Monday – Istanbul Day 1

We leave the hotel by foot shortly after 9.30, after waiting for Maaike who is feverishly working on her blog. I fear already, the situation might repeat itself the next day, when I am due….

Yet, we arrive dead on time, Platform Garanti is located on Istiklal Caddesi (Independence St), Istanbul’s famous shopping street, built in the 19th C, leading from Taksim Square to Galatasaray Sq, ending at the far western end on Tünel Sq.

We meet Vasif Kortun, director of Platform on the 5th floor of the building adjoining an office of his private sponsor, Garanti Bank. Unfortunately, the centre’s gallery is closed, as the institution (established in 2001) is gearing up for new premises. Kortun provides the group with a critical insight into the politics of post 1980s Turkey (the date of the last military coup) and the development of the art sector that, surprisingly, started at that very moment. The state has moved up from tolerating the art initiatives to enabling them, but does not (yet) invest in programming. This echoes the comments made, by Beral Madra, the evening before, for the visual arts programming of Istanbul 2010 but who also developed the initiative Portable Art, travelling exhibitions the large number of prestigious cultural institutions in the greater Istanbul area that lack the budget to do proper programming.

Platform, which has become a prominent player in the international art scene, will relocate to a much larger space in 2011. Refusing to become a bourgeois institution it will put its important library and documentation centre centrally in the new building. It sounds as though exhibitions are to become a by-product. Yet, the spaces devoted to shows will be considerably bigger.

Speaking about the model for his new institution, Kortun surprisingly refers to the concept of the Apple Stores, pointing at their tremendous, measurable success in terms of turnover per square meter. Their open structure, including the lecture facility that has an almost permanent programming, are aspects that appeal to him. When he speaks about dress codes for his personnel as well as the demand for his curators to spend 2 hours a day in the exhibition space, meeting their audience, I understand he is the Steve Jobs of international contemporary art: extremely focused, driven and visionary with tirannic traits 😉

We finish our visits with a walk through Platform’s archives and library, awaiting their move.

Lunch is at Midpoint, another fancy restaurant on Istiklal Caddesi with a back view on the Bosporus. The first sun drives the Dutch in the group to the outside terrace much to the despair of our guests from Latin America and Africa.

The afternoon is spent sightseeing: Topkapi Palace, walk around the (closed) Aya Sofia and visit to the Blue Mosque. High-heeled Fariba de Bruin (always a lady!) does remarkably well on the cobble stones.

At 17h we are back in the city. Just off Istiklal Caddesi we visit BAS, meeting one of its founders Banu Cennetoğlu. BAS is a lovely bookshop handling artist books, working together with Amsterdam based Boekie Woekie. Not surprisingly, Banu was trained at the Rijksacademie, Amsterdam.

Next to being a meeting place and store, BAS makes books. One title a year, no imposed rules, no fixed design, no logos.

– Bas Vroege

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