An exhibition starring a sex doll

Turkish artist Lale Tara uses a sex doll to represent characters from Western literature

A sex doll in artist Lale Tara's Lolita Con Bambino.
A sex doll in artist Lale Tara's Lolita Con Bambino. PHOTO: YAVUZ GALLERY

Miss Havisham from the 1861 Charles Dickens novel Great Expectations and Lolita from the 1955 Vladimir Nabokov novel of the same name are portrayed by a life-sized sex doll in a new art exhibition.

Turkish artist Lale Tara, who is known for her surreal, visually evocative and often provocative photographic works, is holding her first solo exhibition here at Yavuz Gallery in Gillman Barracks. Titled Reverse Exotic, it draws on some of her favourite characters from Western literature and opera.

The Miss Havisham and Lolita works, each featuring a 38kg doll, are among the 10 works on display. These include a diptych and a triptych priced between $5,000 and $17,000.

Tara explains her choice of characters for this solo: "If you look at Miss Havisham or Lolita or Lady Macbeth, they are all strong female characters. They have a fate they simply cannot control. That is what attracts me to them."

One of the reasons that drew gallerist Can Yavuz to her art was her use of the sex doll. "She has taken something inanimate, humanised it and given it dignity. Sex dolls have a very dark side, but when you see how she uses them, you do not actually see that side and I find that very fascinating."


  • WHERE: Yavuz Gallery, 02-23, 9 Lock Road, Gillman Barracks

    WHEN: Till Nov 7, 11am - 7pm (Tuesday to Saturday), 1 - 5pm (Sunday), Monday by appointment only


    INFO: Call 6734-3262 or go to

When asked about the use of the doll as her doppelganger, the artist simply says: "She puts colour back into my life."

The leggy 58-year-old former model turned to photography after her husband Ali Tara, who was called "an advertising genius", died of lung cancer in 2004 and she found it impossible to return to the television commercial company that they ran as partners.

"It was just too painful going back to the same space," says Tara, who looks much younger than her age and has no children.

She spent several months in mourning before signing up for photography classes at The New School University (New York) and Octet: School of Visual Arts (New York).

In 2005, she embarked on her first photography project while documenting her visual diary, sevenmonthssevendays. It was published in 2005 by Robinson Crusoe Publishing.

In 2009, she presented her solo, Doppelganger (RUI), in Istanbul, which caught the attention of curators. Since then, she has participated in Contemporary Istanbul, the region's premier international art fair, and exhibited her works at reputed galleries such as Sakshi Gallery in Mumbai as well as Maison des Metallos in Paris.

Her work is now in the collections of the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art and the Samawi Collection and the Salsali Private Museum, both in Dubai.

She is genuinely surprised by the attention she is receiving. "I could never be a documentary photographer. My training has been in the art of staged photography. The television and advertising work I did with my late husband prepared me for something that would be staged," she says.

Usually working with a four-man crew, she uses an 80-megapixel camera with Hasselblad lenses.

"It is almost like being on a television set. I spent many months doing research on the characters before deciding on the costumes and finally the setting, whether we will take the doll outdoors or do the shoot in a studio."

Her range of characters in this show is also a nod to Istanbul, the city where she is based which has long been called "a gateway of East and West".

On her choice of Western characters for this show, she says: "The East has long been exoticised by the West. I wanted to explore these characters in reverse."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 29, 2015, with the headline An exhibition starring a sex doll. Subscribe