Atatürk Cultural Center Reopens to Revitalize Istanbul’s Art Scene | Turkey
Istanbul’s AtatÃ¼rk Cultural Center opened for the first time in 13 years, breathing new life into the city’s arts scene.
The redesigned space was the scene of turmoil on Friday, Turkey’s Independence Day: flower arrangements were hastily taken inside as workers rolled out red carpets before the evening inauguration and the premiere of an opera commissioned for the occasion.
The 1960s performing arts venue in Taksim Square, named after the republic’s secular founder, Mustafa Kemal AtatÃ¼rk, was closed in 2008 for renovations that were beset by legal disputes, and the old building was finally demolished in 2018.
Since the founding of the Republic of Turkey a century ago, Taksim Square has functioned as a cultural and political center. It was the scene of protests in 2013 against the increasingly authoritarian leanings of President Recep Tayyip ErdoÄan, in which protesters often climbed the empty Ataturk building, lighting flares on the roof and hanging banners. and posters on its facade.
A massive new mosque across Taksim, one of the pious Turkish leader’s favorite projects, was completed earlier this year, giving an area long associated with the republic’s secular founding principles a new religious identity.
The reopening of the cultural center is seen by many in Turkey’s highly polarized society as the reestablishment of an ideological balance in an important public space.
The long-awaited reopening should also be celebrated as the return of a cultural star, said GÃ¼lper RefiÄ, professor of musicology and long-time figure in the performing arts scene in Turkey.
âAnatolian music and art is a wonderful mosaic of Asian cultures. I am very happy that the new center is an important showcase, âshe said. “AtatÃ¼rk commissioned the first Turkish opera, from Adnan Saygun in 1934, and the new one is commissioned by the president and written by one of Saygun’s students, Hasan UÃ§arsu, a very talented composer.”
UÃ§arsu’s two-act opera focuses on one of the greatest artists in Ottoman history, Mimar Sinan, a prolific 16th-century architect who built Istanbul’s magnificent SÃ¼leymaniye and Selimiye mosques for the sultans in to be able to.
âThere is a lot of history and meaning in it. The world is dark and needs a new light, a new hope at this time. That’s what art is for, âsaid RefiÄ.
The ultramodern resort has retained the style of the old building, retaining the famous 60s-style metal exterior cladding, while the interior uses glass and oak to create light and warmth. The concert hall is located inside a central sphere of red tiles – a tribute to the work of the center’s original ceramic artist, Sadi Diren – and the space has been significantly expanded to include a theater, cinema , a library and two art galleries.
As Turkey’s tourism industry struggles to recover from the pandemic, the municipality and the national culture ministry seek to solidify Istanbul’s reputation as a global arts destination. The Istanbul Contemporary Art Fair has just successfully hosted the city’s first international art event since before the Covid-19 closures, and several new initiatives are underway.
With the AtatÃ¼rk center, the first two-week program Culture Route Festival in BeyoÄlu Arts District will also launch on Friday, with exhibitions and events in historic places, galleries and museums.
The abandoned shipyards on the Golden Horn are being transformed into a cultural district, and the new development of Galataport on the Bosphorus will eventually house the new Istanbul Museum of Modern Art designed by Renzo Piano and the new national museum of painting and sculpture.
âThe Istanbul Biennale and contemporary Istanbul, every year more and more art comes here,â recently said Murat TabanlÄ±oÄlu, who designed the AtatÃ¼rk cultural center and is also working on the Golden Horn project. BBC.
“You can see many layers of history here: the Byzantines, the Ottomans, the First Republic,” said the architect, who carefully studied the work of his father, Hayati – the designer of the original AtatÃ¼rk building. 1960s – for his own creation. “We have to mix our history with the future.”