Trumbauer Family Collection

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


The Trumbauer Family Collection is a fictional narrative rooted in actual events surrounding art thefts in recent history. Conceived by artists Ozgur Demirci and Suat Ogut, the project delves into the realm of art crime and the theft of artworks from public spaces such as parks and museums. Executed as a site-specific endeavor, the collection was displayed in the basement of the former German bank in Istanbul, a space historically used for storing valuable properties and subsequently transformed into a non-profit exhibition venue by Sabanci University since 1998.

Positioned as a comprehensive chronicle of the “Trumbauer family,” the exhibition was designed to be accessed exclusively through guided tours led by a member of the family’s private security—a role played by an actor who assumed different personas during each visit. This interactive element was integral to the exhibition, with the security guard orchestrating tours in close dialogue with the audience, providing a unique experience with each interaction.

The project aimed to shed light on art crimes, the disappearance of artworks, and the public’s limited access to them. It sought to challenge traditional roles by transforming the security guard into an art historian and the thief into a collector. The exploration of collectorship as a structure-preserving and safeguarding of artworks was central to the project. The overarching question posed was whether private collections, in collaboration with institutional structures, could serve as a model to protect cultural heritage and facilitate public access.

The exhibition unfolded in various rooms, with the first room resembling a family study showcasing burglary plans and floor maps of museums. Each family member was represented by a robotic portrait framed within a family tree. A monumental cabinet housed paintings stolen from five renowned burglaries in European museums, with the performer adopting the role of a collector, sharing the stories of each artwork with visitors. To enhance the project’s context, collaborations with Fine Art Academies in Istanbul were initiated, producing replicas of the stolen paintings. This collaboration also served to contextualize the project within the existing educational system, highlighting the traditional practice of academy students learning to replicate masterpieces and connecting it to the narrative of the Trumbauer Family Collection.