As part of UNESCO’s “Living Human Treasures” programme, the exhibition “Gem and Craft: In Pursuit of the Artisans of Grand Bazaar” is open from 16 February to 30 April 2017. Anyone who wishes to see it can do so at Istanbul’s Rezan Has, Museum. Those who cannot be in Turkey between those dates, but are fascinated by this rich bejewelled legacy, should read further.
The Rezan Has Museum is a private museum in Istanbul that houses collections dedicated to Turkish art and culture. Rezan Has, the wife of Turkish businessman Kadir Has, founded the museum in 2007 in the historical Karanlık Çeşme (“Dark Tulip”) building. The museum has a permanent collection that includes unique archaeological artefacts and regularly holds exhibitions.
“Gem and Craft: In Pursuit of the Artisans of Grand Bazaar” has seized the handiwork and stories of those jewellery artisans who constitute an inextricable part of a 550-year tradition. The exhibits are displayed to visitors in an entirely unique way: here can be seen not only the results of creativity, but also the tools with which they were achieved and the signature style of the craftsmen.
With this exhibition, the curators wanted to tell the story of Grand Bazaar, to demonstrate the long-running tradition of transferring knowledge and skills from master to apprentice. The tradition originates from the time of the Ottoman Empire and is now supported by the organisation Ehl-i Hıref.
Only those jewellers who follow this practice of taught experience and demonstrate a preference for innovative designs were invited to participate in the exhibition. Amongst them are Arman Suciyan, Hraç Arslanyan, Hagop Erol Bahadıroğlu-Aret Çakıcı, Sevan Bıçakçı, Kürşat Bilmiş, Partam Derderyan, Manuk Durmazgüler, Berç Melikyan, and others.
The hidden workings of Grand Bazaar, one of the most important financial centres in Istanbul, are exposed to visitors of the Rezan Has museum through the sociological, economic and cultural conditions of different eras and the unique stories of the artisans themselves. It is the curators’ intention that the viewer can follow the journey of a gemstone as it found life in the hands of a jeweller and was turned into a dazzling piece of jewellery.
“The exhibition was designed to offer a contemporary perspective on jewellery design by unveiling the mysteries of the workshops run by the last generation of artisans that continue to produce using traditional techniques and contribute infinitely to the character and essence of Kapalıçarşı (Grand Bazaar) jewellery-making.
The conceptual backbone of the exhibition, on the other hand, is based on the results of the academic research project “The Relationship between Craftsmanship, Design and Innovation in the Context of Intangible Cultural Heritage as the Source of Creative Economy: The “Living Human Treasures” of Grand Bazaar” conducted between 2013 and 2015 and supported by TÜBİTAK (the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey)” comments Ayşe Coşkun Orlandi, PhD, one of the exhibition’s curators.
The works selected for the exhibition truly highlight the importance of traditional craftsmanship techniques: goldsmithing by hand, stone setting, polishing, engraving, enamelling, etc. “Gem and Craft: In Pursuit of the Artisans of Grand Bazaar” enables us to come face to face with the artisans of Grand Bazaar, artists who possibly constitute the very last generation of craftsmen that follow traditions which date right back to the Byzantine Period.KP