra­tors: Bar­bara En­gel­bach (Cu­ra­tor, Mu­se­um Lud­wig); Emre Baykal (Chief Cu­ra­tor, Arter)

The ex­hi­bi­tion is a co­op­er­a­tion with Arter, Is­tan­bul.

The ex­hi­bi­tion is fund­ed by the Kul­turs­tif­tung des Bun­des (Ger­man Fed­er­al Cul­tu­r­al Foun­da­tion). Fund­ed by the Beauf­tragte der Bun­des­regierung für Kul­tur und Me­di­en (Fed­er­al Gov­ern­ment Com­mis­sion­er for Cul­ture and the Me­dia). Fur­ther­more it re­ceives gener­ous sup­port by the Kun­st­s­tif­tung NRW, the REWE Group (su­pe­ri­or part­n­er), the Peter and Irene Lud­wig Foun­da­tion, the Ge­sellschaft für Mod­erne Kunst am Mu­se­um Lud­wig, and the BEA­T­RIX LICHTKEN STIF­TUNG. RI­MOWA is in­no­va­tion part­n­er of the Mu­se­um Lud­wig. ARTE is me­dia part­n­er.

Fund­ed by the Ger­man Fed­er­al Cul­tu­r­al Foun­da­tion

Fund­ed by the Fed­er­al Gov­ern­ment Comis­sion­er for Cul­ture and the Me­dia

In­no­va­tion part­n­er

Me­dia co­op­er­a­tion