With the French Presidential elections now imminent and the UK snap general election called for June, things may seem a little rocky. Following Brexit and the Trump Victory, Europe also has the Dutch elections and the German federal elections coming up this year to keep the fires stoked.
And in Turkey, last weekend the President Erdoğan secured a narrowly-won victory in the constitutional referendum, giving him sweeping new powers. But he has a few other controversial plans…namely to build a new museum focusing on the failed coup that engulfed the country last July. Turkey’s culture ministry is moving things forward quickly, and work on the new institution, which will be called the Museum of the 15 July: Martyrs and Democracy, is scheduled to start this June.
The building, based in Kahramankazan outside the capital Ankara, will house permanent and temporary displays dedicated to the “martyrs and warriors” of last summer’s coup, when part of the Turkish military attempted to overthrow Erdoğan. At least 240 people were killed when soldiers and tanks took to the streets of Ankara and Istanbul but the coup failed after thousands of Turkish citizens rallied around Erdoğan. Artists, newspaper cartoonists and cultural figures were among the 35,000 people detained in the aftermath.
Culture’s role in politics and political propaganda is hardly a new thing – think of every political cartoon and every political monument that has been destroyed as a symbol of social or political upheaval. Dictators are well known for their predilection for bronze, as well as their inevitable bent towards pulling down bronze likenesses of their predecessors (read about artist Liane Lang’s work on the subject in “Monumental Misconceptions” over at Libertine Magazine.)
It’s not always all bad – Saddam Hussein’s former Basra Palace, for example, is now a public art museum. But this merely goes to confirm that building a museum makes a much larger statement on the state of being. The 3,400 sq. m Museum of the 15 July: Martyrs and Democracy, which will also include a library, café and shop, is due to open at the end of next year.
Main image: rendering of the Museum of the 15 July: Martyrs and Democracy, due to be built next year near the Turkish capital