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V&A Commission

Istanbul-based architecture firm Tabanlıoğlu Architects brought Sabahattin Ali’s classic 1943 novel Madonna in a Fur Coat to life on the bridge over the V&A’s Medieval & Renaissance galleries.

Madonna in a Fur Coat is one of the greatest novels in Turkish literature,” says Murat Tabanlıoğlu; “We wanted to introduce the book to a new audience in London, as the book has recently been published in English translation for the first time in its 73-year history.”

The evocative installation, titled Beloved, takes the form of a 13-metre-long mirrored black box on the bridge. Visitors are able to peer inside through cracks in the surface of the enclosure to see atmospheric scenes from the novel re-created using cinematic techniques, physical objects, text, light, and sound. “The installation is a physical, multi-sensory realisation of the way the human mind imagines scenes from a book as they read,” says Tabanlıoğlu. “It’s a very intimate experience that celebrates literature, passion and the human condition.”

Tabanlıoğlu Architects chose to site the installation on the bridge as a metaphor to describe the themes of the novel, which deals with the relationship between a young Turkish man and an enigmatic German woman, and is set between interwar period in two cities; Berlin and Ankara.

“The novel’s conclusion is that you should never evaluate people based on their appearance,” says Tabanlıoğlu. “It is the same with our installation. At first glance, you see just a huge black box. When you get up close, though, you can peer inside and witness the interior life of the book.”

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