Didem Doğan

Karakoy: Istanbul’s art district

In the last period of the Ottoman Empire, towards the end of the 19th century, the place in today’s Karakoy known as Bankalar (Banks) Street, named after the word ‘voyvoda’ in the Slav language which means “lord, landlord,” was the place where the first banks as we know them today appeared; the bankers and money-changers in the old trade centers called ‘han’ used to keep the first samples of printed currency, ‘kaime’ in Ottoman, in safes. 

Today many art galleries have opened their door for business here; Salt Galata, Kasa Galeri, Depo, Anna Laudel, Space Debris etc. … 

One of the art galleries here (Kasa Galeri) is hosting, during the 14th Biennial, the exhibition of Walid Raad, the artist from Lebanon; he carved the patterns of Iznik tiles, which were kept safe during times of war, on the lids of wooden boxes that symbolize these bank safes. These precious patterns which were kept in safes, due to a fear that they might be lost, are now coming out of their safes to seek their colors. It is quite a poetic work and it is heart-warming that some people went out of their way to think of tiles while trying to survive during war… 

We are still in Karakoy, close to the sea, and we feel also close to the sea specifically because of the worlds exhibited here in Galata Greek School. At the top floor it’s a bit dark and we hear the sounds of the water, this is a sound composition of data recordings and field recordings (hydrophonic recording of dolphins and cargo ships in the Bosphorus). We see several other things; Turkish cymbals, water colour paintings done with Bosphorus water among them… Back in the Ottoman era these Turkish cymbals were made by the Armenian craftsmen, the magic formula still unknown today, and they were played by the Empire’s official band of musicians. Today many world wide famous bands use them. 

Pictures are from: Kasa Galeri, Komando Stairs, Salt Galata, Galata Greek School.

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