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Turkey Islamist group calls for art expo's closure for 'blasphemy,' LGBTQ 'propaganda'

Islamist media and AKP members attacked Istanbul Municipality’s inaugural exhibition of top Turkish artists at Feshane, a recently renovated 19th-century factory.
An undated image of the exhibition at Feshane.

IZMIR, Turkey — An art exhibition that brings together the works of top Turkish artists in a sumptuous 19th-century building in Istanbul has become the latest flare-up in Turkey’s culture wars, as an Islamist group and several Justice and Development Party (AKP) members urged its closure, saying that the works contain perversity and blasphemy. 

The exhibition, called “Beginning From the Middle,” brings together from June 24-Aug. 30 some 400 works of art from the country’s most prominent — and most expensive — artists in Feshane, a former factory that used to make military gear and fes, or fez, the traditional red, flat-topped felt hat worn by men during the Ottoman era. The factory underwent a costly renovation over the last four years and reopened as an arts hub on June 23. 

The inaugural exposition, whose title is inspired by a quote from French philosopher Gilles Deleuze, includes the works of Komet, the Paris-based Turkish painter of gloomy but dreamy scenes; Nes’e Erdok, known for her portraits of sad-looking strangers; and Murat Morova, who combines calligraphy and traditional motives with hauntingly modern words. Taner Ceylan, the leading Turkish artist known for his hyperrealist paintings that play around gender roles, also displays one of his best-known works, “Ingres," where he has superimposed the face of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres on the French painter’s portrait of Princess de Broglie.  

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