Coulisse: Hagop Ayvaz, A Chronicler of Theater

The exhibition ‘Coulisse: Hagop Ayvaz, A Chronicler of Theater’ has been brought to life by the guidance of Hrant Dink Foundation with the collaboration of the Theatre Foundation of Turkey and Yapı Kredi Culture, Arts and Publishing with the support of the Chrest Foundation, Consulate General of the Kingdom of Netherlands, the French Embassy and Civil Rights Defenders.

The exhibition focuses on the personal theatre archive of an Istanbulite theater player and publisher Hagop Ayvaz (1911-2006), to shed light on theater history of Turkey within the context of collective memory, identity and space.

The Personal Theatre Archive of Hagop Ayvaz
After the death of Hagop Ayvaz in 2006, the archive was donated to the Agos newspaper and then to Hrant Dink Foundation, composed of nearly 600 manuscripts and printed texts, over 500 periodicals, magazines and brochures in Armenian and Turkish languages, magazines and brochures, as well as about 12 thousand visual materials including photographs, posters, caricatures, clippings, invitations, drawings and postcards. In 2019, with the donation of some of the personal belongings of Ayvaz, the awards he has received, and a complete collection of the 1104 issues of ‘Kulis’, the culture and arts magazine in Armenian language he has published from 1946 to 1996 to Hrant Dink Foundation, the archive was further completed. Over the years, Hrant Dink Foundation created a catalogue for the archive and digitalized it, and this online archive is now open to researchers simultaneously with the openning of the “Coulisse: Hagop Ayvaz, A Chronicler of Theater” exhibition.

Constituting the basis of the exhibition, the Hagop Ayvaz archive encompasses a wide range of original materials about theater players, companies and venues in the Ottoman Empire and Turkey remaining from the mid-19th century up until today. Hagop Ayvaz used the words “my paradise” to describe his study room composed of books, magazines, posters and photographs that he had collected since his youth; this tender metaphor also gives us hints about the possible links that can be established between his passion, namely theater, archives and collective memory.

The Three Sections of the Exhibition
The exhibition ‘Coulisse: Hagop Ayvaz, A Chronicler of Theater’ offers a selection of the photographs, magazines, manuscripts and printed texts from the archive, divided into three main parts. The first part presents the theater production and activities in Istanbul in Armenian, in parallel to the lifetime of Hagop Ayvaz, a devotee of theater since his youth—from being a walker on to a director, from being a columnist to a publisher. The second part touchs upon the impact of the ‘Kulis’ magazine within and outside of Turkey published by Ayvaz from 1946 to 1996, in line with the major artistic and political developments within this framework. The final section focuses various artists, companies, plays and venues which constituted the cornerstones of the theater history of the Ottoman Empire and Turkey, inviting the visitors to explore the linkage between them all so as to rediscover the history of theater in Turkey.

The catalogue which has the same name with the exhibition has also been prepared in both English and Turkish by Yapı Kredi Culture, Arts and Publishing, not only invites the visitors to the ‘coulisse’ of Hagop Ayvaz’s endeavors, but also allows the visitors to discover the theathre of history of Turkey from a pluralistic perspective. The exhibition reminds the visitors the place and importance of arts and culture in the culture of living together, the ‘coulisse’ that was built up by devotion and sustained by commitment and solidarity.