Nobel winner Pamuk takes bric-a-brac to novel heights in Munich show

Turkish author Orhan Pamuk shows the members of the press his exhibition The Consolation of Objects, in Munich until October, after which it travels to Prague. Matthias Balk/dpa
Turkish author Orhan Pamuk shows the members of the press his exhibition The Consolation of Objects, in Munich until October, after which it travels to Prague. Matthias Balk/dpa
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Visitors to the Lenbachhaus Museum in Munich are in for a special kind of exhibition of visual art created by Turkish Nobel Prize-winning author Orhan Pamuk titled "The Consolation of Objects."

The title is from a chapter in Pamuk's novel of lost love, "The Museum of Innocence," in which the wealthy but forlorn Kemal takes solace in collecting items and objects that had belonged to his cousin Füsun. His collection becomes at once an obsession and a consolation, and in the end it numbers thousands of objects.

Pamuk, 71, wrote the novel - published in 2008 - at the same time that he himself was collecting items from flea markets both in his home city of Istanbul and on his travels all around the world for the specific purpose of creating his own museum.

The result of his efforts was the award-winning Museum of Innocence in Istanbul which opened in 2012. The collection there consists of 83 showcases - the same number of chapters in the novel. And while for Pamuk they were separate projects - writing a novel while also creating a museum - often the two would intersect.

"Sometimes I would find an item that I knew had to find a place in the novel," Pamuk told dpa. "And sometimes, while writing the story, I imagined some object or photograph that I actually wanted to go out and find."

Like his native city, the collections reflect the two worlds of Occidentalism and Orientalism - cultural, religious, political. The displays are a mixture of Western images, objects and texts which are juxtaposed and intermingled with Islamic and Ottoman Empire themes going back centuries in time and history.

At the same time, the items reflect images personal to the author - his family, relatives, and friends, as well as the neighbourhoods of Istanbul and the buildings and houses on the streets where he grew up starting in the 1950s.

Pamuk recreated 40 cabinets and dioramas from the Istanbul museum for the exhibition. In addition, he created seven new cabinets and dioramas especially referencing the Lenbachhaus's world-renowned collection of expressionist paintings. One collage titled "Archangel" references Paul Klee's 1938 painting of the same name. Three others reference paintings by Austrian artist Alfred Kubin.

The underlying philosophy boils down to remembrance, a motivating force in why people collect things, and why museums are important.

"A very special value of museums lies in how the objects relate to each other, how they relate to people and their thoughts and concerns," Pamuk said. "That's what I call the power of objects - a comforting force against the passing of time."

The Consolation of Objects is a travelling exhibition that started last fall in Dresden. After Munich (running to October 13), it is set to move on to the DOX Centre for Contemporary Art in Prague from November 2024 to March 2025.

The items collected by Orhan Pamuk reflect images personal to the author - his family, relatives, and friends, as well as the neighbourhoods of Istanbul and the buildings and houses on the streets where he grew up starting in the 1950s. Matthias Balk/dpa
The items collected by Orhan Pamuk reflect images personal to the author - his family, relatives, and friends, as well as the neighbourhoods of Istanbul and the buildings and houses on the streets where he grew up starting in the 1950s. Matthias Balk/dpa
Pamuk recreated 40 cabinets and dioramas from the award-winning Museum of Innocence in Istanbul for his newest exhibition now touring Europe. Matthias Balk/dpa
Pamuk recreated 40 cabinets and dioramas from the award-winning Museum of Innocence in Istanbul for his newest exhibition now touring Europe. Matthias Balk/dpa
The collection of drawings "The Nights of the Plague" by Orhan Pamuk can be seen in the Turkish author's exhibition in Munich until October. Matthias Balk/dpa
The collection of drawings "The Nights of the Plague" by Orhan Pamuk can be seen in the Turkish author's exhibition in Munich until October. Matthias Balk/dpa