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Picasso show in Turkey part of cultural agenda

November 26, 2005|From Associated Press

ISTANBUL, Turkey — A major Picasso exhibition opened to the public this week in an Istanbul museum best known for its collection of highly stylized Islamic calligraphy.

The patroness of the Sakip Sabanci Museum, the head of a multibillion-dollar Turkish conglomerate, said she hoped the show would accelerate Turkey's cultural shift from the ancient, Islamic and Asian to the cutting edge, contemporary and European.

Called "Picasso in Istanbul," the exhibition includes rarely seen works and officially opened here after months of preparation by the organizers, including the Sabanci family; Pablo Picasso's grandson, Bernard Ruiz-Picasso; and some of the world's most respected experts on the Spanish artist.

Guler Sabanci, head of the Turkish industrial conglomerate Sabanci Holding, is hosting the show at her family's museum on the Bosporus, the legendary strait that divides Europe from Asia.

Sabanci and other Turks with European aspirations hope the exhibit will help to narrow the cultural divide as the mostly Muslim country advances on its path to membership in the 25-nation European Union.

The display of a major Western artist's works in Istanbul, one of the world's most historically rich cities and the former capital of the Islamic Ottoman Empire, is a rarity.

Turkish leaders, who opened negotiations for full membership in the European Union on Oct. 3, say they want Istanbul to be a European cultural capital as well.

"We took Ottoman calligraphy to New York," Sabanci said in an interview. "The West may not understand Ottoman calligraphy, and most of the Turkish people may not understand Picasso. But they can see it, and they can appreciate it. That is how we will learn about each other."

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