One of the things I love about Turkey is the constant presence of art, whether it’s in the form of paintings, drawings, handcrafts, pottery, music, or literature – you name it, it’s probably here. Where I come from, there is fairly little emphasis on the arts. It’s not that people from Kansas aren’t creative or artistic, but there is a strong sense of “you will never make a living off of this, so don’t bother” that can really stamp that kind of passion out of a person, even if you don’t plan on making a career out of it. After more than 20 years of boring, rectangular buildings and almost no funding for anything that didn’t seem profitable, it’s so refreshing to be in a place where art and music are on every street and no two buildings look quite the same.
My husband and I both love modern art and had completely failed to visit any art museums in Turkey all year, so we decided it was long overdue to check some out. We planned our whole weekend around visiting several modern art museums around the Galata area, even booking our hotel within walking distance of our top picks…unfortunately, things didn’t exactly go as planned. Not one, but THREE of the museums on our list were closed when we arrived on site, despite us being there within the listed visiting hours. There have been rumors about some of the museums being closed due to censorship, but I’m not sure if that’s true or not. In either case, we were very disappointed after having walked several miles up and down hills and through many winding alleys for nothing.
As we were walking back towards the main part of the neighborhood to deal with my growing “hanger” after walking for so long, something occurred to me: just because the museum was closed did not mean I couldn’t experience Turkey’s modern art scene. There is amazing street art on pretty much every street in the entire city. While I certainly hope I am able to go back and actually see the museums (because it’s so, so important to support the arts if you can, people!), I’m happy to say I still got my fill of contemporary art and got a pretty good workout in the process. The streets, it seems, will always belong to the people -and particularly the artists.
It wasn’t the weekend we had planned, but to be honest, I had a pretty awesome time wandering through the streets looking for hidden gems and also picking out gifts for family since summer is right around the corner (yikes!). You could seriously plan a whole week around Istanbul’s street art and still probably not see everything. I’m looking forward to checking out some different neighborhoods next time. Istanbul is such a special city!