In advance of Orhan Pamuk’s October 28 talk at the Getty, a visit to Pamuk’s provocative Museum of Innocence in Istanbul
I first became engaged with the work of Orhan Pamuk not through one of his acclaimed novels such as Snow or My Name is Red, or even when he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2006. Rather, ever since I discovered that the influential author had written a Modest Manifesto for Museums to accompany his novel and museum, both called The Museum of Innocence, he has constantly been on my mind. Point number six of Pamuk’s 11-point manifesto hit close to home
“Big museums with their wide doors call upon us to forget our humanity and embrace the state and its human masses. This is why millions outside the Western world are afraid of going to museums.”
While I haven’t done a systematic survey of the size of museum doors around the world, it’s difficult to imagine any museum having wider doors than the Getty’s magnificent sliding glass portal through which visitors pass on their way out of the Entrance Hall toward the museum’s pavilions. The curved door, designed by Richard Meier, is so substantial that opening it requires the assistance of a machine to slide it along its curving track.
Pamuk’s manifesto, however, is not a treatise on museum buildings, which has been an obsession for starchitects and their patrons. Rather, it expresses Pamuk’s love-hate relationship with our temples of culture. Pamuk—who before becoming a novelist dreamed of being a painter and architect—writes in the preamble to his manifesto: “I love museums and I am not alone in finding that they make me happier with each passing day. I take museums very seriously, and that sometimes leads me to angry forceful thoughts.” Pamuk’s manifesto envisions a different sort of museum for the future, one that presents humanistic and personal stories, rather than authoritative histories of nations and empires. Consider some of the other points of the manifesto: