Friday, March 8, 2013

Down in the vault

Entering the Sabancı University building in Karaköy for the first time, I asked the security guard where I could find the Kasa Gallery. He opened an inconspicuous cream-colored wooden door near the entrance and pointed the way down a flight of stairs. The door shut behind me as I descended the staircase, which curved into a small basement room with what looked like the building's electrical control system along one side, and a janitor's closet on the other. There was no one -- and no art -- in sight. Had I fumbled my Turkish that badly? Was someone playing a trick on the dumb foreigner?

Then I saw the sturdy metal door with its large dial handle. Of course. Kasa. Cash register. Cash box. Safe-deposit box. Vault.

The small gallery is in fact located inside the original basement vault of the Minerva Han, built in the early 20th century as a bank. Though the exhibit currently on display, Greek artist Bill Balaskas' "The Market Will Save the World" -- featuring a video of the Parthenon lit up by strobe lights and a room filled with potted cacti, Monopoly money, and popped balloons -- didn't do much for me, the concept of putting artworks that "investigate the nature of capitalism and global economic crisis" in an old bank vault seemed satisfyingly apt.

The Minerva Han's basement isn't the only place in Karaköy where you can delve into an old bank vault. The much more extensive vault area of the old Ottoman Bank Headquarters just up the street (now SALT Galata) houses the well-put-together, if highly specialized Ottoman Bank Museum, featuring old banking records, century-old photos of bank customers and employees, and data about banking clientele in the late Ottoman era. Look for the panels discussing the presumably awkward period when the Ottoman government ended up on the opposing side in World War I from the bank's British and French owners.

TO VISIT: Kasa Gallery is located at Bankalar Cad. No. 2 in Karaköy and is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Ottoman Bank Museum is located at Bankalar Cad. No. 11 and is open Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 8 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. Admission to both venues is free.


Senior Dogs Abroad said...

Jen, Thanks for the very interesting post. We'll make a point to visit these places. Going down to the vault for the exhibit sounds a little scary for a clautrophobic, though.

sam said...

I was in Sabanci University and took a film class in the visual arts department. the experience was amazing.