Iskele Sokak, Kadıköy, Istanbul (Bige Örer)
Written by Tristan Rutherford
Istanbul’s bohemian Kadıköy quarter is the city’s hippest Asian enclave. Its arts studios and Italian-built streets host part of this autumn’s mammoth Biennial show.
Istanbul is the largest city in both Europe and the Middle East – and the 14th Biennial is its key cultural event. From this September, art, literature, and thought will dominate the cross-continental metropolis for two entire months, with 80 artists presenting 1,500 pieces centred on the theme of salt water.
Biennial director Bige Örer tells Oryx magazine that visitors should allow three days to take it all in. “Our show sprawls from Rumelifeneri Castle on the Black Sea, to the exclusive Princes Islands, which lie 20 minutes from the Istanbul coast.”
Exhibitions will range from marine archaeology to global trade. Best of all, thanks to the patronage of global museums such as Mathaf in Qatar, all but one of these shows are completely free.
“Many group exhibitions take place in large venues on Istanbul’s European side, like the Istanbul Modern and ARTER,” continues Örer. “But the most offbeat shows are hosted in Kadıköy.” This historic Asian suburb was built around the Haydarpaa train station. The rococo terminal once linked Istanbul with Baghdad, Tehran, Amman, and Medina. The area is where locals now come to shop, eat, and play.
“Start by taking a ferry boat from Kabata or Sultanahmet across the Bosphorus to Kadıköy docks,” says Örer. “Iskele Sokak with its French and Italian villas is the hippest avenue.” The street’s Yeldeirmeni artists’ studio, a key Biennial exhibition centre, is sandwiched between “murals that cover entire walls”. Homely new cafés “like Komu, one block south”, and modern vegan eateries “like Mahatma, one block north”, are part of a local cultural trend.
The Yeldeirmeni Art Center was formerly the French-built Notre Dame du Rosaire Church. “I would recommend that everyone attends a concert in this place,” says Örer. “It rocks!”
A final tip: hungry visitors can source a seafood feast at Kadı Nimet in Kadıköy Fish Market before stepping on the ferry back to Europe.
Director of the 14th Istanbul Biennial, Bige Örer was born in Istanbul in 1977. Technically the CEO of one of the world’s largest temporary museums, she carries such responsibility with ease. Örer also holds a professorship at Istanbul’s liberal-arts Bilgi University in her spare time.
Sabiha Gökçen Airport, Istanbul, Turkey