• Karaköy © Ara Güler
  • © Sophie Calle
  • Cemetery at Eyüp and group of Turkish women  © Sebah & Joailllier
  • Legend (Galata), 2015, courtesy of Kasper Bosmans and Marc Foxx Gallery
Heritage Contemporary Exchange Creation

Imagine Istanbul



15 10 '15 > 24 01 '16

More info


Centre for Fine Arts
Rue Ravenstein 23
B-1000 Brussels

Opening hours

Tue>Sun: 10:00>18:00
Thu: 10:00>21:00

25 12 '15 & 01 01 '16


T 02 507 82 00


Adults: 12€
Seniors >65: 10€
Groups: 10€
Youth <25: 6€
Children <12: 2€
Schools: 1€
Combitickets Anatolia + Imagine Istanbul: 20€

Free entrance
People in wheelchairs and the person accompanying them
Children <6

Train + entrée expo
On sale in Belgian stations

Ticketing FNAC


Ed. Lannoo 45€

Guided tours

Max. 15 pers.
Duration: 1:30
+ special guided tours for family
95€ > 75€
T 070 344 577


Thu > 21:00


EUROPALIA, Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Turkey, in partnership with BOZAR

Curator: R. Paul McMillen

Istanbul is a catalyst of cultural processes that has constantly changed its meaning, significance and appearance. Istanbul perpetually evolves and continues to defy a single representation, a defining telling or any generalisation. Istanbul therefore is an indefatiguable muse. 

‘Imagine Istanbul’  looks at some defining artists of 20th century Turkish photography – but also music, cinema and literature- to illustrate how these art forms shaped the way we see this city. It explores a series of photographic revelations, bodies of work that move alongside the dividing waters of the city. 

To start, a separate section with examples from 19th Century Istanbul photography illustrates how, from the very early start of the  medium, the photographer desires and needs Istanbul. Unseen photos from the magnificent Koç collection reveal precurser imagery of what we consider comtemporary  photography.  

The core of the exhibition is Ara Güler, «The Eye of Istanbul», unquestionably Turkey’s most significant photographer of the 20th century. He is the fundemental artist then and now, the benchmark of a whole school of photography. All photography that followed Ara Güler and his school were either in agreement with it or made a conscious effort to escape from it. He has produced an enormous body of work over the past three quarters of a century, so exhaustive that there are several Istanbuls that no longer exist that he has recorded. They have become subjects in the astounding forensics of photography. Ara Güler is a photographer, artist, journalist, historian. He accepts only the ‘journalist’ but prefers the ‘historian’ and denies the ‘artist’. His importance is hard to overestimate. Orhan Pamuk, Turkey’s Nobel laureate for literature, has written: 

" ... Ara Güler’s greatest achievement is to have preserved for many millions a visual memoir that captures the city in all its richness and poetry. Every time I look at the details in Güler’s Istanbul photographs, I want to rush to my desk to write about the city."

Ara Güler’s work will be followed by a wider investigation of new and forward-looking or new and past-embracing photography which characterises the Turkish photography of today.

One of these will be a substantial selection of the work of Ali Taptık, who can be described as the antithesis to Ara Güler. We could say that Istanbul needed Ali Taptık. It needed the gaze he brought to the ever-emerging cityscape which for him was a constantly emerging self-portrait of contemporary Turkey. His work is not a critique of Istanbul, it is an intimate interaction with it. 

Ahmet Polat will be another contemporary photographer whose work the exhibition will explore. He is an artist who has built a body of work on the polarity of family background.  He has Turkish-Dutch origins (he recently won the prestigious ‘Fotograaf des Vaderlands’ award in the Netherlands) and he has a keen awareness of the dichotomy of his aesthetic and conceptual approaches. His work is a combination of commentory and confession. 

‘Imagine Istanbul’ is a journey of photographic encounters that are testimony to the immense power of Istanbul to confront, challenge and seduce. Music, cinema, literature as well as installations by contemporary artists such as Ayşe Erkmen, Sophie Calle and Kasper Bosmans dialogue with the different photographers. There is no attempt to be a comprehensive survey but more, a demonstration of the universiality of Istanbul.

In the frame of the exhibition, two artists are given the opportunity to create new work: Débruit and Bieke Depoorter. Both artists travel to Istanbul for a residency. The new album by Débruit, with recorded material in Istanbul will be premiered in the exhibition. Depoorter’s new photographic work, shot in Istanbul, will be shown in Bozar’s Horta hall.

Bieke Depoorter 

Bieke Depoorter received her Master’s degree in Photography from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts (KASK) in Ghent. She mainly works on autonomous projects. In 2009, she travelled through Russia, taking photos of the people with whom she stayed. The resulting series, ‘Ou Menya’, won many prizes, including a Magnum Expression Award. Lannoo published her first book of photographs. A similar project in the United States resulted in her second book, ‘I am about to call it a day’, published in 2014. Depoorter is currently working on ‘In Between’, an intimate series about Egyptian families. She became a Nominee Member of Magnum in 2012 and an Associate Member in 2014.

Débruit - Istanbul Sessions

Over the years, traditional and non-traditional world music has become an integral part of much modern Western music. African and oriental influences from the 1960s and ‘70s are, for example, still very common in rock and dance music. They contribute to fascinating, new music. 

Xavier Thomas aka Débruit is an international composer, producer, and instrumentalist known for his adventurous live performances. He crosses futuristic world music with exciting beats and colourful synths. His unique style is heard across the world and his last album with the Sudanese singer Alsarah climbed high in the Top 10 of best world music albums of 2013.

In the framework of the exhibition Imagine Istanbul, Débruit will be in residence to record a conceptual album featuring the city sounds and music of Istanbul. His field recordings and collaboration with different artists from the EUROPALIA programme will form an integral part of his next album. An exclusive preview can be heard at the exhibition.

This project spans the musical heritage and exhilarating present day reality of Istanbul. Moments brought together in an imaginative interpretation of the city on the Bosphorus, in which all influences unite through collaboration with musicians from different generations. The sounds, rhythms, and tempo of the city at different moments in time, but always in one place. Traditional, visionary, electric, psychedelic, futuristic, melodic or experimental, Débruit develops a new vision of the exciting and captivating Istanbul.

Thursday Night @ BOZAR

As from Thursday 29 10 ’15, EUROPALIA TURKEY launches the Thursday Nights @ BOZAR! On those evenings, a wide range of performances will jazz up the exhibition halls. While visiting the exhibition Anatolia & Imagine Istanbul, you will have the opportunity to discover various artists that will share their artistic projects with Turkish overtones. > programme.

Saint Nicholas

Saint Nicholas visited our exhibitions in BOZAR... > more info

IMAGINE ISTANBUL from europalia on Vimeo.

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