istanbul, day 3, by krishna

Today the weather seems even colder than the last two days we have been here, the sky is grey and it’s raining outside. However, there is a good news in the air: Ana whose luggage was lost during her Sao Polo – Amsterdam trip, was, at last, found and returned to her. She was very happy and we were all happy for her. We left the hotel around 9.30 to head to the Pera Museum which is at walking distance from our hotel. We were warmly welcomed by the General Manager who then took us to the auditorium where he gave a presentation on the Museum. (by the way: he is the most humble General Manager I have ever met).

The Pera Museum, which opened its door in early June 2005, is the first step of a comprehensive cultural endeavor that the Suna and Inan Kirac Foundation launched at this distinguished venue in the city for the purpose of providing cultural service on a variety of levels. A historical structure which was originally constructed in 1893 by the architect Achille Manoussos in Tepebasi (Istanbuls most prestigious district in those days) and which was, until rather recently known as the Bristol Hotel, was completely renovated to serve as a museum and a cultural centre for the project. Transformed into a fully equipped modern museum, this vulnerable building is now serving the people of Istanbul once again. The Pera Museum houses three permanent collections:

  1. The Orientalist Art collection.
  2. The Anatolian Weights and Measures collection.
  3. The Kutahya Tiles and Ceramics collection.

The Museum acts as a cultural and artistic communication platform offering diverse cultural activities such as: short-term temporary exhibitions in collaboration with international museums, exhibitions of young contemporary artists, experimental art projects with Art schools, both local and international. Right now the museum is holding an exhibition on Picasso’s engravings, a series of 100 plates from the first half of the 20th century, which were commissioned to Picasso by Ambroise Vollard.

After the presentation we visited the different exhibitions and finally had lunch in the Museum’s café on the ground floor.

We left the Museum around 12.30 to took the bus to the BM Suma Contemporary Art Centre. The sun was shining outside. The bus left us on the high road and we had to walk through narrow streets bordered with hardware stores which extended their showroom up to the pavements. We lost our way and Haco had to go through his papers to look for orientation!

Finally we found the BM Suma Contemporary Art Centre. We were received by Beral Madra, she gave us some information on the centre. She explained that 3 years ago the space was an office building and in history it contained apartments. The region was a kind of financial centre as the Ottoman Bank was situated down the road. The bank had been bought by the Garanti bank and will soon be turned into an Art Museum. The BM Suma is an independent, non-profit alternative space which promotes young artists who cannot make it in the commercial galleries. There is no commission from sales. The centre also organizes workshops, conferences and artists’ residencies.

We visited the space which was hosting an interesting exhibition by Silvina Der-Meguerditchian.

We then had a very interesting presentation by Yasar Adanali who is editor of “Istanbul Living in Voluntary and Involuntary Exclusion”. He explained the Diwan project which aims at establishing a network among scholars, sociologists, city planners and artists. They produce a magazine dealing with urban transformation. His case study was about Istanbul. What is Istanbul expecting with all the changes that are taking place? From an imperial city, Istanbul is turning into a global city; the economy is changing, the social spacial configuration is changing, new airports are being build, the consumption pattern is changing with the arrival of big shopping malls. With time the ‘gesekondu’, which are slums, have turned into multi-storey apartment-gesekondu. Though the owners of these spaces have their title deeds they are being driven out of these places and relocated in remote parts of the city in newly built multi-storey apartment blocks to make room for modern apartments and villas for the rich. All this is being done with the blessings of the government with a low-income  housing policy. A very tricky self- sustaining mechanism has been put in place: state makes partnership with private developers to make massive housing projects. In prime residential areas the gesekondu are being pulled down to make place for luxury apartments for the rich and with the profits, high-rise soviet style buildings are built in remote sites for the poor. Yasar will treat the subject in an exhibition “Open city-Istanbul” at DEPO, an old tobacco warehouse where we will be meeting with some local curators later in the evening.

Soon after Yasar’s presentation we met with Hasan Saltik, a Prince Claus Laureate 2003, he does not speak English so he came with a translator. He talked about his record label Kalan. I believe we were all impressed by the translation ability of the translator who was not a professional translator. The record company works as a foundation. At the beginning the company functioned as opposition to the general policies of the government. As all other languages were banned in 1980, they struggled against this ban and produced in all the different languages, they were thus prosecuted and threatened by the authorities. Their license was cancelled in 2003 but with the protest of  university students and some NGO’s the Ministry of Culture was forced to re-issue their license. However Hasan Saltik was advised to make normal music and he was promised to receive government  financial aid if he produced what they wanted him to produce. He never compromised and has produced more than some 500 albums. When they were struggling with all the pressures from the government Hasan Saltik received the Prince Clause prize and the money was used to support research and production. The company now supports upcoming musicians and organizes  concerts, both locally and abroad.

We finished around 15.00 and then took the bus to  DEPO for an informal talk with local curators.

We returned to the hotel around 18.00 and we found that Nazareth was missing. Some went to attend a talk at the Garanti and the rest of the group went to the hotel to relax.

The evening ended in a wonderful Turkish-food restaurant.

I forgot to mention, we finally found Nazareth. Another story of Lost and Found!

– Krishna Luchoomun

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