What’s Behind the Curtain in Istanbul?
In a group exhibition titled Still Life with a Curtain, Beyoglu’s Galerist and Galeri Nev Ankara join forces with curator Deniz Artun to bring an ancient Greek story up to date
In ancient Greece, painters Zeuxis of Heraclea and Parrhasius of Ephesus were unrivalled in their skills. Who was the better artist? As things go in these stories, the people decided to challenge them to a contest, having them paint murals behind separate curtains.
When Zeuxis lifted his, he revealed a bowl of fruits, a deceptively simple still life that had viewers practically tasting the pears and grapes. It was said to be so realistic that a flock of birds flew into the painting, trying to grab one of the juicy grapes, meeting their death on the wall.
When the jury asked Parrhasius to lift his curtain and unveil his mural, he said he just couldn’t do it. Was he admitting defeat? Quite the contrary: he couldn’t do it because what they thought was a piece of fabric was instead his mural. He had painted an actual curtain for the competition, fooling everyone into his idea of reality.
That’s the ancient anecdote by Pliny the Elder that gave birth to Still Life with a Curtain, an exhibition at Istanbul’s Galerist that invites people to question the dichotomy between nature and culture through the genre. For that purpose, curator Deniz Artun has decided to present the works in pairs. “To contemplate two works simultaneously and to discover the infinitude of their mutual reflections is the perfect game to flutter the curtains in our eyes,” she explains. The exhibition, done in collaboration with Ankara’s Galeri Nev, displays work by a long list of 25 artists, including Selim Cebeci, Ali Şentürk and Necla Rüzgar.
Zeuxis, by the way, admitted defeat in the duel: while he was able to deceive the birds, Parrhausius had skilfully deceived him. Nature versus culture, indeed.
Still Life with a Curtain is on display until June 23