There is a city-owned gallery at the top of Istiklal Caddessi in Taksim (across from the Burger King) that hosts a variety of different exhibits that are free and open to the public. Whenever I am meeting a friend in Taksim and have a few minutes to kill, I walk through the gallery to see the current exhibition. This month? Beautiful and vibrant paintings of the Istanbul landscape. Next time you have a few minutes to kill, stop by to take a look..
On Thursday I had the unique and thrilling opportunity to take my class to Van Gogh Alive, a unique presentation of the work of Vincent Van Gogh. After two weeks of special projects to highlight the vivid colors and captivating images of Vincent Van Gogh, we were ready. We walked up the stairs of Karaköy Limanı Antrepoları and were led into the large, dark exhibition space that hosted this unique presentation. As we sat in one corner of the large space, images of Van Gogh’s work surrounded us.
There were some interesting special effects at work. Each piece of furniture appeared one by one, to create Van Gogh’s famous bedroom scene. We floated up into the night sky to experience Starry, Starry Night. A train moved around the entire exhibit space to bring Van Gogh’s sketches alive.
Beautiful classical music filled the room, perfectly synchronized to the images that moved up and down each wall, and faded into the next. This was not your traditional art exhibit, it was more than an installation, it was an experience. Over 3,00o different images covered the walls, columns and even the ceiling, allowing the viewer to feel completely immersed in the vivid colors and vibrant images of Van Gogh’s work. It was absolutely captivating and a wonderful way to immerse oneself into the art and world of Vincent Van Gogh.
I have to admit, I was surprised. This year’s Istanbul Bienial was hailed as ‘the best’. It was meant to be provactive, emotionally-charged and politically motivated at every turn. I will admit, it’s best parts were. The work of the late Cuban-American artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres served as the heart and soul of the exhibit. His work explored the destructive nature of gun violence, and the corruptive way in which history has been packaged to tell a superficial story. However, the rugged minimalism of the interior, as well as the absence of any text or explanation about most works contributed to my own dissapointment and frustration in regard the exhibition as a whole. Many of the exhibits seemed inaccessible, dry and presumptive.
However, there were some thought-provoking pieces that made the visit worthwhile. One room was full of metal soldiers, all in marching position, ready to engage. Another room, featured the work of Martha Rosler. In ‘Bringing the War Home’, Rosler integrated the gruesome images of innocent Vietnamese into the House Beautiful photoshoot of the First Lady as she walked through her tranquil home, as a means of protest against the Vietnam War. One captivating video presented every cover of Time magazine in quick seccession, as a means of showcasing the popular images and media coverage that compose our collective memory, and simplified conception of history. Another room showcased the remains (clothing, toys, shoes, table legs, etc…) of bombings throughout the West Bank in the same way the British Museum displays precious artifacts from ancient civillizations. These displays were thoughtful and powerful. However, the collective exhibition failed to achieve this response on a massive scale. The diverse historical and geographical origins of the artwork featured in the Istanbul Bienial made this a notable international art exhibition. Perhaps, simply the union of politically-minded art and artists in Istanbul is significant enough to deserve praise and international attention…
The Guardian highlights some of the best and most provacative work showcased in the Istanbul Bienial. It also asserts that the Istanbul Bienial has attained the same status of the Venice and Sao Paolo Bienials. Check it out for yourself:
Memories of the “Pigs on Parade” in Seattle rush to my mind as I wander through the streets of Nisantasi on Friday evening. UNICEF International’s “Stars of Istanbul” dot the streets, stirring up notable enthusiasm and buzz. As people pose for pictures, and wander around each star that they encounter, I begin to inquire about the background of the project. This is what I found…
UNICEF Turkey aimed to simultaneously promote public street art and promote its ongoing campaign: ‘A Brighter Future for Children’. For the first time in Istanbul, a large organized public art installation project has commenced. The object? Stars. The scale? Over 100 stars in neighborhoods throughout the city. The Mission? To make art more accessible throughout the city, and (my favorite part), to cultivate social responsibility. In December, the stars will be auctioned off to fund ongoing and future projects of UNICEF Turkey.
Istanbul has a dynamic and progressive art scene. Additionally, the city is full of fabulous galleries that are free and open to the public. However, these galleries are concentrated in a few areas of the city, and their visitors are a very small and privileged sector of society. Unfortunately, from what I have observed thus far, the location of the stars is concentrated in these same wealthy, culturally rich areas. While it is unlikely that the ‘Stars of Istanbul’ will spark new interest in the city’s existing art world, the buzz and subsequent profits may support substantive work in Turkey.