The Josephine Powell Collection

Category: Exhibitions

Exhibition Dates: April 18 – May 2, 2007
Location: Silahhane, Yildiz Saray, Istanbul
Exhibition is free, catalogue will be available

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The collection or the eye of the collector itself? Happily, visitors to an extraordinary retrospective of a legendary figure in the world of kilims and flat-weaves will not have to decide which is the more remarkable but be able to appreciate both. Diminutive, but tough and acerbic, Josephine Powell (1919-2007) was by any stretch of the imagination a towering figure in the appreciation of the textiles and artefacts of the village and nomadic people of Anatolia. Like most collectors, she had an inner daemon to acquire, but in her case it was the need to demonstrate the skill and aesthetic of women for whose culture and civilization she had a profound respect. She had many careers – refugee worker and ethnographer and as a photographer she compiled a precious record of now vanished monuments and landscapes from Istanbul to Herat to Samarqand. However, it was her freedom of spirit which commanded the devotion of friends. These she directed with a steely will to help document, contextualize the collection, and the memory they preserve of her still oversees the exhibition of her life’s work. It is that freedom, in colour and design and in the need to embellish the objects of every day life, which is on display.

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This tribute to Josephine Powell’s life consists of being able to share the things which mattered to her most, but which for the most part languished unseen in the Istanbul apartment where she spent the final decades of her life. At its core are the wonderful kilims and storage bags (cuvals), all of which are older than 100 years and which represent some of the finest weavings of their genre. The exhibition also includes a unique collection of weaving tools and the utilitarian objects valued by the weavers themselves. Together, they represent a rare insight into women’s work. Special attention has been given to incorporating her photographs and field notes into the exhibition to show how the tools were actually used. Josephine’s huge photograph archive (over 35,000 images), all of her collected artefacts, weavings, books and field notes have been willed to the Vehbi Koç Foundation who have sponsored the current exhibition.

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Seref Ozen, Cocoon, Istanbul 3 April 2007


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