Entering Tal R and Evren Tekinoktay’s apartment in Østerbro feels like walking straight into a Parisian boudoir from the 19th century. The first room is the dining room with an oval 12 person dining table in the middle. The decadence is complete with bright pink walls and 9 feet high mirrors on the walls surrounding the table. It looks like a scene from Moulin Rouge, and I cannot help thinking that Kylie Minogue will stop by any minute serving absinthe in her Tinker Bell outfit.
Instead I am offered tea and homemade cookies. Unusually mundane considering the extravagant setting and the fact that Tal and Evren are among Scandinavia’s most original and innovative artists in their respective fields. Tal R’s work is represented in some of the world’s most prominent galleries, and he has been teaching in art schools all over Europe. Evren Tekinoktay is a household name within the art scene as well as the fashion industry. Her delicate collages and prints have been shown in galleries all over Europe, and superstars like Prince, Lady Gaga, and Beyoncé are sporting her colourful designs made in collaboration with the Danish avant-garde fashion label Moonspoon Saloon.
“If we met in Evren’s studio, it would be her territory. My studio is my territory. But this is common ground,” Tal grins.
Even though the huge apartment is common ground, it still bears Evren’s characteristic touch. It’s all in the details. The pink fluorescent sign from an old barbershop that she bought on a flea market. Or the bright yellow tablecloth with little mice decorations (one of the recurring symbols in her work) that Tal had made especially for her. The apartment is more than just a home for the couple, Tal’s 22-year-old daughter Marie from a previous relationship, and the kids, Dora and Yunus. It is their personal exhibition space in playful colours with works of art – like a fluorescent lamp made by the Danish artist Fos and Tal’s patchwork version of Arne Jacobsen’s iconic Egg chair – side by side with old toys, African masks, and flea market finds.
“This place is like a rock for us. We both travel a lot, but this place is our secret garden. We redecorate a new room each year,” Evren explains.
Tal and Evren have been a couple for 16 years. They have known each other before the success, the solo exhibitions, and Tal’s Carnegie Art Award in 2002. When they met, they were both young rising stars on the Danish art scene. Their love story could be a script for a movie. If it was, it would undoubtedly be written by Woody Allen. Who knows – maybe it will be someday. The tale begins around 1992. Tal knew Evren before she knew him. Or more precisely – he knew her neck from sitting three seats behind her on the bus to The Royal Danish Academy of Arts, where they both auditioned at the time.
“The first thing I noticed about Evren was her neck and S-shaped ponytail. I remember thinking that I’d never seen anybody like her before. She was like a beautiful exotic bird. I didn’t really know which language or choreography I should use to approach her – and I didn’t have the courage to talk to her. So I actually stalked her in the beginning,” Tal remembers.