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  • Writer's pictureTerry Richardson

A Brief History of Arter in Istanbul

What is Arter?

Arter is one of Istanbul’s most prestigious contemporary arts centres, with several galleries, two performance halls and a studio.


Arter History

Commissioned by the wealthy Vehbi Koç Foundation, Arter originally opened in a converted 19th-century apartment building on Istanbul’s premier shopping street, Istiklal Caddesi. The success of the venture prompted a rethink and a competition for the design of new premises was launched in 2013. Grimshaw Architects of London were the winners, and the centre opened to great acclaim in September 2019.

Arter’s new location, in the run-down district of Dolapdere, was part of the foundation’s commitment to social responsibility. This is incorporated into the design of the elegant, low rectangular structure itself, with an internal street leading right through the building to a park at the rear, and huge windows drawing the attention of passers-by to the artworks on display within.

The 18,000-square-metre indoor area of the centre encompasses six galleries over six levels, with approximately 1,400 works by some 400 artists from across Turkey and around the world. The collection includes everything from paintings and sculpture to photography and installations, amongst them works by Patricia Piccinini, Mona Hatoum and Sophie Calle. The largest of the two halls, Karbon, is a ‘black box’ performance and exhibition space, with seating for 300 people and a clever system of wires woven into the fabric of the roof to allow enormous flexibility with the lighting. The smaller Sevgi Gönül Auditorium has an adaptable seating system and is home to performing arts and dance events, film shows, talks and interviews. The centre also has a library of art books, a bookshop and a bistro run by the well-known Divan Group.

Arter also hosts many temporary themed exhibitions, often featuring Turkish artists, though leading international artists such as Bill Fontana have featured. The centre has also taken a prominent role in hosting events during the Istanbul Biennial art exhibition.

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