Lecture: The Tale of an Artwork: The Lost Mosaic Wall in Cyprus
By Johann Pillai & Anber Onar
Tuesday, 5 December 2023 | 19:00
Location: The CVAR
The lecture will be delivered in English.
Some sixty years ago, one of the most significant works in the history of Turkish art and architecture disappeared: the Turkish pavilion at the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair (Expo 58), and what held it together conceptually—a 227m2 mosaic wall by the artist Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu.
The pavilion brought together many of the major figures in the country’s art, architecture, drama, fashion, music, and politics; but prior to the research described in this presentation, all the Turkish art and architectural history textbooks, academic articles and websites described it as “lost.”
This research, which resulted in a book, Bedri Rahmi—The Lost Mosaic Wall: From Expo ’58 to Cyprus, and revision of the art historical record, begins with the discovery of fragments of the lost wall in Cyprus and traces what happened to the artwork as it passed through historical mishaps, wars, military coups, and chance discoveries.
The presentation, based on personal histories, interviews, news stories, historical narratives, archival records and contemporary amateur videos, focuses on following the mosaic wall through fifty years of history from Belgium through Turkey to Cyprus, where it has become part of the social and cultural fabric.
Johann Pillai read Literature at Yale University and did his master’s and doctorate in Comparative Literature at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He has taught at universities in the US, Turkey and Cyprus, where he also cofounded, and from 2007 to 2015 was the language and education director, of Sidestreets, an independent arts, culture, education and social responsibility initiative in Nicosia. An associate professor of comparative literature, he has written on American and European romanticisms, British modernism, and Cypriot and Turkish art; his book, Bedri Rahmi–The Lost Mosaic Wall: from Expo ’58 to Cyprus (2010), details his discovery and reconstruction of the famous lost work by the Turkish artist, Bedri Rahmi Eyuboglu.
Anber Onar is an independent artist and cultural producer based in Cyprus. Her educational background includes a BFA in the visual arts from Rutgers University and a master’s in critical analysis from Eastern Mediterranean University. She has taught visual arts at universities in Turkey and Cyprus and is actively involved in exhibiting her work as well as in the organization and curation of arts events. She is the author of numerous essays on art in Cyprus, and of the book, Abdullah Onar: A Modern Past in Architecture (2022), chronicling the life and work of the prominent modernist Cypriot architect. In 2007 she co-founded Sidestreets, where she was the art director until 2018. Among the exhibitions and events, she has curated is Sidestreets’ 2010 exhibition, “Bedri Rahmi–The Lost Mosaic Wall: from Expo ’58 to Cyprus.”
The lecture is made possible with the support of the Active Citizens Fund.