Culture and arts scene blazes trail in 2012
The Grand Culture and Arts Awards this year honored four photographers – Ara Güler, İzzet Keribar, Sıtkı Fırat and Sabit Kalfagil – at a ceremony held in March at Istanbul’s Lütfi Kırdar Congress Center with the participation of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Günay.
Turkey has been shivering heading into 2013, but its arts scene remains as lively and energetic as ever, authoring a number of firsts over the past year. At the same time, the passions have often been heated between the cultural community and Istanbul officials amid arguments over the fate of the city’s famous Emek Cinema.
While Turkey received back the Orpheus Mosaic from the Dallas Museum in December, the country was also criticized by the president of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation for waging an aggressive campaign to reclaim cultural antiquities the nation says were plundered from the region even as Turkey’s own museums contain looted artifacts, according to a New York Times article published Sept. 30.
The Culture Ministry recently managed to repatriate “Weary Herakles” from the United States and the Hattuşa Sphinx from Germany following long-running negotiations.
The Hattuşa Sphinx was put back on display in the northern province of Çorum in November 2011 for the first time in 100 years after Turkish officials successfully convinced the Berlin Pergamon Museum to return the object. This sphinx is more than 3,000 years old.
The top half of “Weary Herakles,” a 1,800-year-old Roman sculpture, was returned to Turkey in September after Turkish officials convinced the Boston Museum to return the artifact. The bottom half of the statue was discovered in 1980 by Professor Jale İnan in Perge, a few years after the top half was smuggled out of the country. “[There have been] 40 years of longing between the top and lower half of the statue,” Culture Minister Ertuğrul Günay said at the time. Together, the two halves weigh 200 kilograms.
Amid the good news, however, bad blood has been boiling between artists and citizens on one side and developers and municipal officials over the demolition of Emek Theater in Beyoğlu.
In April 2012, a group of around 500 people belonging to the Emek Bizim (Emek is Ours) Platform protested the project to demolish the theater in Istanbul’s Taksim Square. The demolition decision was announced in 2011 and also encompasses Majik Cinema, Turkey’s first cinema built in 1914 in the heart of Beyoğlu, which would be destroyed and replaced by a shopping mall.
Beyoğlu Municipality confirmed the project. Instead of preserving and restoring the city’s cultural heritage, the new “restoration” project, as it has been called, will be a 17-story shopping mall. The Majik Cinema and Maksim Casino’s historical façade will be preserved, but the interior will be converted into a shopping mall. The Istanbul Culture and Arts Foundation (İKSV) has outlined a vision for Emek Theater in which the building would be saved from demolition so that it can remain a cinema and cultural center.
“The remaking of the project and the restructuring of the building should be shared with the public. That’s why, given the fragile situation, İKSV aims to make the venue a non-profit center for arts and culture,” the foundation said in a written statement.
Openings and celebrations
This year, İKSV celebrated its 40th anniversary with a number of big-name events. The world-famous performance company La Fura dels Baus, renowned for its magnificent street theater events, as well as for its theater and opera interpretations, performed the world premiere of its new project commissioned by İKSV in June on the anniversary of the beginning of the very first Istanbul Festival.
Another important event held by İKSV in its 40th anniversary was a concert from the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and its principal conductor, Sir Simon Rattle. The concert, which was held Sept. 27 at the Haliç Convention Center, was also marked by the presence of two young, internationally acclaimed Turkish soloists, cellist Efe Baltacıgil and his contrabassist brother, Fora Baltacıgil.
As part of the events, İKSV also hosted the first design biennial of Turkey in 2012, which started on Oct. 13 and lasted until Dec. 12. It hosted 44,600 visitors from specific Istanbul Design Biennial exhibitions, in addition to a total of 115,000 for parallel events.
Turkey also celebrated its first contemporary arts award. The full art prize, the first contemporary art award of Turkey, was awarded to two young artists from Istanbul, Aslı Çavuşoğlu and Işıl Eğrikavuk, who were chosen from among 13 semi-finalists to share the grand prize. Cengiz Tekin received the supporting prize, which was determined by a public vote.
Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk realized a long-nurtured dream on April 28 with the opening of an actual “Museum of Innocence” – a collection of relics of a half-century of ordinary life – as depicted in his 2008 novel of the same name, Reuters reported.
Pamuk set out “not to do a spectacular or monumental museum but something in the backstreets, something that represents the daily life of the city,” he told a news conference after a press preview.
Situated in a bright, wine-red building in the neighborhood of Çukurcuma, the Museum of Innocence houses real and fabricated artifacts from everyday Turkish life between 1950 and 2000, in homage both to the novel and to Pamuk’s Istanbul.
The Grand Culture and Arts Awards this year honored four photographers – Ara Güler, İzzet Keribar, Sıtkı Fırat and Sabit Kalfagil – at a ceremony held in March at Istanbul’s Lütfi Kırdar Congress Center with the participation of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Günay. Speaking at the ceremony presented by the Turkish Culture and Tourism Ministry, Erdoğan said that while everyone now had cameras in their pockets thanks to the development of technology, great photography was not an easy thing to achieve.
Star-gazing in Istanbul
Madonna came to Turkey Istanbul’s Türk Telekom arena after 17 years on June 22. The number of live music and entertainment events in Turkey is increasing every day, with many featuring world-renowned performers from abroad. The market value of large-scale live music events has increased 500 percent in the last 10 years, making Istanbul, which hosts most of these events, a brand name in the entertainment sector.
A total of 5,000 tickets were also sold for a series of Jennifer Lopez concerts at Istanbul’s Ülker Sports Arena in November.
James Bond effect in Turkey
One of 2012’s biggest movies was also set against the backdrop of Turkey, with producers of the latest installment of the 007 James Bond series, “Skyfall,” choosing Istanbul’s busy Eminönü neighborhood and the southern province of Adana for some of the film’s more important scenes.
An Eminönü street was closed to traffic and pedestrians for three weeks in April as the Mısır Çarşısı (Egyptian Bazaar), Yeni Camii (New Mosque), Old Post Office, Bankacılar Avenue, Sultanhamam, Balat Kiremit Avenue and the Grand Bazaar were all turned into a movie setting.
Adana also received a major boost thanks to its decision to welcome shooting for “Skyfall,” with many excited about greater tourism numbers and others happy at the production team’s contributions to the local economy.
Preparations for the film’s shooting started in early March, leading locals to rush to see the team prepare for the action scenes which were shot on trains throughout the city.