Fahrelnissa Zeid

20 Oct 2017 – 9 Apr 2018

Regular hours

10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00

Deutsche Bank Kunsthalle

Berlin, Germany


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The retrospective »Fahrelnissa Zeid« presents one of the most important Turkish pioneers of modernity to the international public.


Born in 1901 on an island outside Istanbul as the daughter of a bourgeois intellectual family, and died in Amman, Jordan in 1991, she was cosmopolitan during her lifetime. In her painting, which has been rediscovered over the past few years at biennials and international exhibitions over Turkey and Jordan, a multitude of different influences merge with her multicultural and moving biography. For the first time in the retrospective, designed by the Tate Modern in London, which can now be seen at the Deutsche Bank Kunsthalle, the broad range of its work with works and documents from eight decades is shown.

Born into the Ottoman nobility, Zeid soon lost her father, who was shot dead by her brother shortly before the First World War in unexplained circumstances. has been. Her family was devastated, but they remained intimately connected. After the war she studied as one of the first women in Turkey art. In the late 1920s she continued her studies in Paris. Here she came into contact with the currents of the European avant-garde, with Expressionism, Fauvism, Cubism and Surrealism. Zeid, who married the well-known writer İzzet Melih Devrim in 1920, first described her painting as "private pleasure", which also served as a therapy and a means of self-discovery, like many of the upper-class painters of the upper classes.

In 1934 she divorced and married the Hellenistic prince Zeid Al-Hussein, who was called to ambassadorship of his country in Berlin. In 1938, after the annexation of Austria, she returned to Baghdad with him. Regular trips to ancient sites such as Babylon and Nineveh inspired her, but she also felt isolated in Baghdad and fell into a depression. She began to travel, commute between Paris, Budapest and Istanbul, and hoped to recover from her illness. In Istanbul, she became a member of the "Group d", an avant-garde artists' association, which, among other things, sought to inspire an independent Turkish modernity inspired by Atatürk's policy. Zeid's growing self-confidence is reflected in her often large-scale interiors, portraits and landscapes from the early 1940s,

When her husband was appointed Ambassador of Iraq to the Court of St. James in 1946, Zeid quickly transformed a room of the London Embassy into her studio. Works such as "Fight against Abstraction" (1947) and "Loch Lomond" (1948) show how radical change was taking place in her work. From 1946 until the late 1960s, Zeid lived in both London and Paris and had her studios in both cities. In the French capital, progressive artists from around the world met, who formed loosely for the "Nouvelle École de Paris". These included, for example, Pierre Soulages, Hans Hartung, and Serge Poliakoff, and Zeid frequently exhibited in their circle. After the horror of the Second World War and the terrorist rule of National Socialism, artists were searching for freer, more spontaneous expressions of abstraction.

While many of their contemporaries turned to gesture abstraction, Zeid found their expressive possibilities at the very beginning, in a rather geometrical form language. In paintings such as the famous "My Hell" from 1951, she splintered space and color kaleidoscopically, which gives her painting an almost three-dimensional quality of architecture. While the Abstract Expressionists in America were triumphant, Zeid created abstract color explosions that could absorb psychological tension and visual impact with Jackson Pollock. In doing so, she incorporated a completely new form vocabulary for Western modern art, which had its origin, consciously or unconsciously, in nature and Byzantine mosaic art, Islamic architecture, craftsmanship and philosophy of the Orient.

But a catastrophe was bound to change everything: in July 1958 the Hashimite monarchy was overthrown and the entire family of Prince Zeid Al-Hussein killed. Since he and his wife had decided to spend their holidays in Italy, they only escaped the assassination accidentally. For Zeid a world collapsed and she stopped painting. When she began again in the early 1960s, it was mostly portraits of her family and closest friends who made her. At the same time, she developed her "Paléokrystalos" sculptures, painted bones, which, like archeological findings, she poured into resin and installed on turntables. Zeid also remains experimental in her later work.

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Exhibiting artists

Fahrelnissa Zeid


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