A New Media Museum in Istanbul


Turkey’s first office-museum, the Perili Köşk (former Yusuf Ziya Pasha Mansion) at Rumelihisar on the Bosphorus is opening on September 17. Christened Borusan Contemporary, the museum can only be visited on weekends since it will continue as Borusan Holding’s Executive Headquarters during the week. Among the things to be seen at this spanking new venue is the Borusan Collection of Contemporary Art. Ahmet Kocabıyık, Chairman of the Board of Borusan Holding, told us all about it.

The offices are becoming a museum. What do the employees say about that?

Some were doubtful at first, wondering if our work environment would change or order be disrupted. But they are very pleased and excited about it now. There will be no activities during the week, and no one’s work order is going to change. But on weekends they’ll take care not to leave any personal items on their desks, because the spaces are going to be tinkered with somewhat. Artificial walls are going to be created and works set up.
How many of the 600 works in the Borusan Contemporary Art Collection are going to be exhibited?

A portion of the works are already at our offices at Salı Pazarı, Gemlik, İstinye and Avcılar. The selections at Borusan Contemporary will be from 400 works, on a rotation basis. We will be able to exhibit about 150 works at a time.

How did the idea of exhibiting the collection in offices and then turning the building into a museum come about?

Not long after I started collecting there was no space left in my office, so I put some things in other rooms at the company. Everybody liked that and I got positive feedback from the firm’s employees, so that motivated me even more and I started giving more importance to collecting. The more we exhibited and shared, the more enjoyable it became. In the end we went for the museum idea so that not just Borusan people but the public as well would benefit and derive pleasure.

Don’t you have any reservations about the works possibly being damaged?

Some of them do get damaged, especially during transport. But they can be repaired.

Most collectors have storage areas where the works are sometimes sent to rest. Do you have such areas as well?

Collectors have storage areas because they don’t have enough space. Plus they buy just for themselves. My purpose is not to hide the works away but to share them. I want everybody to see them; in fact, that’s why I’m opening the museum. The fundamental aim is a collection open to the public. I’ve been working for this for a year and a half, and we’ll be starting to share on September 17.

Will there be an entrance fee at the museum?

A small fee, yes. It will arouse more interest that way.

You’ve been renting the Perili Köşk for thirty years.  What’s next?

We haven’t considered what’s next for the Perili Köşk. Our ultimate aim is to open a museum about the new media. We’ve planned everything. Construction is going to get under way in five years. The location is our building at Salı Pazarı. We hope that people will find their way there and that a viewing public will develop. And in 2020 we are going to open an open-air museum in the village of Tazlar in Afyon.

How did your collection become oriented towards the new media? Was it like that from the start?

It was in ’84, I believe. I saw a painting at the home of a friend of mine. It was by Kemal Özsoy. I liked it. Later I visited his studio. I had no intention of starting a collection at the time. I started buying paintings for the walls of the office. The more I got into it, the more I liked it. The door was opened and one thing led to another. In the early years it was mostly paintings. But this is a process of education. I read, I research, I travel, I see, I learn. It never ends. As I learn, my tastes change. Eight years ago when I decided to make the collection international, I bought primarily prints. Now I’m more interested in new productions. The most recent works I’ve purchased have all been about the new media.

Is there any work that you can’t live without, that you want to see every day? Something you’re really stuck on?

There is nothing I’m particularly stuck on. I love all the works I’ve bought. If I don’t like something, I don’t buy it. I can live - more than that, I want to live - with every piece I’ve bought in my home.  In any case, that is my criterion for buying. The ones at home are also rotated of course.

Do you go to exhibitions in Istanbul?

Yes. Most recently I went to a video exhibition at Istanbul Modern. Lost Paradise. I was bowled over. I watched every video in the exhibition to the end. In fact, I went twice and stayed there a total of four or five hours.

Borusan Holding has serious investments in music too. Is there any jealousy between the two sides?

Yes, and how. We also have education investments. Our 2010 budget was 10 million dollars. We’ve gone way over that in 2011. Every year it is spent in different ways. Sometimes we invest more heavily in music, sometimes in art, and sometimes in education. Our sponsorship of the music festival, for example, is for 10 years. Right now it’s six down and four to go.

Four to go in what sense? Thank God we’re almost done? Or Oh My God there’s little left?

Oh My God, of course. We’d like to continue. We are very pleased with it.

Borusan Contemporary will open officially on September 17 with two exhibitions. One is of works specially produced for the exhibition by seven Turkish video artists. The name of the exhibition, curated by Mario Codognato and Sylvia Kouvali, is Seven New Works.

The other exhibition is made up of works chosen from the Borusan Collection. Curated by Dr. Necmi Sönmez, this exhibition is called Segment #1. Both exhibitions can be seen at the Perili Köşk through December 11.