The Global Art Project

Orhan Pamuk: The Art of Fiction

The Art of Fiction offers a unique journey through Orhan Pamuk’s literature, with The Museum of Innocence as the focal point. 

Orhan Pamuk’s critically acclaimed novel The Museum of Innocence is both a classic love story and an ode to Istanbul. On its most basic level The Museum of Innocence is the story of Kemal who falls so deeply in love with Füsun that he becomes obsessed with collecting objects that remind him of the time they spent together before fate would tear them apart—not only once but twice. These objects are spun into a nostalgic and sentimental story that also paints a vivid picture of Istanbul from the 1970s to the early 2000s.  

As viewers, we are invited to consider the symbolism of real objects that relate to a fiction. As readers, we are confronted with reality through intermittent references to Orhan Pamuk and the museum that he would later create to house the objects that Kemal collects. This playful balance between fiction and reality—so typical of Orhan Pamuk’s literary style—teases our understanding of both.  Neither a book about a museum, nor a museum about a book, these are two sides of the same story; one told through words, the other expressed through objects. As such, an epic tale of love, an ode to Istanbul, and an unprecedented work of art come together to reveal the full potential of the relationship between words and images, literature and art.

The exhibition features twenty-nine replicas of vitrines from The Museum of Innocence in Istanbul.  Inside each vitrine is a selection of carefully composed objects that reference specific chapters in the novel The Museum of Innocence.  It is worth mentioning the strong link between Orhan Pamuk’s vitrines and Joseph Cornell’s shadow boxes as Pamuk’s vitrines are based on many of the same principles: ready-mades, found objects, assemblage, the relationship between objects, and surrealism.  

The vitrines are complemented by historical film footage, family photographs, a sound component, and an interactive video presentation of Orhan Pamuk’s notebooks filled with texts and watercolors. The Art of Fiction also features twelve original accordion notebooks filled with words and images, which have never been presented or published previously. These serve to emphasize the importance of Orhan Pamuk’s role as a visual artist. In  fact, he dreamed of becoming an artist until the age of twenty-three when “a screw fell loose” and he decided to become an author. Although Pamuk went on to become an award winning author the artist inside him never died. In its entirety the exhibition demonstrates that literature and art are of equal importance to Orhan Pamuk.

The exhibition opened at The Museum of Cultural History, Oslo on May  22, 2017 and will be on view through October 15, 2017. The exhibition is accompanied by an audioguide, and a fully illustrated book with texts by Orhan Pamuk, Bernt Brendemoen, and Selene Wendt. 

The exhibition is supported by The Foundation for Free Speech, The Norwegian Cultural Council, The City of Oslo (Kulturetaten), Films from the South, and Bergesenstiftelsen.