May 31, 2017

Fahrelnissa Zeid @ Istanbul Modern

Fahrelnissa Zeid
Istanbul Modern

May 30 - July 30, 2017

Istanbul Modern presents a selection from its comprehensive collection of works by Fahrelnissa Zeid, a pioneer of modern art in Turkey and one of the first exponents of abstract art.

 Eleven years after “Two Generations of the Rainbow”, Istanbul Modern’s retrospective of  Fahrelnissa Zeid together with her son Nejad Melih Devrim, Istanbul Modern revisits  its collection of Fahrelnissa Zeid for a special selection in its Pop-Up Exhibition Area.

The exhibition features 23 artworks, not only abstract geometric compositions in which the artist excelled, but also expressionist paintings that merge her unique color palette with references to Byzantine, Islamic, and Western art.

The selection focuses on Fahrelnissa Zeid’s most prolific years between the 1940s, that marks her introduction to the art scene in Turkey, and the 1970s, when she moved to Amman, Jordan.

The global art world’s revived interest in Fahrelnissa Zeid has led to a flurry of her works in 2017, including group shows in Haus der Kunst in Munich and GAM di Torino. This year, 8 works from the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art Collection that are among the most important in Zeid’s career will be on view in London, Berlin, and Beirut, starting with her retrospective at Tate Modern as of June the 13th.

Oya Eczacıbaşı: Our first donation, which made a dream come true
Oya Eczacıbaşı, Chair of the Board of Istanbul Modern, explained the special significance of Fahrelnissa Zeid to Istanbul Modern as well as in Turkey’s modern art: “When Istanbul Modern was still just an idea, the family of Turkey’s world-renowned artist Fahrelnissa Zeid made a gift of her masterpiece ‘My Hell’ to the museum we dreamed of opening one day. The moment Istanbul Modern was founded, the first work to enter the museum was this one. With Zeid’s increased visibility in the global art world, we wanted to bring the artist’s works together again after 11 years and introduce them to new generations.”

Levent Çalıkoğlu: “Zeid’s position in the global art world is secured”
Noting that 2017 is the year of Zeid in the global art world, Istanbul Modern Director Levent Çalıkoğlu added: “Without a doubt Fahrelnissa Zeid’s life story, character and approach to art make her one of the most creative artists of her generation and epoch. The belated interest of Western museums and art community in Zeid’s person and works, which is clearly evident in this year’s international exhibition calendar, is restoring her the value she deserves. In particular, the retrospective that Tate Modern is organizing will secure Zeid’s position in the global art world. Since we have a comprehensive collection of Zeid’s work, we are also supporting this global interest with this selection.”


Fahrelnissa Zeid was born on Büyükada in 1901 during the Ottoman era as the niece of Grand Vizier Cevat Paşa. She came from a large family of artists that included author Cevat Şakir Kabaağaçlı and painter Aliye Berger, her siblings. Her children from her marriage with author İzzet Melih Devrim were the painter Nejad Melih Devrim and the director and theater actress Şirin Devrim. Zeid was also the aunt of ceramic artist Füreya Koral.

One of the first female graduates of the Sanayi-i Nefise (Academy of Fine Arts), Fahrelnissa Zeid continued her studies in painting in the studio of Stalbach at the Académie Ranson in Paris, and later in the studio of Namık İsmail in Istanbul. In 1934, she married Prince Zeid, the ambassador of Iraq in Ankara, and became a princess. In 1942, she joined the Group D and took part in their exhibitions.

After her first solo exhibition held in her home in Maçka in 1944, Fahrelnissa Zeid had her works exhibited in Paris, London, New York, Brussels, and other cities where the couple lived after World War II. In 1976, Fahrelnissa Zeid moved permanently to Amman, where she established an institute of arts bearing her name and which she supported throughout her remaining years while continuing to produce art. She died in 1991 in Amman.

Known for her exuberant, powerful compositions, Fahrelnissa Zeid has a unique visual language so vivid and rich that it cannot be reduced to a single style. Her artistic practice can be classified under the following periods: an early period of figurative compositions with spaces constructed according to the style of miniatures; a period of maturity with geometrical and freely abstractionist works reminiscent of stained glass surfaces; and a late period consisting mainly of portraits in which psychological narrative comes to the fore.