Hüseyin Bahri Alptekin: 'I am not a studio artist'
SALT Beyoğlu Istiklal Caddesi, 136 Beyoğlu Istanbul April 9 – August 7, 2011
Another year, another contemporary art space on Istiklal Caddesi. Platform Garanti closed their doors in 2007, and reopened in April 2011 as SALT - a new art institution, under Platform Garanti's former director, Vasif Kortun, but divided into two buildings. The first, SALT Beyoğlu, is spread over five floors of an enormous building on Istiklal Caddesi. Two floors comprise an exhibition space; the rest is given over to, among other things, a walk-in cinema, a garden, a cafe, an outlet of Robinson Crusoe bookshop and a 'laboratory', or smaller exhibition space. It is very hard not to be impressed by the redesign of the building – sympathetic to the original 19th-century features, but suitably contemporary and stylish. The overall sense that this is an important destination on Istanbul’s cultural map. When the second building, SALT Galata, opens later in the year in Alexandre Vallaury's Ottoman Bank, on Bankacilar Caddesi – it will indisputably make SALT one of the most prominent art institutions in Istanbul.
The current show is a retrospective of the late Huseyin Bahri Alptekin – an artist, curator and collaborator famous for his collage-based and site-specific approach to art. Alptekin represented Turkey in the 2007 Venice Biennale, and exhibited extensively until his death, aged just 52 in 2007. The show places Alptekin’s work next to that of other artists: Can Altay, Gülsün Karamustafa, Gabriel Lesterö Camila Rocha and Nedko Solakov. Alptekin’s assemblages of found objects are particularly strong – as are the eyecatching sequined curtains – but if anything the show seems small, despite the cavernous spaces it occupies. On the other hand this may just be testament to the moreishness of Alptekin’s work.
The retrospective makes for an elegant first exhibition at SALT, rooting it firmly in the city’s artistic heritage. Indeed, it is important to note that SALT’s Vasif Kortun has often stressed the importance of both buildings’ archives. SALT is throwing down a heavy gauntlet on a street that seems almost to have more art institutions than shops – what with Arter and Borusan just down the road. But after such a strong first show, it is very hard to believe that SALT will disappoint.