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Major museum designed by V&A Dundee's architects to open in Turkey

Odunpazari Modern Museum designed by Kengo Kuma, which will show the collection of architect Erol Tabanca, will open in the university city of Eskişehir in June

OMM Courtesy of Kengo Kuma and Associates(KKAA)

The Odunpazari Modern Museum (OMM), a major new institution designed by Kengo Kuma and Associates, will open in the vibrant but ancient university city of Eskişehir in Turkey in June, The Art Newspaper has learned. With stylistic echoes of Kuma’s V&A Dundee, the museum’s stacked timber design reflects surrounding wooden houses from the Ottoman era, and is named after its historic “wood market” district—Odunpazari.

The museum will house and show Turkish and international Modern and contemporary works from the 1,000 piece collection of Erol Tabanca, the architect and partner in Polimeks Holding, a leading Turkish construction firm. Eskişehir, in western Anatolia, first founded in 1,000 BC and whose name means "old city", boasts three universities. On the high-speed train line between Istanbul and Ankara, its parks and heritage make it popular with day-trippers from Istanbul, and the OMM is set to be a modern flagship for nearly 20 other museums running to archaeology, aviation, and typewriters.

In his first interview, Tabanca tells the Art Newspaper he initially aims to welcome 15,000-20,000 visitors a month. His collection, which he began by buying a small oil painting at auction about 20 years ago, will mostly be transferred to the museum from Polimeks’ headquarters in Istanbul next month.

“Positioned at the cross-section between history and modernity, between the East and West, Turkey has produced some of the most interesting art and artists of the past 70 years,” Tabanca says. “Through opening up the collection, we hope to draw international attention to Turkish art and artists and reaffirm their position in the canon of modern and contemporary art.” He said the museum would be a new landmark for the city and the country.

The inaugural exhibition is curated by Haldun Dostoğlu, the founder of Istanbul’s Galeri Nev, will show around 200 works by 60 Turkish artists. International artists in the collection include Britain’s Julian Opie and Marc Quinn, the award-winning Spanish sculptor Jauma Plensa, and from the US the painter and sculptor Robert Longo and the UK-born, US artist Sarah Morris, whose work is in the Tate. A new site specific piece by Japan’s Tanabe Chikuunsai IV, known for his giant swirling creations of woven bamboo, will go on show.

Major Turkish names in the collection dating back to the 1950s include the painter Erol Akyavaş, artist and film-maker Gülsün Karamustafa, and her teacher Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu, the poet and painter whose work won first prize at the Brussels Fair in 1958. They include emerging and established artists, such as Canan Tolon, Ramazan Bayrakoğlu, and İnci Eviner.

Kuma and Yuki Ikeguchi, the partner leading the project, say that they intended the 4,500 sq. m, three-floor building, with large and small exhibition spaces, to “resonate both on a human scale and with the unique streetscape.” Tabanca, who began his studies at the Art Institute in Eskişehir, has worked for three decades as an architect and contractor and is chairperson of Polimeks, whose 130 projects world-wide have included airports, hospitals and schools.

He singled out his favourite works “that reveal something about their creative process and the artisanship behind them”, all by Turkish artists: Ahmet Doğu İpek’s Construction Regime; Guido Casaretto’s Historical Connotations and Tunca’s Lacus. “I also have a special interest in sculptors, particularly the work of Aron Demetz, Jauma Plensa, SeungMo Park and Assa Kauppi.” He will continue to work to broaden the collection, he says.