Monday, October 5, 2015

Open Studio Days in Istanbul

Walking down a frequently trod street in our Beyoğlu neighborhood, we peered more closely than usual at the houses lining either side, eyeing doorsteps and overhead windows for the pink balloon that meant there was art inside.

Jewelry by İrem Burcu Ummansu
I had been excited to learn that the “Open Studio Days” (Açık Stüdyo Günleri) concept was finally coming to Istanbul. SF Open Studios had always been one of my favorite events back in my San Francisco days, offering a full month of opportunities to explore new neighborhoods, meet local artists, peek into their studios, and maybe even buy a print or two. And the weekend-long Istanbul Open Studio Days got off to a good start right away, with a nicely printed brochure containing details on the participating artists and maps to guide us on our urban treasure hunt.

Painting by Desen Halıçınarlı
Starting off near home in Çukurcuma and working our way down to Tophane and Karaköy, a friend and I stepped gingerly into the first location on our self-plotted tour, feeling a little awkward about entering a stranger’s house, but were warmly greeted by the artist, who cheerfully offered us snacks and showed us her colorful painted caricatures and ceramic pieces. Proceeding more confidently after that, we climbed to fifth-floor walkup apartments and into dusty hans (traditional commercial buildings). We got lost a couple of times and failed entirely to find one or two studios on the list.

In Karaköy, we enviously ogled beautiful jewelry reflecting the architectural forms of old Beyoğlu buildings. I fell madly in love with one painter’s moody cityscapes — and got to step out onto her roof terrace to see some of the vistas that inspire her — but was afraid to ask how much they cost.

Paintings by Begüm Mütevellioğlu
The next day, we did it all over again, boarding a ferry to Kadıköy and diving into the streets of Yeldeğirmeni, a newly hip Asian-side neighborhood where crumbling Ottoman-era wooden houses sit amongst new apartment buildings and even newer cafes and boutiques.

One of the artists’ studios was inside one of those old wooden houses, offering a rare glimpse inside a characteristic (but quickly vanishing) style of Istanbul architecture along with some fine paintings. With lots of street art to look at along the way, we visited a printmaking studio, stood around awkwardly while one artist hosted what appeared to be a dinner party for her friends, and scratched our heads over some conceptual works in a gallery.

Print by Mediha Sevinç
Wrapping up the days with beers in one of Kadıköy’s many lively bars, we raised our glasses to toast a successful weekend meeting up-and-coming artists, looking at their works in progress, seeing some of their inspirations, and poking into some new corners of the city. A few duds aside, the Açık Stüydo Günleri had been a wonderful, well-organized event. Too bad it only happens once a year.

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