SALT is an arts and culture organization funded by the Turkish government. In recent years they’ve opened two multi-level gallery spaces in Istanbul. I read about a show in Time Out Istanbul that I was really interested in but couldn’t for the life of me find it on a map!
This evening I rode the tram and hiked up one of Istanbul’s GIANT hills to explore the Galata and Beyoglu neighborhoods. Istikal Caddesi (caddesi=avenue) is the main street through Beyoglu. It’s almost exclusively pedestrian with a single old timey tram running down the middle. The shops are a mix of Turkish and Western and all the cafes open on to the street. There are food carts selling corn, roasted chestnuts and ice cream. I popped in and out of bookstores and stopped for Turkish coffee. Lo and behold, the very museum I had been trying to find!
The space is beautiful. Giant glass doors open to the street. The ceiling on the main floor is easily 15 feet. The hardwood floors help everything feel clean and modern. The first floor gallery was a smaller show of four Chinese-American artists living in New York in the 80s and 90s. Despite not setting out to make political art, the photography, installations and performance art pieces have strong anti-war and pro-LGBT themes. The AIDS crisis defined New York in the 80s, it’s not difficult to understand how it influenced their art.
Floors two and three were the exhibit that had drawn me there in the first place: a retrospective on the Romanian political action group subREAL. The group lived in Bucharest in the early 90s as the economy moved toward liberal democracy. The first floor highlighted their experimentation with framing.
The second floor covers the period after members of the group moved to Berlin. With both physical distance and political distance as the transition process continued, their later work is more explicitly political. SALT choose to recreate an interactive piece the group composed in the mid-90s. Participants are asked to write what they consider the most pressing social issue in the world on phallus shaped paper.