Trumbauer Family Collection

Project with Özgür Demirci
Site-specific Installation – Performance
08 Nov- 23rd December 2017 
Kasa Gallery, İstanbul 


Trumbauer Family Collection is a fictional narration based on true stories about art thieves in recent history. The project was inspired by the research on art crime and stolen art in Public spaces (parks and museums) by Turkish artists Ozgur Demirci and Suat Ogut. We made a side-specific project with the existing and new works at the basement of the former german bank in Istanbul, which was a storage place for valuable properties. Since 1998 this space is used by Sabanci University as a non-profit exhibition space.

The exhibition was narrated as the collection represents the extensive history of the “Trumbauer family”. According to the project, it was only possible to visit with so-called a member of the family’s private security who was in fact an actor and performing different roles during their visits. He was an integral part of the exhibition. In the exhibition, he was in charge to organize a tour in close dialogue with the audience, creating a different experience each time with the interaction of the viewer. We were interested in how to highlight the art crimes, the disappearance of works of art and the public’s inability to access them as well as shifting the role of the security guard to art historian and thief to the collector.

The project wandered around the collectorship as a structure that preserves and protects the works. Our main question was what if the private collections, together with institutional structures, become a model that protects the cultural heritage and enables public access?

The exhibition consisted of 3 rooms.

After welcoming the visitors as a security guard, in the first room which is covered with retro-type wallpapers, our security guard started to act more as an art historian by telling the stories of 5 famous burglaries in different museums in Europe. The first room resembled as a family study room where we had presented the burglary plans with the floor maps of the museums hanging on the wall. Besides that, each family member had a robotic portrait which is framed in a family tree.

While the visitors were more at the moment to receive the stories by the so-called art historian, he opens a secret entrance towards the bookshelf to the second room which is dark and surrounded by laser security systems. The visitors could follow the art historian with more or less sceptical steps to enter the second room. In these rooms, the stories told by the performer make acrobatic movements without touching the laser system and become a thief while telling the stories of each artwork in the collection. This room was mostly connected with the stolen sculptures in Public Space.

The Third room welcomes the visitors with a monumental cabinet, which has paintings in each drawer. These are the works which had stolen from the 5 museums that we mentioned in the first room. Here performer becomes more of a collector to share each story of the paintings with the visitors.

For this part of the project, we collaborated with Fine Art Academies in Istanbul to produce a replica of the stolen paintings. As the education system is still old fashion in academies in Turkey, students are obliged to learn how to make replicas of the world-famous great masters. In that case, we were able to contextualise the project with an existing educational system.