Istanbul Modern’s new exhibition, “Harbor,” focuses on ports and harbors. Emphasizing Istanbul’s relationship with the sea, “Harbor” takes a close look at how art in Turkey has presented the cultural and social life that developed on the coasts and around the ports of the city from the late 19th century to the present.
After 12 years at Antrepo 4, a warehouse situated in the area known as the Port of Istanbul, Istanbul Modern is presenting “Harbor,” its last exhibition before beginning the transformation of its building.
Curated by Çelenk Bafra and Levent Çalıkoğlu, the exhibition presents a selection of paintings, sculptures, models, engravings, drawings, photographs, videos, and installations by 34 artists and collectives from various periods and disciplines.
Exploring how port areas are reflected in the visual arts, not only as geographical locations but also as sites of social and economic interaction, the exhibition delves into the symbolic and metaphorical aspects of the concept of “harbor.”
Emphasizing Istanbul’s relationship with the sea and its ports, “Harbor” shows the cultural and social life that developed on the coasts and around the ports of the city from the 19th century to the present, through the eyes of artists.
“Harbor” takes its title from an exhibition held in 1941 by a group of academy artists, who coalesced around a social realist approach in Istanbul. The group, which would later come to be known as the Harbor Painters, chose to produce art through participatory observation.
Their first exhibition focusing on the harbor with its workers, living conditions and social issues, went down in art history as the “Harbor Exhibition.”
The current exhibition, held in Istanbul Modern’s temporary exhibition hall, features close to 200 works by 34 artists and collectives in Turkey including Nevin Aladağ, Meriç Algün Ringborg, Hüseyin B. Alptekin, Avni Arbaş, Volkan Aslan, Turgut Atalay, Antonio Cosentino, Darzanà , Hasan Deniz, Cevat Dereli, Abidin Dino, Feyhaman Duran, Mıgırdiç Givanian, Ara Güler, Nedim Günsür, Nuri İyem, Özer Kabaş, Borga Kantürk, Gülsün Karamustafa, Volkan Kızıltunç, Muhsin Kut, Mıgırdiç Melkon, Yasemin Özcan, Serkan Özkaya, Sébah & Joaillier, Arslan Sükan, Hüsnü Tengüz, Cemal Tollu, Selim Turan, Ömer Uluç, xurban_collective, Mümtaz Yener, and Fausto Zonaro.‘Toward the new Istanbul Modern’
“As our last exhibition before we begin the transformation of Antrepo 4 into a world-class museum building, we are focusing on harbors and ports and the relationships that modern and contemporary artists have established with Istanbul’s harbors,” said Oya Eczacıbaşı, the chair of Istanbul Modern’s board, said at a press conference.
Istanbul Modern Director Levent Çalıkoğlu noted that one of the purposes of the exhibition was to remind viewers of the visible and invisible transformation of the economic structure that once represented almost all of Istanbul and the socio-economic impact of this change.
“This exhibition brings together representational images of Istanbul as a symbolic geographic point as well as current works that are open to metaphorical stories and meanings. It aims to bring to light the nostalgic face of Istanbul’s magnificent past, the culture of its modern harbor as shaped by people, labor and the social order, and the significance of harbors for humanity as a point of arrival and the beginning of future happiness,” Çalıkoğlu said. Timeline summarizes the history of the city through harbors
The exhibition includes a timeline of maritime culture in Turkey, social history, and the visual arts.
Summarizing the history of Istanbul through harbors, from archaeological work on the Harbor of Theodosius (Yenikapı) to the present, the timeline highlights major transformations and turning points in the city’s relationship with the sea and ports through texts, photographs, moving images, documents, and maps.
“Harbor” can be viewed at Istanbul Modern’s Antrepo No:4 through June 4.