In and out of Istanbul

An exhibition exploring and questioning transience, mobility, and Turkish identity


Fields of Knowledge
  • Aesthetics / Media
  • Curatorial practice

Organizing Institutions



Osvaldo Romberg


Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts

Opens to public



4017 Walnut St. Philadelphia, PA 19104


25% Formal - 75% Informal

Slought is pleased to announce In and Out of Istanbul on display from December 10, 2008-January 9, 2009. The exhibition highlights contemporary artistic practice in Turkey and is curated by Osvaldo Romberg. The opening reception will take place on Wednesday, December 10, 2008 from 6:30-8:30pm, with the artists present.

The exhibition In and Out of Istanbul features the work of seven artists including Erdag Aksel, Hale Tenger, Elif Ayiter, Osman Dinc, Selim Birsel, Canan Tolon, and Michael Morris. Indeed, for the first time in Philadelphia, Slought is presenting a group exhibition devoted to contemporary art made by artists who live in and out of Istanbul. The exhibition is by no means an extensive thematic exhibition representing a summary of contemporary art in Istanbul or Turkish art. In fact, the artistic selection clearly avoids permanent residencies or entrenched nationalist alliances. The artists selected are not necessarily Turkish and in fact several reside in Istanbul, while others reside elsewhere, in other cities.

Elif Ayiter, Erdag Aksel, Hale Tenger and Selim Birsel live primarily in Istanbul, Canan Tolon in San Francisco, Michael Morris in New York City, and Osman Dinc in Paris. The common denominator is that all of these transient artists frequently live, work, and exhibit in and out of Istanbul. The exhibit therefore has the dual aim of giving visibility and space to this emerging and vigorous artistic culture, but also paying homage to a city that spans two continents. Straddling the narrow Bosporus Strait, Istanbul links the great land masses of Europe and Asia. Indeed, since its founding as Byzantium in 657 B.C. the city has functioned as a crossroads between East and West for numerous people of varying cultures and backgrounds. In like manner, the exhibition at Slought aims to explore these ideas, providing a meditation on transience and mobility.

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"In these days of global economy that force our culture to be replete with the most varied items from everywhere, tidbits that we collect with a sort of democratic laissez-faire, it is difficult to find evidence of scenes that resonate not only locally but also internationally for our jaded eyes. Certain sites do try to transform local iconographies into an art that keeps international aspirations, but very few succeed. It is indeed very hard to balance adequately elements that come from folk culture or local history with codes that would be legible in the international scene.

In my visit to Istanbul last September, I discovered a remarkable show of works spanning the last half-century. If you take away the pioneers of the 1950s, all highly influenced by French modernism, you will notice a slow movement towards a more original iconography. This tendency has led to the inclusion of Eastern cultural elements. More specifically, you will see images and subject matters that are singular to Turkish culture, which is all more obvious in a city that blends so well modern life and traditions from the Middle East like Istanbul.

Coming from Argentina, I witnessed this phenomenon in my country as well. In the 70s, I participated in the kind of conceptual art that flourished in parts of Latin America like Brazil, Argentina, etc. After I visited the Istanbul show, I chose artists in whom I recognized the same complicated dialectical interaction between a local and an international iconography. This movement from the local to the international has flourished in the last 10 years all over the world. I have wanted to show these artists in a context like Philadelphia, first because they would never be shown here otherwise, and then because it proves that it is possible to use a local phenomenon (since Philadelphia has kept most of its local flavor intact) while raising its particularity to the level of a universal language."

-- Osvaldo Romberg, Curator