'I regret having dedicated my life to İstanbul,' famous art historian says

Art historian Semavi Eyice regrets having dedicated his life to İstanbul because the city is not the old İstanbul and art history is not appreciated anymore.

'I regret having dedicated my life to İstanbul,' famous art historian says

Art historian Semavi Eyice is a famous name and played a huge role in conveying the architectural, historical and aesthetic values of the past to the present, producing extensive works on the art history of İstanbul, Ottoman and Byzantine states. It could be said that his is a life dedicated to İstanbul. However, Eyice says he now regrets it because the city is not the old İstanbul and art history is not appreciated anymore.


Eyice started exploring İstanbul together with his classmates Ahmet Nadir Pekelmen and Turgut Cansever in his elementary school years. He spent whole weekends exploring the streets of the city with his friends. Thanks to these explorations in high school as well, Eyice became familiar with the identity and fabric of İstanbul as well as with the historical ruins in the city. He even drew pictures of some works and ruins for his records. Eyice, in his curiosity, decided to study art history at İstanbul University. He continued exploring in his college years, where he studied the minarets and fountains in the city. His education was followed by studies of the Byzantine era, making him one of the few Byzantine-era experts in the country.

Even the list containing Eyice's works is 136 pages long. Even though most of the items on this list are studies on İstanbul, Eyice holds that there are a lot more that need to be explored. However, he believes that not only students of history, but history teachers, are of no use. Eyice is particularly critical of academics that he says have no curiosity and remain stuck in their offices. Noting that despite the long hours spent in offices, academics do not always read sufficiently. But the famous art historian sought out even the rarest books in his field and read all of them. Eyice, who has donated his 40,000-volume library to Pera Museum because of vision problems, says: “I have seen what happened to the libraries after their owners died. Excellent books were destroyed; some were looted. Some were sold to the book sellers. After seeing this, I decided to donate my books to the museum. I hope that they appreciate them.”

Eyice believes the soulless and uniform buildings in İstanbul were built as examples of modern architecture and that old İstanbul is now used as a decorative figure. Indicating that there is still a lot of architectural value that needs to be restored, the art historian says: “The Hafız Ahmet Paşa mosque in Fatih was built four hundred years ago. Its roof was burned. They considered destroying it; I opposed that. The building was cleaned and restored. It is now still in use. This was also the case with the Tacizade Cafer Çlebi mosque in Fener. I have spent efforts to save many historical buildings in İstanbul and Anatolia. Sadly, we tend to destroy these works. However, it is not that difficult to keep them alive.”


The book of Eyice's memoirs sheds light on the history of an era. In his book, Eyice depicts his childhood, youth, college years, academic studies and works in the field of art history as well as that of some famous İstanbul researchers. In addition, there is extensive information on the architecture, movie theaters, cultural facilities, fires and quakes in İstanbul. The book, first in the series of his memoirs, was published by the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality (IBB) Cultural Publications. 


Last Mod: 12 Mayıs 2013, 13:49
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