Art in Istanbul: Contemporary Spectacles and History Revisited
This chapter proposes two basic arguments concerning the artistic life of Istanbul. One is the issue of Westernization, which I claim has created the main thread of continuity between the historical and the contemporary. However, the use of the West as a model has also been the ground for controversies and polemics in art and cultural discourses. Although the chapter will not deal with these polemics, the arguments will show that controversies continue. The other argument is based on the claim that Istanbul’s idolatry of itself has generally constituted the basic reason and content of its artistic production. In the twenty-first century, Istanbul has become one of the world’s popular cultural curiosities, not only because it provides a very rich spectacle of contemporary artistic events, but also because in its urban heritage it has stored a cultural memory of two thousand years which stimulates its cultural ambience. Here I propose to show how the very claims of ‘contemporary’, still use the layered historical presences of the city to redeem an aura for art.