Old meets new, traditional meets contemporary, and modest meets monumental at the new OMM museum in Eskişehir.

By Aylin Öney Tan

Photo Merve Göral Güngördü

Nestled into the old, historic Odunpazarı (wood market) quarter, the new OMM, short for the Odunpazarı Modern Museum, fits perfectly in its new location in Eskişehir. Although designing a modern structure in a historical environment is never an easy task, the new OMM building has become a welcome addition to the fabric of the neighborhood and an icon of the city.

As Eskişehir’s first modern art museum, OMM fills a void in the city’s growing cultural awakening. Founded by Erol Tabanca, who not only serves as chairman of the construction group Polimeks, but is also an architect and a keen collector of modern art, OMM is the realization of his long held dream to open a museum in his hometown. Dovetailing nicely with the city’s ongoing revitalization plans and emergence as new cultural hotspot, an unused plot of land at the site of the old wood market provided the perfect solution.

With plans to mimic the globally renowned architecture of Bilbao, Spain, Tabanca enlisted reputable Japanese architecture firm Kengo Kuma & Associates (KKAA), known for their use of natural materials such as stone and timber, to bring his dreams to fruition. Finding inspiration in the resemblance of traditional Turkish and Japanese houses, KKAA cleverly paid homage to the district’s name, designing a museum exterior clad in wood that resembles horizontal timber beams. Remarkably balanced, playing with light and shadows, and keeping to the KKAA philosophy of “combining nature and architecture by establishing a strong link between the building and its environment,” OMM has become not only a place for art, but also a living room of sorts for the community.

Like Hüsamettin Koçan, another artist that gifted a museum to his home village in Bayburt, Erol Tabanca’s dream of opening a museum in his hometown has yielded a new visual and cultural landmark. The new OMM has undoubtedly has put Eskişehir on the world map of art and architecture.

OIII III: The Logo

Designed by Emine Tusavul, the logo of the Odunpazarı Modern Museum is a natural continuation of the architecture of the museum. Well-thought out and acclaimed by Kengo Kuma himself, it is inspired by the architecture of the building and features thick bold letters, with an O grouped with multiple vertical lines, void of the traditional diagonal lines found in the letter M.

OMM-INN

Three adjacent Odunpazarı houses have been combined and transformed into a stylish boutique hotel, housing 12 rooms and some eateries, such as OMM INN Café and Restaurant. Inspired by art and design, the place also aims to be the hub of resident artists.


Exhibition highlights

Vuslat – The Union

Vuslat – The Union is the inaugural exhibition of OMM. Like the Portuguese concept of saudade (hasret in Turkish), or longing, vuslat describes the exact moment when this longing ends, be it a reunion with the long lost loved one, or the realization of an idea once believed unachievable. Vuslat is the ultimate and final union.

Curated by Haldun Dostoğlu of Galeri Nev in Istanbul, the title “Vuslat – The Union” was chosen for three main reasons: first, Eskişehir embraces its first modern museum; second, the founder, Erol Tabanca, realizes his dream; and last but not least, the works of art meet the visitors. The collection, which Tabanca started in early 2000s, is comprised of works created after the 1950s by artists from Turkey and from several corners of the world. Dostoğlu describes the Tabanca Collection as “a varied, pluralist and multicolored collection that has expanded over multiple narratives, rather than around a single backbone.”

The exhibition brings together works by epoch-making artists in Turkish art history with those of young contemporary artists, thus uniting several creative generations which, in a sense, reflects a character much like the multi-faceted, multi-layered history of Eskişehir. As Dostoğlu says, “the first exhibition of such collections is always the hardest to curate.” The exhibition features only a small percent of the 2000-piece collection, with only 90 works, out of which 80 are by Turkish artists, carefully selected to give a representative cross-section of the whole collection. Dostoğlu, himself an architect like Erol Tabanca, has taken the utmost care in placing the works in the right places, respecting the architecture of Kengo Kuma while at times highlighting certain elements of the space.

Marshmallow Laser Feast: Treehugger and In the Eyes of the Animal

The works of Marshmallow Laser Feast, one of the world’s leading experiential art collectives, are multi-sensory immersive installations that illuminate the invisible connection that ties animal and plant, human and natural world. They invite participants to embark on a sensory experience, voyaging to the boundaries of installation, live performance, and virtual reality. The natural forces surrounding us in everyday life are revealed in this experience, allowing participants to view the challenges our planet faces in the twenty-first century and reminding us of our dependence on, and responsibility to, the organisms with which we share the world. Until December 7, 2019

Tanabe Chikuunsai IV

Tanabe Chikuunsai IV comes from one of the most esteemed bamboo artist families of Japan. Having learned the art at a very young age from his father, he later graduated from the sculpture department of Tokyo Fine Arts University in 1999, going on to pursue a career in Osaka. He owes his originality to transferring traditional bamboo basket weaving techniques to large-scale site-specific installations. His works are in the permanent collections of 21 museums, including the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

For his OMM installation, Chikuunsai IV used the tiger bamboo variety, grown only on a mountain in Japan’s Kochi region. While talking about the installation, he says he “had the four elements in nature as themes, namely water, fire, air and earth. And the fifth element is space. Some call it universe, others call it cosmos. The people I met during my trips to Eskişehir and during my two weeks in the city, and my interactions with them became part of this fifth element.” Until September 8, 2020