TIME AND PATIENCE: SAKIP SABANCI MUSEUM CALLIGRAPHY COLLECTIONWhile looking at the calligraphic panel (levha) found in Sakıp Sabancı Museum’s The Arts of the Book and Calligraphy Collection and written by the great 18th-century Turkish calligrapher Mustafa Rakım Efendi on a red cloth with golden ink, you might conclude that the calligrapher’s material is ink, cloth or paper, but in essence, the main materials of calligraphy are time and patience. Calligrapher’s patience turns ink into a miracle in time. And once in a while, time and patience could create a world-class museum from a calligraphy collection.
Sabancı family has influenced Turkey’s industry and trade in the last fifty years. At the beginning of 1970s, the most recognizable figure of this family, Sakıp Sabancı (d. 2004) started his collection of calligraphic works by famous calligraphers, Korans and illuminated manuscripts, with the purchasing of a levha written by Sultan Mahmud II. During the 1980s, the Sakıp Sabancı collection expanded with the purchase of private collections, and from 1989 onwards, the collection was exhibited in major museums abroad. The keen interest attracted by these exhibitions cemented Sakıp Sabancı and his family’s resolve to further enlarge the collection and encouraged the idea of founding a museum.
In 1998, the family mansion (Atlı Köşk) was bequeathed by the Sabancı family to Sabancı University to be converted to a museum, and in 2002, the Sabancı University Sakıp Sabancı Museum opened to the public. The upper floor rooms of the mansion were transformed into galleries to exhibit Ottoman manuscripts and calligraphic compositions.
Sakıp Sabancı Collection of the Arts of the Book and Calligraphy consists of more than 200 examples of illuminated Korans, prayer books, calligraphic compositions, albums and panels written by well-known calligraphers, illuminated official documents bearing the imperial cipher of the Ottoman sultans as well as calligrapher’s tools, all produced during a period extending from the end of the 14th century to the 20th century.
The collection was renewed in 2012 with a new design and a contemporary display approach. Thanks to the digitalization of its collections and archives, visitors of the museum can now have a detailed look at the valuable and rare manuscripts of the Turkish and Islamic Art. Also, a documentary film—showing the manuscript book production in all its phases— informs the visitors about the difficult creation process of this exacting art form.