The Pavilion of Turkey to present 'Respiro' by Sarkis at the 56th International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia

Respiro, an installation by the influential conceptual artist Sarkis, will be presented in the Pavilion of Turkey at the 56th International Art Exhibition, la Biennale di Venezia. The installation will be on exhibit at the biennale to be held from 9 May through 22 November 2015. Organised by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts, the Pavilion of Turkey is curated by Defne Ayas and is located at Sale d'Armi, Arsenale, in the main venue of the biennale.

The artistic parameters of the Pavilion of Turkey at the 56th International Art Exhibition, la Biennale di Venezia were announced at a press meeting on Tuesday, 10 February 2015 at Salon İKSV with the participation of artist Sarkis and curator Defne Ayas. İKSV General Director Görgün Taner and Corporate Communication Director of Tofaş Arzu Çolakoğlu on behalf of Fiat also participated in the meeting.

In his opening speech, İKSV General Director Görgün Taner stated "The International Art Exhibition of la Biennale di Venezia is a very important platform that brings artists from Turkey together with international audiences. This year, the Pavilion of Turkey presents a new project by internationally renowned conceptual artist Sarkis. Sarkis has been working in different mediums for over half a century and his works have been exhibited in the prominent art centres, exhibitions and museums all around the world. We are grateful and proud to be able to share his exciting project Respiro with the art world at the Pavilion of Turkey, which will be curated by Defne Ayas."

The Corporate Communications Director of Tofaş Arzu Çolakoğlu delivered a speech on behalf of Fiat: "In addition to national economy, with the awareness of adding value, we are pleased to support various fields like sports or culture and arts, we are also glad to see Koç Group's contribution and support to contemporary arts at la Biennale di Venezia. Hundreds of thousands of people visit la Biennale di Venezia, and every national pavilion, every artist and every artistic work take us to new dimensions, pushing the limits of our imagination. As the sponsor of the Pavilion of Turkey, this extraordinary effect is a source of pride for our country, for our brand Fiat and surely for our corporation, Tofaş. We believe that, under the curatorship of Defne Ayas, the works of Turkey's esteemed contemporary artist Sarkis-whose successful works have met millions of art lovers around the world-will honour our country, by creating a tremendous impact at the Pavilion of Turkey at the 56th International Art Exhibition, la Biennale di Venezia. As the Tofaş Family, we hereby thank İKSV and our invaluable artist Sarkis."

A prominent figure of the global art world with a career spanning more than five decades, Sarkis has been renowned for his oeuvre that embraces culturally diverse genealogies of art and history, and their innate relationship to memory and space.

"In Respiro, I will be reaching out beyond geopolitics, to a more expansive context of a million plus years, going back to the creation of the universe and the beginning of time, back to the first-ever rainbow-the very first magical breaking point of light," explained Sarkis during the press meeting, where he also detailed the exhibition plans using a whiteboard and markers. "Instead of binding ourselves to specific instances within the histories of politics, religion, philosophy, and the arts, we will be embracing contemporaneity of both the present and the distant past in our continued attempt to defy stagnation."

Through the arrangements of objects, images, thoughts, and codes that are released from both personal and collective memories, Sarkis will use the site of the pavilion as a theatrical stage for the cast of his works to investigate the ideas of infinite dialogue and transformation that lie at the core of his practice. The exhibition titled Respiro, meaning breath in Italian, will present an installation of mirrors, stained-glass panes, and site-specific neon works, and will be complemented by a composition by Jacopo Baboni-Schilingi (b. 1971, Milan), based on the artist's drawing of the rainbow's seven colors as a system of partitions.

"Few artists have combined artistic ingenuity with such a subtle critique of history as deftly as Sarkis," commented Defne Ayas. "This undertaking opens up a space in which the potential of art will be reanimated. Against the current landscape of deep uncertainties, it is our intention to unfurl a proposition that reveals Sarkis's profound concern for humanity. With and through his intense and perfectionist oeuvre-especially with his magnum opus in the making-and thanks to his rich arsenal of visual, architectural, and musical apparatus, we will be able to tune into hidden signals and frames encrypted in mediated images and visions; dig deeper into our contemporary lived experience; most likely hurt but also hopefully heal. The focus is the transformative power of art, as well as the timelessness and the timeliness of his oeuvre. I am grateful to him for not only accepting İKSV's invitation this year but also inviting me to take on the project's dramaturgy."

A new publication will accompany Sarkis's Respiro. Conceived as a cross-referencing of Sarkis's installation through key essays and short image readings, the book will include contributions by Ruben Arevshatyan, Uwe Fleckner, David Kazanjian, Wendy Meryem Kural Shaw, W. J. T. Mitchell, Aaron Schuster, and Jalal Toufic, amongst others. The volume edited by Defne Ayas, published by İKSV and designed by A Practice for Every Day Life, London will be available at the launch of the Pavilion of Turkey at the biennale and will be sold at select bookstores.

Two simultaneous installations by Sarkis will be opening on 7 May, one in Istanbul and one in Geneva, as to create a continuous dialogue with wider audiences.

The 56th International Art Exhibition, la Biennale di Venezia will run from 9 May through 22 November 2015, and will be curated by Okwui Enwezor.

The exhibition in the Pavilion of Turkey at la Biennale di Venezia is sponsored by Fiat, and realised under the auspices of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Turkey, with the production support of Mehveş-Dalınç Arıburnu and SAHA Association. The Pavilion of Turkey, a dedicated long-term venue at the Arsenale, is an initiative of İKSV, also supported by the generous contribution of twenty-one sponsors.


A graduate of Mimar Sinan University of Fine Arts, Istanbul, Sarkis (b.1938, Istanbul) had his first exhibition at the Istanbul Art Gallery in 1960. Throughout his career, Sarkis has worked with various mediums, and has been, since the end of the 1960s, an icon of installation art in particular. His works have been exhibited worldwide in established art institutions, museums, and galleries, including the Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris); the Guggenheim Museum (New York); the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; the Kunst-und-Ausstellungshalle (Bonn); the Louvre (Paris); the Bode Museum (Berlin); and Kunsthalle Düsseldorf. Sarkis was also part of When Attitudes Become Form: Works - Concepts - Processes - Situation - Information (Kunsthalle Bern, 1969), Documenta VI and VII (Kassel, 1977 and 1982), and the biennials of Sydney, Shanghai, São Paulo, Moscow, and Istanbul. Most recently, Sarkis has had solo shows at Galeri Manâ (Istanbul, 2013); ARTER (Istanbul, 2013); the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen (Rotterdam, 2012); Galerie Nathalie Obadia (Paris, 2011 and 2014); MAMCO, Museum of Contemporary Art (Geneva, 2011); Centre Pompidou (Paris, 2010); and Istanbul Modern (2009). He has been living and working in Paris since 1964.

Defne Ayas
Defne Ayas is the Director and Curator at Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam. During her directorship, Witte de With commissioned Dai Hanzhi: 5000 Artists (with UCCA, Beijing, 2014); Moderation(s) (with Spring, Hong Kong, 2012-2014); The Humans by Alexandre Singh - and its monthly Causeries (2012-2013); Tulkus 1880 to 2018 by Paola Pivi (with Castello di Rivoli and Arthub Asia, 2013-2018) as well as the award-winning exhibition The Temptation of AA Bronson (2013). Prior to this appointment, Ayas co-founded Arthub Asia, an Asia-wide production and research initiative, (2007-present), and Blind Dates Project, an artistic platform dedicated to tackling what remains of the people, places, and cultures that were once part of the Ottoman Empire. Since 2005, she has been a curator at Performa, the biennial of performance art in New York, where she remains a curator-at-large. In September 2012, Ayas co-curated the 11th edition of the Baltic Triennial of International Art. Ayas worked as the education and new media programs coordinator at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York before attending the De Appel curatorial program in Amsterdam. She received her M.A. from the Interactive Telecommunications Program at New York University in 2003, and a B.A. in Foreign Affairs in 1999.