İstanbul ‘miniaturized’ in new show

One of the best ways to discover the spirit of a city is to read about it from its writers and poets. Almost like serving as “main entrances” to their respective cities, what those writers have to offer pulls the reader into indescribable emotions. İstanbul is synonymous with Yahya Kemal, with Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar or Abdülhak Şinasi Hisar and many more… Each of these writers lent an ear to this city, many memories and sights of İstanbul have spoken to them, and the city walls, trees and seaside mansions that once witnessed the reign of İstanbul as the capital of an empire have gained an identity through their words. This fairytale-like world that awaits its admirers on the pages of books has come to the limelight once more, but this time in the form of miniatures.

The new exhibition, titled “İstanbul Miniatures,” showcases the products of the Cahide Keskiner Studio, a well-known workshop in İstanbul that produces traditional miniatures. Coming as part of the İstanbul 2010 European Capital of Culture program, the exhibit awaits art lovers in the foyer of the Cemal Reşit Rey (CRR) Concert Hall in Harbiye through July 18.

The exhibition, arranged into four sections around the themes “city walls,” “monumental trees,” “birds” and “seaside mansions” -- the unique grand houses lining the Bosporus known in Turkish as “yalı” -- is made up of 69 pieces.

Curated by Cem Yavuz Özafşar, the show features the works of 13 artists, including Sabiha Bayhan Koç, Zehra Çekin, Tülin Gönültaş, Çiğdem Tunçer, Ebru Kızılırmak and Nükhet Sağıroğlu, as well as those by Keskiner. An extensive catalog also accompanies the exhibition.

The show can pull the onlookers like a magnet, echoing in the CRR a long-lost delicate song that İstanbul used to whisper into the ears of its lovers. On the pieces showcased at the exhibition, the city opens its heart generously to artists and art lovers, leading them into its heart through its historic walls. You get the feeling as though you are actually strolling around the old city through depictions of the Cibali Gate, the City Walls in Ayvansaray, Topkapı Palace, the Mevlana Gate, the Abu Ayyub al-Ansari tomb and many more. After entering the city through these gates, you come across the yalıs, strutting their stuff from among Judas trees with light emanating from their beautiful windows that resemble birdcages. The Sadullah Paşa mansion, the Hekimbaşı Salih Efendi mansion, the Zarif Mustafa Paşa mansion, each speaks with İstanbul, to which they have laid their backs on. Approaching the miniatures with the curiosity of a child, one can discover the delicate craft and the endless beauty they possess.

Nestled on another corner of the CRR is the series of miniatures dedicated to the birds of İstanbul. The robins, pigeons, turtle doves, bee-eaters, nightingales and owls altogether call on viewers into the forests of İstanbul, leaving in the onlooker a rather sad feeling that comes with no longer being able to see those beauties flying over your head in the skies of this city.

The last section in the show, but definitely not the least, is the one dedicated to İstanbul’s trees, which Tanpınar once likened to “a poem dedicated to the sun.” Setting foot into a world that holds times bygone in the Topkapı Palace, the Valide Atik Mosque, and in Çengelköy and Üsküdar, you see the sorrow and joy those trees add into the panorama of the city caress onlookers. You have until July 18 to experience this fairytale for yourself at the CRR.

Musa İğrek, İstanbul
Today’s Zaman