What good is art if it satisfies only the imaginaries of artists?

At the Hagia Sophia, in Istanbul

As promised on 14 November, I will start pulling together my thoughts on the recent visit to Istanbul. I have had some quite traumatic things happen after my return (as well as another surgical procedure on my right hand and wrist for carpal tunnel-related issues), but the following was a first take, published by the Daily Maverick on 22 November 2019. Below is an extract…

Art gallery and art spaces as beachhead for gentrification

The Arter Gallery reminded me of the gentrification of neighbourhoods where unemployment, poverty, alienation are rife, and where (in the case of Dolapdere, where the gallery is located) the gleaming gallery stands, egotistically separate. I should not traduce the creativity that is on exhibit at the Arter Gallery, but I can also not see it in isolation from Dolapdere, and the forced gentrification of poor neighbourhoods; the way that a section of District Six has now become Zonnebloem, home to art galleries, artisanal coffee shops, and nude foods.

The location of the Arter Gallery is in a neighbourhood of Istanbul that is home to poverty, alienation, of Kurdish and African refugees and is especially distressing. I am sure than none of the homeless people who want to sit down and have a cappuccino at a trendy Zonnebloem café (if she has the money) would be welcome. And so, the Arter encourages the local community to visit the gallery at low cost or even for free. But step outside the back door (outside the coffee shop) and onto the black flooring of the back court of the Arter Gallery – and see how it stretches, in some places for no more than 10 metres, in clean lines, neat angles to a low wall, beyond which children play amid impoverished surroundings and dilapidated buildings. (Read the full article, here)

Between the Silences of Images

Late night in Fatih – Sultanahmet. By Ismail Lagardien (Copyright)

I recently spent about a week in Istanbul. Most of my time was spent visiting installations of the Istanbul Biennale, and two or three other places and art galleries. My favourite gallery, the Istanbul Modern, is being rebuilt, and temporarily housed elsewhere, in Beyoğlu. I am on some deadlines, and in the middle of an especially tough period, but once I emerge, I will collate my thoughts and present them in an essay, with photographs. I will focus, in particular, on some of the ways that art spaces have been inserted into working class areas, and have been part of gentrification – which places inordinate pressure on the poor, refugees, and immigrants. Please check back or sign up for updates. That way you will be notified when the essay is posted.