Heidi Trautmann

193 - Bedri Rahmi: The Lost Mosaic Wall: From Expo 1958 to Cyprus – Review

By Heidi Trautmann


Sometimes in life it so happens that you come across an opportunity so unique that you grab it and drop everything else. This happened to Sidestreets less than a year ago, as Anber Onar tells me. The first traces of the lost mosaic wall of Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu were discovered! But before I tell you how, we should know more about the artist himself.


Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu, painter, writer and poet, was born in Görele on the Black Sea in 1911. He was the second child of a family of five. He graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Istanbul in 1936, but also studied in France. In 1937 he entered the Academy as the assistant and translator of Leopold Levy, he remained at the Academy until his death in 1975. Bedri Rahmi was a very prolific artist, he painted frescoes at the Lido restaurant in Istanbul 1943, a large panel at the Ankara Opera House (1946). He was sent by the government to the city of Edirne in 1938 and to Çorum and Iskilip in 1942. This was a turning point in his painting career. He worked with mosaics and prepared a panel of 250 square meters for the Brussels Fair in 1958 which brought him the first prize award. His mosaic panels are in many places in Europe and his work can be found in various museums in the USA, Europe and Turkey. He is known to have been an excellent teacher and many of Turkey's contemporary artists have praised him.

This over 100 m long mosaic wall was created by the artist for the World Fair in Brussels in 1958 for the Turkish Pavilion. Photos prove it. Prove the beauty of it and its monumentality. But now, how come that fragments of this wall were discovered in Cyprus? What Dr. Johann Pillai and Anber Onar have to tell sounds like a detective story. The Turkish Ambassador approached Sidestreets to tell that panels of this mosaic wall have been in the Embassy for many years since the 60s and he would like to see the art work moved to a place where it can be displayed for the public to see. When Johann Pillai, Anber Onar and Emin Cizenel started their research from here they discovered more and more fragments with the Turkish military, in the offers’ club in Ortaköy, in the Villa Firtina in ?? as parts of wall or floor decoration, pieces broken apart and used for tables. The journey of discovery took them to Brussels, London and Istanbul and all over Cyprus. The catalogue they planned to make on the pieces found took on,  along its way,  the format of a book and is now available. A beautiful work in English and Turkish “The Lost Mosaic Wall – From Expo 58 to Cyprus” by Johann Pillai about its past and its sad journey of destruction and partly recoverey in Cyprus. Anber Onar and Emin Cizenel did the curating part and what we see today as exhibition in Sidestreets Nicosia is many months of hard detailed work.

They say in their Curator’s Note …As the Curatorial team we decided to pay tribute to the work by recognizing its past monumentality, and also the present monumentality as a witness and a question mark to history. The work is ready to receive visitors, not simply for the purpose of admiring what the artist has done, but to question the transient nature of worldly values, set against the traces of life of an artwork. The work exists in many physical and conceptual forms and is constantly given new value and meaning, raises new questions, though it flashes of appearance and disappearance in history….The wall fragments also a witness of Cyprus’ history, …”silent and monumental ruins of history”.

The exhibition is open until November 30 2010 at office hours at Sidestreets, 22 Mahkemeler Önü, Lefkosa; Tel 0090 392 229 3070.

I must go back to Sidestreets to take some pictures of the exhibition because at night there would have been to many reflections. I will complete my report. Heidi

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