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The headquarters of the Anglo-French ‘Ottoman Bank’ on Bankalar Caddesi in Galata was a cornerstone of commercial life in late Ottoman Istanbul. Luncheon in the directors’ offices looking out across the Golden Horn to the domes and minarets of the Old City was a treat. Today the building belongs to the highly active arts sponsors Garanti Bankası, who bought up and closed down the old, much-diminished privately owned Osmanlı Bankası and have beautifully restored its palatial home, renaming it SALT Galata (no one has yet explained why ‘SALT’, which has nothing to do with Strategic Arms Limitation Talks).
This is one of Istanbul’s major historical and contemporary art spaces, with the charismatic ‘anti-most-things’ Edhem Eldem in charge of the stimulating history shows. Be warned, though, that although the institute is open all day, the galleries are inexplicably closed in the mornings seven days a week. There is a lot that is a little illogical about the place – including the sign-posting, which is almost as exasperating as their website. However, there is a very elegant, thoroughly swish restaurant, Ca D’Oro – though with more of a bank clerk’s view than a director’s – and a good bookstore, run by the excellent Robinson Crusoe bookshop.
In the basement is a museum dedicated to the Ottoman Bank. Part of the Ottoman Bank Archives and Research Centre, the museum sheds light on the history of the Ottoman Bank, formerly the central bank and treasurer of the Ottoman Empire. The objects and documents in the collection of the Ottoman Bank Museum, as well as the design of the museum itself, reflect the little-known world of the late-Ottoman and early-Republican periods, in which the bank played a central role. The museum chronologically highlights the significant changes, developments and crises experienced over an 80-year period – from the Ottoman Bank’s founding until 1933, when it gained private bank status.
The London Academy of Ottoman Court Music, with Emre Aracı. Produced by Ates Orga,
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