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Türk Tarih Sergisi

  • Name (text):
    Türk Tarih Sergisi

    Word Count: 4

  • Alternative names:

    (Turkish History Exhibition)

  • Kind of Event:
    Exhibition
  • Start Date:
    1937
  • Introduction:

    In 1937, the exiled urban planner Martin Wagner was commissioned to design an exhibition for a congress of the Association for the Study of Turkish History at Dolmabahçe Palace.

    Word Count: 29

  • Content:

    In the summer of 1937, the urban planner Martin Wagner, who was an exile in Istanbul, was commissioned to design an exhibition for a congress of the Türk Tarihi Kurumu. (Association for the Study of Turkish History) at Dolmabahçe Palace in Istanbul. This was a task of national interest, which Wagner carried out in close cooperation with all Turkish government ministries.

    Martin Wagner (1885–1957) had been in Turkey since 1935, employed as an urban planning consultant in Istanbul. The former head of the city planning department of Greater Berlin (Groß-Berlin), he was familiar with urban redevelopment, having been one of those responsible for the transformation of imperial Berlin into a modern metropolis. However, as a former member of the SPD (Social Democratic Party of Germany), a radical urban reformer and a progressive architect, Martin Wagner had no future under the National Socialists after 1933. His voluntary resignation from the Akademie der Künste was followed by his dismissal from his position as Berlin’s city planning officer. Through the mediation of the architect Hans Poelzig, Wagner was offered a position in the urban planning office in Istanbul and arrived there on 18 April 1935. His job was to provide urban planning expertise in response to the challenges facing the city, such as a growing population and the need to create new living spaces, the increase in motorised road traffic and the economic use of the Bosporus for shipping. Wagner published a series of essays In Turkey’s sole architectural journal, Arkitekt, in which he dealt in detail with the modernisation of Istanbul. Many of his proposals and studies, however, never evolved beyond theory.

    However, the commission to design the Türk Tarih Sergisi [Turkish History Exhibition] provided him with an opportunity for practical implementation of a different kind. Mustafa Kemal had founded the Türk Tarihi Kurumu in 1931 to conduct research into Turkish history. The long-term goal of the association was to write a new history of the area from a Turkish-Asian perspective, to replace the more common Eurocentric perspective. The Turkish nation was to be afforded its place in world history beyond its association with the Ottomans, thus creating the basis for a new self-confidence (Bittel 1979, 66). The Sumerians were declared to be ancient Turks on the basis of territorial and linguistic-historical references (Egli 1969, 68). The Kemalist historians and archaeologists also established close ties with the Hittites, legitimised by territorial and ethnic origins. The creation of a Hittite museum and the presentation of archaeological artefacts as public monuments served to underline the permanence and traditions of the Turkish state (Tekeli 1984, 22).

    After the first Turkish Historical Congress in July 1932, a second meeting of the Association was held in the summer of 1937. The accompanying exhibition was intended to give an overview of Turkish history. Special attention was paid to the achievements of the Atatürk era. It may be surprising that Atatürk entrusted an emigrant with the task of propagandistically promoting his politics, but the architect and urban planner had considerable experience of staging exhibitions, having organised the Deutsche Bauausstellung in Berlin in 1931 and 1932.
    Wagner worked with a staff of ten and set up an exhibition office and workshop in Dolmabahçe Palace. The exhibition was accompanied by a special issue of La Turquie Kemaliste magazine, which showed detailed exhibition views: In the exhibition foyer, the visitor was greeted by an eye-level bust of Atatürk by Josef Thorak, the sculpture overlooking a map of Turkey laid out on the floor. Above the sculpture, inscribed in a semi-circle, was a declaration of commitment to the study of history: “It is just as important to write history as it is to make history”.
    In the central throne room of the palace, the various epochs of Turkish history, from prehistoric times to the Ottomans and the Turkish Republic, were thematised. Natural history, archaeology and art history, the focal points of the exhibition, were interwoven with one another. Wagner's task was to emphasise historical references and findings by means of a design that was both captivating and rhetorically convincing and in order to do this he used a variety of methods, including movable walls, some of which were integrated with showcases. His use of historical artefacts such as excavation pieces or their photographs, Hittite stone works and the staging of an original grave from Alaca Höyük made the exhibition seem like a cultural memory of Turkey.

    Decorated porcelain from Iznik, as well as carpets, woodwork and clothes symbolised the ornamental wealth of the Ottoman era. Wagner also integrated an original 16th century carved door into his partitions, framing it with floral tiles to show how it would have looked originally. The main section of the exhibition was dedicated to the period of the Turkish Republic, its achievements displayed in the magnificent throne room. The principal themes were health, education, finance, military, women and Ankara, the new capital city and Wagner's staging of these themes was both artistic and didactic. Photographs, drawings and display boards featuring statistics and diagrams were used to highlight the achievements of Kemalist social, economic and cultural policy between 1923 and 1936.

    The cultural and educational mission was also served by photographs from a number of schools and universities, including Carl Ebert's theatre class at the Ankara Conservatory, and the goal of progressive emancipation was propagated by photographs of successful working women and mass marches of young girls. Other photographs featured Clemens Holzmeister’s buildings, the sculpture class at the Academy of Fine Arts, recently under the direction of Rudolf Belling, and the Ankara Conservatory orchestra as examples of innovative culture. The Turkish striving for modernisation was revealed not least by the sans serif contemporary typeface that Wagner used in the exhibition.

    The propaganda magazine La Turquie Kemaliste enthusiastically praised the production: “La Révolution d’Atatürk fit passer en un seul élan un peuple engourdi par l’Empire, du régime le plus arriéré à un gouvernement en tous points moderne, elle le dota d’une nouvelle mentalité scientifique et réalisa dans tous les domaines les possibilités du relèvement du pays.” (Sungu 1937) Other contemporaries also considered the exhibition to be “the most important educational and cultural event of recent years” (Cumhuriyet 1938, 198) Atatürk’s approach to finding identity through the appropriation of his own cultural tradition was given a political, propagandistic and artistic face in Martin Wagner’s exhibition. The exhibition also clearly shows the extensive contribution of emigrants to the nation building process of their country of exile. Historical photographs show Atatürk visiting the exhibition, which at his request was designed as a permanent exhibition, to be kept open to the public for an extended period. It was only after Atatürk’s death in November 1938 that the exhibition was dismantled, as part of the funeral ceremony took place at Dolmabahçe Palace (Çoker 1983, 18).
    That same year, 1938, Wagner accepted a professorship in housing and regional planning at Harvard University in the USA, where he was to work alongside Walter Gropius.

    Although Martin Wagner took American citizenship in August 1944, he tried to return to Germany after the end of the war. At first, he participated in the discourses on the reconstruction of Berlin from afar, but found little resonance. In a number of articles he sharply criticised the city planning in Germany and remained an outsider. Wagner died in Cambridge, Massachussets, in 1957, shortly before he had been due to make a trip to Germany.

    Word Count: 1235

  • Signature Image:
    Martin Wagner, view of main exhibition room at the Türk Tarih Sergisi [Turkish History Exhibition], Dolmabahçe Palace, Istanbul, 1937 (La Turquie Kemaliste 1937). The different epochs of Turkish history from prehistoric times through the Ottomans to the Turkish Republic are described using a variety of objects and panels.
  • Media:
    Martin Wagner during work on the Türk Tarih Sergisi [Turkish History Exhibition] at the Dolmabahçe Palace, 1937. Photographer unknown (Wagner, Bernard 1985, 46).
    Martin Wagner, exhibition design, Dolmabahçe Palace, Istanbul, 1937 (Wagner, Bernard 1985, 45). Here Wagner has made a sketch of the exhibition foyer, which he planned as an accessible semicircle.
    Martin Wagner, exhibition design, Dolmabahçe Palace, Istanbul, 1937. Foyer (La Turquie Kemaliste 1937).
    Martin Wagner, view of main exhibition room at the Türk Tarih Sergisi [Turkish History Exhibition], Dolmabahçe Palace, Istanbul, 1937 (La Turquie Kemaliste 1937). The different epochs of Turkish history from prehistoric times through the Ottomans to the Turkish Republic are described using a variety of objects and panels.
    Martin Wagner, exhibition architecture, Dolmabahçe Palace, Istanbul, 1937. Historical part: tomb, from Alaca Höyük (La Turquie Kemaliste 1937).
    Martin Wagner, exhibition architecture, Dolmabahçe Palace, Istanbul, 1937. Historical part: 16th century door (La Turquie Kemaliste 1937).
    Martin Wagner, exhibition architecture, Dolmabahçe Palace, Istanbul, 1937. Contemporary part (La Turquie Kemaliste 1937).
    Martin Wagner, exhibition architecture, Dolmabahçe Palace, Istanbul, 1937. Contemporary part: agriculture (La Turquie Kemaliste 1937). Agriculture is visualised by a large three-dimensional ear of grain placed in front of a farmer drawn in silhouette.
    Martin Wagner, exhibition architecture, Dolmabahçe Palace, Istanbul, 1937. Contemporary part: justice (La Turquie Kemaliste 1937). Wagner characterised the successes of Kemalist justice and the new legal system by personifying justice.
    Martin Wagner, exhibition architecture, Dolmabahçe Palace, Istanbul, 1937. Contemporary part: culture (La Turquie Kemaliste 1937).
    Martin Wagner, exhibition architecture, Dolmabahçe Palace, Istanbul, 1937. Contemporary part: woman (La Turquie Kemaliste 1937).
    Martin Wagner, exhibition architecture, Dolmabahçe Palace, Istanbul, 1937. Contemporary part: sport (La Turquie Kemaliste 1937). The category “sport”, showing an athlete holding up the Olympic rings, paid homage to the new body awareness. Turkey participated in the Olympic Games for the first time in 1936.
  • Bibliography (selected):

    Bittel, Kurt. “Abteilung Istanbul.” Beiträge zur Geschichte des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts 1929 bis 1979, Part 1. Phillip von Zabern, 1979, pp. 65–91.

    Çoker, Amiral Fehri, editor. Türk Tarih Kurumu. Kuruluş Amacı ve Çalışmaları (Türk Tarih Kurumu yayınları, 48). Türk Tarih Kurumu, 1983.

    Cumhuriyet. Resimli almanak 1937–38. Istanbul Cumhuriyet Matbaası, 1938.

    Dogramaci, Burcu. Kulturtransfer und nationale Identität. Deutschsprachige Architekten, Stadtplaner und Bildhauer in der Türkei nach 1927. Gebr. Mann Verlag, 2008.

    Egli, Ernst. “Zwischen Heimat und Fremde, einst und dereinst. Erinnerungen.” (unpublished manuscript, Zurich, 1969, Library of ETH Zurich, Ernst Egli Papers, Hs 787:1).

    La Turquie Kemaliste, special issue, 1937.

    Sungu, Ihsan. “L’Exposition d’Histoire.” La Turquie Kemaliste, special issue, 1937, p. 20.

    Tekeli, Ilhan. “The social context of the development of architecture in Turkey.” Modern Turkish Architecture, edited by Renata Holod and Ahmet Evin, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1984, pp. 9–33.

    Wagner, Bernard. Martin Wagner 1885–1957. Leben und Werk. Eine biographische Erzählung. G.M.L. Wittenborn Söhne, 1985.

    Word Count: 150

  • Author:
    Burcu Dogramaci
  • Metropolis:
    Istanbul
  • Entry in process:
    no
  • Burcu Dogramaci. "Türk Tarih Sergisi ." METROMOD Archive, 2021, https://archive.metromod.net/viewer.p/69/2949/object/5141-10990980, last modified: 20-06-2021.
  • Rudolf Belling
    Sculptor

    As a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts and Technical University in Istanbul from 1937 until 1966, Rudolf Belling taught his students the technicalities of form, material and proportion.

    Word Count: 28

    Rudolf Belling during an interview shortly after his arrival in Turkey, 1937. Yedigün, no. 212, vol. 9, March 1937, p. 8 (Archive Burcu Dogramaci).
    Rudolf Belling with a student in front of copies of antique sculptures, 1937. Yedigün, no. 212, vol. 9, March 1937, p. 9 (Archive Burcu Dogramaci).Rudolf Belling. “Heykeltraşlık.” Arkitekt, no. 12, 1936, p. 348 ([url]http://dergi.mo.org.tr). Here, Belling explains his future teaching programme at the Academy of Fine Arts. Below, his likewise newly-appointed colleague, the French artist and professor of painting Léopold Lévy, expresses himself.Rudolf Belling, Draft for the monument Atatürk hands over responsibility for the Republic to the youth, Istanbul University, 1938, model, second version, published in the journal Ar, no. 19, 1938, p. 8 (Archive Burcu Dogramaci).Studio exhibition class of Rudolf Belling at the Academy of Fine Arts, 1940, published in Güzel Sanatlar Dergisi, no. 4, 1942 (Archive Burcu Dogramaci).Studio exhibition class of Rudolf Belling at the Academy of Fine Arts, 1940: Hüseyin Özkan Anka, Athlet, before 1940, published in Güzel Sanatlar Dergisi, no. 4, 1942 (Archive Burcu Dogramaci).Rudolf Belling, Monument for Ismet Inönü, Courtyard of the Agricultural Faculty of the University of Ankara, 1943/44 (Photo: Burcu Dogramaci, 2004).Rudolf Belling with students at the Academy of Fine Arts, Istanbul, c. 1945, 1st from left: Hüseyin Gezer, photographer unknown (Rudolf-Belling-Archiv, Krailling).Rudolf Belling, Moulding for the Istanbul University, entrance to conference room of the Faculty of Natural Sciences, 1946, detail (Photo: Dogramaci, 2002).Rudolf Belling, Skulptur 49 (In Memoriam Dreiklang), 1949, bronze, Collection Elisabeth Weber-Belling, Krailling (Nerdinger 1981).Rudolf Belling, Segelmotiv, 1959/1962, Bank für Gemeinwirtschaft, Hamburg, Dornbusch/Rolandsbrücke (Photo: Burcu Dogramaci, 2020).Rudolf Belling, Blütenmotiv (called Schuttblume), 1967/1972, Olympiapark, Munich, (Photo: Burcu Dogramaci, 2019).
    Istanbul
    Arkitekt
    Magazine

    The architecture magazine Arkitekt was an important platform for emigrated architects and urban planners such as Bruno Taut, Martin Wagner, Wilhelm Schütte, Ernst Reuter and Gustav Oelsner.

    Word Count: 28

    Arkitekt, no. 9, 1936, cover (Photo: Archive Burcu Dogramaci).
    Arkitekt, no. 1–2, 1939, cover (Photo: Archive Burcu Dogramaci).Arkitekt, no. 10–11, 1936, cover. Issue with the essay “Istanbul havalisinin plânı” by Martin Wagner ([url]http://dergi.mo.org.tr).Martin Wagner. “Istanbul havalisinin plânı.” Arkitekt, no. 10–11, 1936, p. 301 ([url]http://dergi.mo.org.tr).Arkitekt, no. 7, 1938, cover. Issue featuring the essay “Proporsyon” by Bruno Taut ([url]http://dergi.mo.org.tr).Bruno Taut. “Proporsiyon.” Translation Adnan Kolatan. Arkitekt, no. 7, 1938, p. 194 ([url]http://dergi.mo.org.tr).Arkitekt, no. 3–4, 1941, cover. Issue featuring Wilhelm Schütte’s essay “Sefalet Mahalleleri” ([url]http://dergi.mo.org.tr).Wilhelm Schütte. “Sefalet Mahalleleri.” [Neighbourhoods of Misery] Translation Adnan Kolatan. Arkitekt, no. 3–4, 1941, p. 78 ([url]http://dergi.mo.org.tr).Arkitekt, no. 5–6, 1943, cover. Issue with Ernst Reuter’s essay “Kasabalarimiz“ and Wilhelm Schütte’s contribution “Karl Friedrich Schinkel” ([url]http://dergi.mo.org.tr).Ernst Reuter. “Kasabalarimiz.“ [Our villages] Translation Adnan Kolatan. Arkitekt, no. 5–6, 1943, p. 121 ([url]http://dergi.mo.org.tr).Gustav Oelsner. “Şehircilikte Abidevlik.” [Monuments in City planning] Translation Halet Çambel. Arkitekt, no. 11–12, 1945, p. 265.
    Istanbul