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Nude paintings taken down at Turkey state art gallery

ANKARA: Turkish officials have taken down an exhibition of paintings of nude women at a state art gallery, it was reported Wednesday. Observers condemned the move as censorship.

The show of 29 oil paintings by prolific Turkish artist and teacher Emin Guloren was due to run in the State Fine Arts Gallery in the northwestern city of Eskisehir for 10 days but was closed down earlier this week, trade union official said.

“When the artist’s students entered the gallery to see the exhibition on Monday, they saw the paintings of the nudes had been taken down and were lying facedown on the floor,” said Ali Pasa Sanli, head of the Education Union in Eskisehir.

“We consider this as censorship,” Sanli said. “An artist has the freedom to express freely and this freedom cannot be restricted.”

An official from the Eskisehir Culture Directorate denied censorship, saying the paintings on show did not match those on a CD that the artist had sent to the body ahead of the exhibition which was due to run until Dec. 24.

“It has nothing to do with nude paintings, which have been displayed several times in the past in the art gallery,” the official said.

Guloren, who has staged about two dozen solo exhibitions in the past, declined to comment, saying only that the union was speaking on his behalf.

Turkey’s Islamic-rooted government is often accused by its secular opponents of seeking to Islamize the predominantly Muslim but staunchly secular country.

In January, an art exhibition was canceled by organizers after officials in the western city of Izmir demanded the removal of photographs that sparked outrage in the conservative media for insulting religious and moral values.

They included pictures showing two veiled women kissing each other, two men kissing each other and a bikini-clad woman in a headscarf.

Last year, premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan branded as “monstrous” a giant statue symbolizing reconciliation between Turks and Armenians and called for its demolition.

Erdogan said the unfinished statue in the eastern province of Kars was out of place in a region known for its Islamic-inspired monuments.

The 30-meter concrete statue, depicting two figures emerging from one human shape, was commissioned in 2006 to highlight friendship between Turkey and Armenia. It was dismantled and removed in August 2011.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 20, 2012, on page 16.

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