Semiha Berksoy was a seminal figural in Turkey’s cultural scene. Hailing from an artistic family, she began her career as a performer, playing lead roles in several operas, films and theatres—including Turkey’s first professional opera production and its first sound film. Despite having painted from an early age, it was only later in life that painting stopped being a private affair. Berksoy’s paintings, almost exclusively created on hardboard and in informal settings, have an immediate and emotive style that captures glimpses from her celebrated career as a multi-hyphenate star and her tumultuous inner world. She moved freely between different artistic disciplines and introduced fictional as well as real characters into her paintings.
In 1929, Berksoy studied at the Academy of Fine Arts, Istanbul, where she developed a practice in painting. She graduated from the Music Academy of Berlin in 1939 and also pursued her interests in performance and music at the Darülbedayi Drama School and Istanbul Music Conservatory.
Berksoy’s work has been presented in several solo exhibitions, including Semiha Berksoy with Love, O’Art (in collaboration with Galerist and Odeabank), Istanbul (2017); Wall of Hallucination, Galerist, Istanbul (2014); I Lived on Art, I Lived on Love, Yapı Kredi Kazım Taşkent Gallery, Istanbul (2010); Retrospective, İş Sanat Kibele Sanat Gallery, Istanbul (2003); Semiha Berksoy, Viyana Tanzquartier, Vienna (2003); Zeitwenden-Outlook into the Next Millennium, Kunstmuseum Bonn, Germany (2000); Semiha Berksoy, Cemal Reşit Rey Concert Hall, Istanbul (1992) and Semiha Berksoy, Atatürk Cultural Central, Istanbul (1982). Among her group exhibitions are Plurivocality, Istanbul Modern (2014); Past and Future, Istanbul Modern (2013); 9th Shanghai Biennale (2012); Always a Little Further, 51st Venice Biennale (2005); Manifesta II, European Biennial of Contemporary Art, Luxembourg (1998) and Semiha B. Unplugged, 5th Istanbul Biennial (1997). Her work is part of the collections of the Kunstmuseum Bonn, Germany; Vehbi Koc Vakfi Foundation, Istanbul; Istanbul Modern and Museum of Painting & Sculpture, Istanbul.
In addition to her work in the visual arts, she was also an actor and opera singer who was awarded the titles ‘World Class Opera Singer’, ‘Primadonna’ and ‘State Artist’. She studied at the Namık Ismail Workshop, Academy of Fine Arts, Istanbul; Darülbedayi Drama School, Istanbul (founded by Muhsin Ertuğrul); and Berlin State Music Academy.
She was born in 1910 in Istanbul, where she lived and worked until her passing in 2004.
Sharjah Biennial 14
Sharjah Biennial 14: Leaving the Echo Chamber
Semiha Berksoy was a seminal figure in Turkey’s cultural scene. Hailing from an artistic family, she began her career as a performer, playing lead roles in several operas, films and theatres—including Turkey’s first professional opera production and its first sound film.