Arter: starting a new chapter in Istanbul’s art scene
With the relocation to a new building in Dolapdere, Arter is ready to present a comprehensive artistic and cultural program to the city.

By Yao Hsiao

The reopening of Arter by the Vehbi Koç Foundation is one of the most exciting news stories of Istanbul’s 2019 art scene. After a short break, Arter moved from its old location on Istiklal Caddesi to a new building in Dolapdere opening on September 13, launching seven exhibitions, a film program, a learning program, and many more surprises.

Speaking of the place’s history, Arter’s Founding Director Melih Fereli explains that the initial plan was to build a campus consisting of three buildings of three different themes, with one building housing the Arter contemporary art collection. However, it turned out to be too difficult to find a suitable site in the city center for this project, so an alternative plan was proposed that led to the new Arter building in Dolapdere.

Since 2010 Arter kept actively engaging in Istanbul’s contemporary art scene, while the team also worked on a concurrent plan to establish a large size museum in Dolapdere. Construction started in 2013 when the old industrial building was demolished, and a new museum was designed and built by Grimshaw Architects from London. Covering 18,000 square meters, the new building is much larger than Arter’s old space, providing ample space for a richer and more comprehensive art program.


Pool of diversity

Without a conventional museum management background, Fereli used to direct biennials and international festivals. Passionate about music, he leveraged his sophisticated experience and interests in different art forms to set a vision for Arter as a contemporary arts institution that encourages artistic production from all disciplines—from music to dance, theatre to sonic arts, and film to literature. “I apologize for sounding perhaps big-headed, but I basically imagined an institution and a building which would become a game changer,” Fereli told The Guide Istanbul. 

Instead a permanent exhibition displaying its own collection, Arter “treats the collection as a pool of works,” using a hybrid approach that curates various temporary exhibitions that re-contextualize the existing works through different themes. Besides presenting its multimedia collection with works from the 1960s to the present, Arter also hosts solo and group exhibitions of local and international artists and support new productions.

In addition to the exhibitions, Arter’s new program also includes integrated events that bring films, performing arts, music, and digital arts together, along with a learning program and new publications. “I promise there will be something for everyone to be engaged with,” said Fereli.

Melih Fereli

Promising future

The multi-disciplinary approach of Arter reflects Fereli’s response to the challenges that cultural institutions are facing today, when the human attention span is shrinking to only a few seconds. Arter’s diverse program seeks to bring stimulation and inspiration to audiences, artists, and researchers. “Arter strives to be a sustainable, vibrant cultural hub, making its broad range of programs accessible to everyone, and especially for the younger generation,” said Fereli. 

Throughout the nine years since Arter was founded, Fereli has seen steady growth in Istanbul’s contemporary art scene. Despite the effect of the country’s economic conditions on private galleries in the last few years, artists from Turkey have become more visible on the international stage. Believing wholeheartedly in the positivity of dialogue and interactions brought on by new institutions and museum programs, Fereli is optimistic about Istanbul’s art scene thriving in the next decade.

As for Arter itself, the main goals remain achieving incremental levels of growth, strengthening relationships with international institutions, and developing co-production projects. Arter is and will keep bringing artists from different backgrounds to push the boundaries and create sustainable dialogue, whilst providing an inspiring and welcoming multi-disciplinary space for audiences of all ages.

Kelimeler Pek Gereksiz

Irmak Caddesi No.13, Dolapdere;

And the former building of Arter became…

A new initiative of the Vehbi Koç Foundation called Mesher. The space on Istiklal Caddesi is now independent of Arter and will feature exhibitions mainly curated by Bahattin Öztuncay and Karoly Aliotti. 

Art in the neighborhood

Just a few steps away from Arter, there are some other art venues worth a visit in Dolapdere, including Pilevneli Dolapdere gallery, Dirimart gallery, and the Evliyagil Dolapdere art space.

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