Akin Gökyay – Collectors’ Island

March 2, 2021 4:44 pm

Akin Gökyay has the largest collection of chess sets in the world. He began collecting in 1975 on a business trip to Milan where he bought his first set. In the 46 years that followed his work took him to every corner of the earth, and he bought chess sets everywhere he went. With the exception of a few sets he received as gifts, he and his wife Bertin personally selected the entire collection, which spans six continents and 110 different countries. In 2012 he and Bertin opened the Gökyay Chess Museum.

Each year the Genevan watchmaker Vacheron Constantin releases an art book titled Collectors’ Island, this year I photographed the entire book and this is one of nine stories included.

Many thanks to Creative Director Bradley Seymour, and to Editorial Manager Lara Lo Calzo. Image captions by Ali Gazi.

Akin Gökyay has been able to nurture his work and his interest side by side, like rivers that feed one another, throughout his life. As a collector, he has elevated his childhood passion, chess, to a level unparalleled in the world, and has accomplished a number of achievements by transforming his Guiness Record-holding collection into a contemporary museum.

Gokyay's chess sets are made from a wide variety of natural and manmade materials – anything from wood, marble, soapstone, felt, crystal, glass, polyester, gold, semi-precious stones and metals, as well as from materials such as fish bone and ivory. Like miniature sculptures, they attract attention with their scrupulous craftsmanship.

Their display, systematically classified in line with a modern museological approach, invites visitors on a journey through the different geographies, histories and cultures of the world.

A rare three player chess board.

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