Sarkis /   Sarkis Zabunyan

Turkey 1938

Installation, Conceptual Art, Light Art

Sarkis Zabunyan
June 1, 2016
Alias of Jasmina Sevic, a researcher and author for Widewalls. She graduated from the Faculty of Political Science (Department for Journalism) in Belgrade in 2013.

Sarkis Zabunyan, who is known only by his first name, is an internationally acclaimed conceptual artist hailing from Turkey. In a prolific career that encompasses over six decades, he had developed a unique body of work composed of films, paintings, drawings, texts, photographs, and site-specific works that deal with a wide range of themes and explore issues of presence and absence, place and identity, permanence and transience, time and memory. Over the years, he became most famous for his sensory and enigmatic installations that combine light, sounds and different kind of materials.

Sarkis - Istanbul Passion Joy Fury, MAXXI, Roma, 2015-2016
Sarkis – Istanbul Passion Joy Fury, MAXXI, Roma, 2015-2016

Academic Background and Beginnings

Born to Armenian parents on September 26, 1938, in Istanbul, Sarkis had his first contact with a work of art at an early age when he saw Munch’s Screem reproduced in local newspapers. He studied at the St. Michel French High School and obtained his degree in interior architecture from the Istanbul Academy of Fine Arts (now Mimar Sinan University of Fine Arts). Upon his architectural studies, Sarkis married to Isil, a young philosophy student with whom he moved to Paris in 1964, as they both wanted to discover the Louvre and the City of the Light. Life in the French capital has served as a source of great inspiration for the artist. While in museums in his home county he could see only work by Turkish artists, in Paris he was introduced not only to French and Western art but also to the European and American cinema. Subsequently, Sarkis has created many works that explore the complex relationship between cinema and contemporary art.

Life in Paris has served as a source of great inspiration for Sarkis

Sarkis - Landscape Forever, exhibition at Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam, 2008 modern search
Sarkis – Landscape Forever, Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam, 2008

The Kriegsschatz – Art against Forgetting

In the early years of his career, Sarkis explored themes of war and violence – he made a number of collages with crowds of soldiers and war scenes influenced by the Vietnam War in the mid-1960s, as well as the historic dispute between Turkey and Armenians. In 1976, he coined the term Kriegsschatz, which appears frequently throughout his work and can be translated as “war trophy”. Objects discovered and seized by using violence – become trophies and marks of power. As a concept, the Kriegsschatz is linked to the history of civilizations and humankind. His oeuvre belongs to the universal diaspora, located in between the agreement to forget and the duty to remember.

The term Kriegsschatz appears frequently throughout the artist’s work

Sarkis - The Red Queen, Mona, Hobart, Tasmania, 2013 - 2014 modern search
Sarkis – The Red Queen, Mona, Hobart, Tasmania, 2013 – 2014

Exhibitions by Sakis

Sarkis had his debut solo show at the Istanbul Art Gallery in 1960. Since then, he exhibited his work in many solo and group shows, including Harald Szeemann’s famous exhibition Live In Your Head: When Attitudes Become Form at Kunsthalle Bern in 1969, Documenta VI and VII, Lyon Biennial, and several Istanbul Biennials. His major exhibitions include Passages at the Pompidou Centre in 2010, and Hôtel Sarkis – retrospective of his work at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Geneva (MAMCO), one year later. Most recently, his installation Respiro was on display at the Turkish pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015.

In 2015, he represented Turkey at the Venice Biennale

Sarkis - Respiro, exhibition at the Turkish Pavillon, 2015, modern search
Sarkis – Respiro, Venice Biennale, Turkish Pavillon, 2015, photo by Andre Morin

Pushing the Boundaries of Installation Art

Sarkis’ career was marked by numerous achievements, one of which is the position of a director of the Art Department at the École des Arts Décoratifs in Strasbourg, which he held from 1980 until 1990. His multidisciplinary practice has been pushing the boundaries of art since the early 1960s. His striking installations – composed of mirrors, stained glass boards, and neon lights – explore the ideas of dialogue and transformation, past and present, and time and space that are at the core of his work. He is the recipient of the 1967 Prix de la Peinture at the Biennale de Paris and the 1991 Grand Prix National de Sculpture.

Sarkis lives and works in Paris.

Featured image: Sarkis Zabunyan – portrait, 2006
All images copyright of the artist

YearExhibition TitleMuseum/GallerySolo/Group
2016CarambolagesGrand Palais, Paris, FranceGroup
2015Respiro56th Pavilion of Turkey, ItalySolo
2015Sarkis With ParadjanovVilla Empain, Boghossian Foundation, Brussels, BelgiumSolo
2015Frieze MastersLondon, United KingdomSolo
2015V.11 Et V.12Nuit Blanche, Villejuif, FranceSolo
2015Saltwater – A Theory Of Thougt FormsIstanbul Biennale, TurkeyGroup
2015Armenity Venice BiennalePavilion of Armenia, ItalyGroup
2015Summer ExhibitionNathalie Obadia Gallery, Brussels, BelgiumGroup
20156Th International Egeart Art DaysEge University, Izmir, TurkeyGroup
2015Istanbul. Passion, Joy, FuryMAXXI, Roma, ItalyGroup
2014Au Commencement Le BlancGalerie Nathalie Obadia, ParisSolo
2014At The Other End Of The Rainbow – A L’Autre Bout De L’Arc-En-CielMusee du Paysan, Bucarest, RoumanieSolo
2014Sarkis / Ring PortraitsHuis Marseille Museum voor Fotografie, Amsterdam, Pays-BasSolo
2014AimantsMusee du chateau des ducs de Wurtemberg, MontbeliardSolo
2014Arte Video NightPalais de Tokyo, ParisSolo
2014The Red QueenMuseum of Old and New Art (MONA), Hobart, Tasmanie, AustralieGroup
2014Magiciens De La Terremise en scene par Sarkis, Centre Pompidou, ParisGroup
2014Plurivocality Istanbul Modern, Istanbul, TurquieGroup
2014Objets : Pouvoirs SecretsPassage de Retz, ParisGroup
2014Ex-Voto D’Artistes ContemporainsMusee du Montparnasse, ParisGroup
2014Un Moment D’Eternite Dans Le Passage Du TempsLa Terrasse, Espace d'art de NanterreGroup
2013Chateau D’AngersCentre des Monuments Nationaux, AngersSolo
201355Eme Exposition Internationale D’ArtVenise, ItalieSolo
2013Une Traversee En CouleurMusee d’art et d’histoire de St-BrieucGroup
2013Ailleurs, IciMarseille-Provence 2013, Capitale europeenne de la culture, MarseilleGroup
2013Modernity? Perspective From France And Turkey Istanbul Museum of Modern Art, Istanbul, TurquieGroup
2013Un Monde InverifiableCouvent des Minimes, PerpignanGroup
2013Iskele 2. The Unanswered QuestionTANAS and NBK – Neue Berliner Kunstverein, Berlin, AllemagneGroup
2013Sarkis – Cage/Ryoanji InterpretationARTER – Space for Art, Istanbul, TurquieGroup
2012BalladsSubmarine warehouse in collaboration with Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, RotterdamSolo
2012Ailleurs, Ici.Chateau de Chaumont-sur-Loire, Chaumont-sur-LoireSolo
2012Aura D’Apres VaudouGalerie Nathalie Obadia, ParisSolo
2012Passage Croises En OrChateau d’Angers, Centre des Monuments Nationaux, AngersSolo
2012Icila nuit verte est immense - Fantastic 2012, Palais Rameau, LilleSolo
2012La TriennaleIntense Proximite , Palais de Tokyo, ParisGroup
2012Hors Les MursGalerie Nathalie Obadia, Bruxelles, BelgiqueGroup
2012Neon, Who'S Afraid Of Red, Yellow And Blue?La Maison Rouge, ParisGroup
2012Vivement Demain, Nouveau Parcours De La CollectionMAC/VAL, Val de Marne, Ivry-sur-SeineGroup
2012Istanbul ModernMusee Boijmans van Beunungen, Rotterdam, Pays-BasGroup
2012In BetweenGalerie Nathalie Obadia, Bruxelles, BelgiqueGroup
2011Opus IiGalerie Nathalie Obadia, ParisSolo
2011Hotel SarkisMamco, Geneve, SuisseSolo
2010Sarkis - PassagesCentre Pompidou, ParisSolo
2010OpusGalerist Istanbul, TurquieSolo
2010A Cage RoaratorioIRCAM, ParisSolo
2010Bir IkonaKazim Taskent Galerisi, Istanbul, TurquieSolo
2010….Une CollectionMAMCO, Geneve, SuisseGroup
2010In Den Schluchten Des BalkanKunsthalle Fridericianum Cassel, AllemagneGroup
2010BoîtesMusee d’Art Moderne, ARC 2, ParisGroup
2010La Coleccion SonnabendCentro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, EspagneGroup
2010Tactics Of InvisibilityThyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienne, AutricheGroup
2010Nomos Et PhysisGalerie UQAM, Montreal, CanadaGroup
2010Violet De BayeuxLe Hangar. BayeuxGroup
2009D’Apres Et ApresEcole des Beaux-Arts, RennesSolo
2009Ring PortretsGalerie de Zaal, Delft, Pays-BasSolo
2009EkphrasisGalerie Art & Essai, RennesSolo
2009Le Cri Du PaysageGalerieofMarseille, MarseilleGroup
2009Altin Iskele (L'Echaffaudage En Or)Atik Valide Kulliyesi, Uskudar, Istanbul, TurquieGroup
2009Sarkis Yildiz'DaGalerie Yuksel Sabanci, Universite Yildiz, Istanbul, TurquieGroup
2009LitaniesNuit Blanche, La Grande Mosquee de ParisGroup
2009Biennale De LyonLyonGroup
2009Europe Xxl IstanbulTraversee, Palais des Beaux-Arts, LilleGroup
2008Landscape ForeverMuseum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam, Pays-BasSolo
2008Dans La Nuits Des ImagesNef du Grand Palais, ParisSolo
2008L’Art Contemporain De Georges PerecMusee des Beaux-Arts, NantesGroup
2008En PerspectiveGiacometti , Musee des Beaux-Arts, CaenGroup
2007InclinaisonMusee Bourdelle, ParisSolo
2007Rencontre Avec Uccello, Grunewald, Munch, BeuysMusee du Louvre, ParisSolo
2007IkonenBode Museum, Berlin, AllemagneSolo
2007Biennale De MoscouRussieGroup
2007La Suite Des InnocentsLa Maison Rouge, ParisGroup
200710Eme Biennale D’IstanbulTurquieGroup
2006Alive And After San Francisco Art Institute, USASolo
2006La Force De L’ArtGrand Palais, ParisGroup
2006Rencontre Sarkis/KramerMusee des Beaux-Arts, LilleGroup
2005LichtkunstZKM Karlsruhe, AllemagneGroup
2005R.W. – 1 + 2 ContrepointsMAMCO, Geneve, SuisseGroup
2004148 IkonasMuseum Kunst Palast, Dusseldorf, AllemagneSolo
20045Eme Biennale De CetinjeMontenegroGroup
2004Call Me IstanbulZKM, Karlsruhe, AllemagneGroup
2003Voyages En AquarellesGalerie de France, ParisSolo
2003L'AtterrissageMusee Picasso, AntibesSolo
2002Musee D'Art ContemporainLyonSolo
2002Le Voyage. Le Soleil. L'ObscuriteMusee d'Art Moderne de CeretSolo
2002Ikones Dans La ChapelleEcole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts, ParisSolo
2002Le Diaphane & L'ObscurMaison Europeenne de la Photographie, ParisGroup
2002Les Annees 70, L'Art En CauseCAPC Musee de BordeauxGroup
2000Sarkis 21.01.2000 - 09.04.2000CAPC Musee BordeauxSolo
1999L'Echo De Ma MainMAMCO, Geneve, SuisseSolo
1998Les Films Tournes A SacheAtelier Calder, SacheSolo
1997Au Commencement, Le Son De La Lumiere, A L'ArriveeMusee des Beaux-Arts, NantesSolo
1995Das Licht Des Blitzes, Der Lärm Des DonnersMuseum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Vienne, Autriche;Solo
1990Ma Chambre De La Rue Krutenau A San Lazzaro, (La 2Eme Interpretation)San Lazzaro dei Armeni, Biennale de Venise, ItalieSolo
199012Eme Biennale Internationale De DessinMuseum of Modern Art, Rijeka, YougoslavieGroup
1989Les Magiciens De La TerreCentre Georges Pompidou et La Grande Halle de la Villette, Paris, Group
1988Collection SonnabendCAPC Musee d’Art Contemporain, Entrepôt Laîne, BordeauxGroup
1988MeltemLe Magasin / Centre National d’Art Contemporain, GrenobleGroup
1987Sarkis DreamsVilla Arson, NiceGroup
1986A Quoi Bon La LumiereEcole Nationale d’Art Decoratif, LimogesSolo
1986Collection SouvenirLe Nouveau Musee, VilleurbanneGroup
1984La Fin Des Siecles, Le Debut Des SieclesARC, Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de ParisSolo
1983Rupture Pas RuptureCentre Culturel Le Parvis, TarbesGroup
1981KCentre d’Art Contemporain, Geneve, SuisseSolo
1979Reserves AccessiblesMusee National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, ParisSolo
1979Der Blackout Ist Voller Schwarzer Blauer Roter Goldener Farbe So Wie Der AnstreicherNeue Galerie, Sammlung Ludwig, Aix-la-Chapelle, AllemagneSolo
1978Kriegsschatz KlassenkriegWestfälischer Kunstverein, Munster, AllemagneSolo
1978The Record As Artwork (From Futurism To Conceptual Art)The Fort Worth Art Museum, Fort Worth, USAGroup
1978Texas Moor College Of Art GalleryPhiladelphia, USAGroup
1978Musee D’Art ContemporainMontreal, CanadaGroup
1978Museum Of Contemporary ArtChicago, USAGroup
1977Documenta ViCassel, AllemagneGroup
1976Autopsie D’Une Peinture Anonyme Murale En Face De La Base Sous-Marine A BordeauxCAPC de BordeauxSolo
1976Identite / IdentificationCAPC de Bordeaux et Palais des Beaux-Arts de Bruxelles, BelgiqueGroup
1976The Artist And The PhotographMusee d’Israel, Jerusalem, IsraelGroup
1973La Drama Of The TempestMusee Galliera, ParisSolo
1972Operation OrganeKunsthalle, Dusseldorf, AllemagneSolo
1969Quand Les Attitudes Deviennent FormesKunsthalle Bern, SuisseGroup
1969I.C.ALondres, Royaume-UniGroup
1966Salon De La Jeune PeintureMusee d’Art Moderne, ParisGroup