We arrived around 5 o’clock in Istanbul – cold, windy and grey. Our first ride was from the airport to the hotel, the first part of this trip looking like it does in so many cities: the gradual transition from non-space to city. We drove by the seaside, the boats on the water with their white and red lights looking very beautiful indeed. And then the gorgeous, illuminated mosques at the waterfront. From this rather vast and expansive, multi-lane roads we entered the city with smaller streets, 19th century apartment blocks adorned with so many details and little features. Too soon we arrived at the hotel, time to check in and attend our first meeting. The hotel is situated in downtown Istanbul’s, Pera District.
The first plenary meeting was basically an introduction to why the Mondriaan Foundation, the Prince Claus Fund, BAM and OCA join forces to organise these orientation trips. Then we set about introducing ourselves and what we expected to take home from this trip. Some ten different nationalities are present in the group, most people work for cultural organisations and/or are artists. Everyone was keen on extended existing networks into Turkey and the two African countries we will visit later on.
Around 8 o’clock Beral Madra, who worked for the Istanbul Biennale and the Venice Biennale, gave a lecture on Istanbul 2010: European Capital of Culture. Madra is responsible for the visual arts programming of Istanbul 2010 and she outlined some of the projects that she initiated. One of these initiatives is Portable Art and a meeting of artist initiatives, in collaboration with Art Pie. Remarkably, there hasn’t been any governmental support for contemporary visual art before Istanbul 2010. Madra hopes, of course, that the current support will continue in some form after Istanbul 2010 is over. Madra runs her own space, BM Suma, and knows how hard it is to get sponsors, especially today with the economic crisis. We will visit her space on Wednesday.
Around 10 o’clock we had dinner, in a gorgeous restaurant on the top floor of a historical building. The view was breathtaking, the food great and the company excellent. Around midnight, some of us went back to the hotel, the others joined Haco and me for a birthday drink in Hotel Londres.
– Maaike Lauwaert