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The art of Zero in Istanbul: 10/10

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The Sky Over Nine Columns – Heinz Mack (with Bosphorus behind)

The Zero art movement, based mostly in Germany in the years 1957-69, sounds like a candidate for Private Eye’s “Pseud’s corner”.  Take this, from Otto Piene’s Paths to Paradise:

I go to darkness itself, I pierce it with light, I make it transparent, I take its terror from it, I turn it into a volume of power with the breath of life like my own body, and I take smoke so that it can fly.

Maybe that is magnificent.  Maybe it’s meaningless.  I’m not sure.

So when I was invited to visit the exhibition ZERO. Countdown to the Future at the generally excellent Sakip Sabanci Museum in Istanbul, I tried to keep an open mind; but feared for the worst.


Lightdisc No.5 Günther Uelker

I needn’t have feared.  The show is magnificent.

Works such as Yves Klein’s Pure Pigment, Heinz Mack’s Light Curtain in Space and Otto Piene’s Fireflower grow across three floors of the Museum’s mostly subterranean galleries into a hypnotic rhythm of often minimalist art reminiscent of Ben Nicholson or, in the case of Heinz Macke’s intriguing Sahara Project, Christo – whose work I have also seen mainly in Germany.

I ended up wishing I had more time to stay and soak up the show – including an intriguing-looking 52-minute film about Zero I didn’t have a chance to watch.


Pure Pigment – Yves Klein

In addition to works from Zero’s heyday, the show features several modern works including Otto Piene’s Inflatables, produced in the year of his death in 2014; and Heinz Macke’s The Sky Over Nine Columns, whose impact is boosted by a setting overlooking the Bosphorus.

Definitely worth a visit.  The show is on until 12 January 2016 in Istanbul.  Combine it with a visit to the rather fine Müzedechanga Restaurant and make a day of it.

For: challenging, stimulating focus on a fascinating and not entirely mainstream period of modern and contemporary art.

Against: if you hate modern art, this show is unlikely to change your views.  Avoid like the plague or head straight to the restaurant while your friend or partner enjoys the exhibition.

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