Istanbul is a metropolis of conflicts and contradictions, a melting pot of cultures, the city on the Bosphorus, the Bridge between Asia and Europe, a place of a long and eventful history. Countless descriptions of Istanbul become cliches, even though they contain also partial truths. Recent political changes and tensions in the area mean that Turkey has attracted attention all over the world.

 Istanbul’s art scene remained regional and relatively unknown abroad until the end of the 1980’s. The Art galleries of the city had barely any connections to international art fairs and the artists had hardly any exchange with the (international) art world. But after 2000 the situation changed, not least because of European subsidies. The Istanbul Biennial, two new art fairs and some new private art museums were established, and a new generation of young Turkish artists began to discover the growing Arts industry, especially in the city of Istanbul which became their inspiration. The city also attracted young artists from abroad.

 The preparations for this exhibition in 2010 took me into the colourful cultural life of this Metropolis of 15 million people. The openness and vibrancy of the scene impressed me so much, that I decided to keep a studio there permanently. From then on, I commuted between Düsseldorf, Istanbul and my place of birth, Ankara.

 Each visit to Istanbul was amazing and stimulating. Nearly every day there were exhibition openings and art events taking place, attracting huge public interest.  The city was full of colourful shops, uncountable cafes, restaurants, crowded streets, a varied night life, luminous advertising billboards, groups of tourists, all drawing and inspiring me as an artist. In that atmosphere, I got to know a circle of young artists with whom I still maintain connections and friendships. Against the stereotypes I should mention the important role of female artists, gallerists and influential curators (in this field).  

We did our first project together, a group exhibition in Meerbusch, Germany, in the Konrad Mönter Gallery, in 2015. Some of us have continued to work together since then. We have stayed connected as an informal grouping of artists who keep an eye on each other. 

Despite the differences in our approaches, one cannot miss the similarities that connect us: A preoccupation with memory is the collective shared basis of different artistic concepts, and also the search for identity and belonging-ness, possibly as a reaction to uncertain times.

Amid the radical changes we’ve witnessed in Turkey, and particularly in Istanbul, the cultural industries and the vibrancy I’ve described may or may not survive. The art scene in Istanbul is one of the most interesting and alive in the world. We‘ll have to wait and see what will be left of it after this period of political and ideological change.

This exhibition makes it possible - even in a limited way - to have a glimpse into art production in Istanbul, in the work of three female and two male artists. It is full of surprises in its remarkable range of expression. 

I thank you all the participating artist friends, Hülya Bakkal, Secil Erel, Cagri Saray and Asli Torcu who carried out the this group show despite various difficulties and barriers.

I thank you also my friend and Co-Curator Jutta Saum for her consequent commitment to enable another interesting Exhibition in Düsseldorf.

Coskun Demirok