A Garden of Turkish Delights: Sarp Kerem Yavuz

Trotter&Sholer is pleased to present Garden of Turkish Delights by celebrated artist Sarp Kerem Yavuz. Born in Paris and raised in Istanbul, Yavuz is the youngest artist in the history of the Istanbul Modern Museum to exhibit and to be included in the permanent collection. Garden of Turkish Delights marks his ninth solo show, his first in New York City. The exhibition features new photographs from Yavuz’s Maşallah series, The body of work uses the male nude as a canvas, onto which Yavuz projects scanned motifs and tiles from the Ottoman Empire.


Since the beginning of his career Yavuz has received death threats and faced censorship. Following his 2018 solo exhibition Curse of the Forever Sultan, the Turkish Ministry of Culture conducted a raid of his Istanbul gallery on the grounds that he was “offending the legacy of the Ottoman Empire.” He remains critical of the conservatism of his homelands of France and Turkey, while recognizing the alarming similarities in a growingly conservative US.


Following the Gezi Protests in Istanbul at the end of the Arab Spring, Yavuz began scanning tiles from the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia, various Turkish baths, and Turkish government tourism publications, which he then superimposed onto male models in his studio. By marrying recognizable geometric and floral motifs with homoeroticism, he poetically addresses his experience of a violent shift towards a conservative, dictatorial, Islamist state. Intentionally tender and confrontational, the subversive series functions as a synchronized act of blasphemy and reconciliation.


In an American context, where he was able to make work free of censorship, his otherness as an immigrant was highlighted instead. American expressions of conservativism and xenophobia recast Yavuz as simultaneously “exotic” and not foreign enough. Told he doesn’t “sound Turkish,” and given the unsubtle nickname “Turkish Delight,” his new audience engaged with the orientalist themes without familiarity with the vital subtext of his practice.