Erdal Kara met us at the “Tophane Cannon Factory” to show us the exhibition space that the Academy might have for a future show. It is a remarkable space that was the site of the Ottoman Empire’s cannon production.
There is one room that was used exclusively to pour iron for thirty-foot cannons. It is now a bookstore with a glass ceiling where the foundry once was.
The exhibition space is extraordinary with one hundred foot ceilings and more room than we could possibly use.
Next we went on a brief tour of the contemporary gallery world in Istanbul. Now that the Biennial has put the city on the International art world map, galleries have been springing up all over the city.
There was a vibrant range of video, painting and installation at Galeri NON, PG Gallery and Elipsis. Representational art still holds a primary place in the exhibitions that we saw and the faculty at Mimar Sinan were well represented.
Erdal, Janice and I met Ali Bilge at Istanbul Modern. The name implies that this is a public institution but it is really the collection of a single family. I suppose this isn’t any different from the beginnings of MOMA and its relationship to the Rockefellers. One of the curious things about the art scene in Turkey is that its contemporary iteration is relatively new. “Modern” can refer to anything contemporary or anything that appears to address modernist issues. The Museum is beautifully laid out with ample room for a large, diverse and very good selection of works by artists who were completely new to me. Very exciting!
Erdal had to leave us at this point so we said our goodbyes to our gentle, warm, talented and very informed new friend.
Ali, Janice and I had drinks on the Bosphorus and discussed politics, art and life in general. Ali is a very progressive Turk and he has an incredible grasp of global politics and the role that Turkey plays in the larger art world.
He challenged us to eat what he referred to as “dirty street food” (usually not a good idea for someone with a sensitive stomach.) Still we took the bait and ate really delicious meat-filled Tantuni and amazingly we are no worse the wear for it. We spent the rest of the evening gallery hopping and enjoying the nightlife in Istanbul.
This was our last night and it was great to just stroll around on Istiklal Avenue and take in the vibe of this really warm and lively culture. I personally believe that if we get this residency to happen, whoever goes from the Academy will be very, very lucky.
Check back for future blog posts on the rest of Peter's trip scouting Istanbul for a future artist-in-residence program for Academy students.