Artistic Revival: Istanbul's Industrial Arts Hub

New Arts Hub is Taking Root in An Industrial Istanbul Neighbourhood

New Arts Hub is Taking Root in An Industrial Istanbul Neighbourhood

Istanbul witnessed the emergence of a high-profile museum that has breathed new life into an industrial neighborhood known for its automobile service shops, petrol stations, and mannequin stores. The Arter museum, designed by London-based firm Grimshaw Architects, stands as a vast showcase for contemporary art, inviting visitors to explore the dynamic world of modern artistic expression.

Established by the Vehbi Koç Foundation, a prominent sponsor of cultural events and institutions, including the Istanbul Biennial, the Arter museum is a visionary project that spans 18,000 square meters across six floors. With its lattice-covered exterior, the museum exudes a sense of artistic allure, drawing enthusiasts and curious souls from all corners of the city.

Inside, visitors will find a myriad of galleries in various shapes and sizes, a library, a bookstore, a cafe, and two performance venues hosting cinema screenings, live performances, and thought-provoking talks. The museum's diverse offerings cater to a wide array of artistic tastes, ranging from avant-garde sound installations and performance art to more traditional forms of expression, such as paintings, sculptures, and photography.

The museum's inaugural exhibitions feature a carefully curated selection of artworks, primarily from Arter's extensive collection of 1400 works by 300 artists. The collection spans from the 1960s to the present day, showcasing not only the talents of Turkish artists but also internationally-renowned figures like Joseph Beuys and Mona Hatoum.

İlkay Baliç, the director of communications for Arter, describes the museum as a versatile space that encourages visitors to discover, enjoy, and engage in a closer dialogue with art. The intersected galleries offer multi-layered possibilities, providing an immersive experience that allows art to come alive before the spectators' eyes.

The Dolapdere neighborhood, where the Arter museum resides, lies within a short 15-minute walk from Istanbul's iconic Taksim Square. Despite its proximity to the bustling city center, the neighborhood had remained relatively unexplored by tourists, largely due to limited public transportation options. However, the museum aims to overcome this obstacle by offering free shuttle services from Taksim and a convenient location in front of the more central Pera Museum.

To attract even more visitors, Arter has opened its doors to the public for free admission and audio tours until 2 January 2020. After this period, the prices for entrance and guides will be set at 25 Turkish Liras (€3.88) and 10 TL (€1.55) respectively. This initiative serves as an invitation for art enthusiasts to venture off the beaten track and experience the vibrant cultural offerings of this emerging neighborhood.

The rise of the Arter museum has spurred a transformation in the Dolapdere neighborhood. Once overshadowed by its industrial character, the area now buzzes with a burgeoning art scene. Dirimart, the first gallery to open in Dolapdere in 2016, led the way by relocating from Istanbul's upscale Nişantaşı shopping district. Trading a prestigious address for a larger venue in a modern office building, Dirimart embraced the creative possibilities afforded by the raw and flexible space.

Ceren Erdem, senior director of Dirimart, speaks fondly of the advantages that come with having a flexible space. The gallery can adapt its setting for every show, accommodating large sculptures, paintings, and video projects or dividing it into smaller areas. This adaptability allows Dirimart to offer artists a range of options, fostering a thriving artistic community.

Following in Dirimart's footsteps, other galleries have sprung up in the neighborhood. Pilevneli opened its doors in late 2017, and Evliyagil Dolapdere, a branch of the private Evliyagil Museum in Ankara, joined the artistic landscape in 2019. These art spaces, located within a stone's throw of each other, create a cultural hub that draws both locals and art aficionados from across the city.

The transformation of Dolapdere extends beyond the artistic realm, fueled by the construction and tourism industries. The neighborhood has witnessed the emergence of new residential, commercial, and hotel projects, juxtaposed with the lively street markets, small bakeries, tea shops, and canteen-style restaurants that still dot the area.

Arter's exhibition spaces provide a fascinating vantage point for observing this urban transformation. Overlooking the rapidly-changing neighborhood, the museum stands as a witness to history, with traces of the past still evident. Churches hidden away in quiet corners and a sole Greek butcher attest to the area's rich history, once home to a vibrant Greek community.

Today, Dolapdere and its neighboring Tarlabaşı have evolved into a diverse community, welcoming migrants from southeastern Turkey and refugees from Syria. This diversity adds to the cultural tapestry of the neighborhood, enriching its social fabric and creating a vibrant atmosphere.

As Arter settles into its new neighborhood, the museum aims to be more than just a cultural destination. With a deep commitment to community engagement, Arter plans to organize events in collaboration with local community centers and NGOs, offering free admission to neighborhood residents. İlkay Baliç envisions Arter as a meeting place and a vibrant cultural hub that opens its doors to all, fostering a sense of inclusivity and accessibility.

In conclusion, the Arter museum stands as a beacon of contemporary art in an industrial neighborhood that has undergone a remarkable transformation. Its lattice-covered facade and versatile interior provide a platform for artistic expression, drawing artists and enthusiasts into its enchanting world. As Arter opens its doors to the community, it aspires to become a cultural catalyst, inspiring creativity and dialogue while celebrating the diversity that defines Istanbul's vibrant artistic landscape.

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