SALT to enliven Ankara's cultural scene following Istanbul

SALT Beyoglu and SALT Galata, which opened in 2011 in Istanbul, finally has its third sister institution in the Ulus district of Ankara. The district, which is becoming more and more an area for art and culture lovers with its museums, theater and opera halls, is also home to a small three-floor building designed by Guilo Mongeri and constructed in 1926. Built as the annex of the former Ottoman Bank to provide lodging for traveling bank inspectors, the small structure has been unused since 2002.

“When we were founding SALT, we were thinking of it based on three locations, and we finally opened the third one,” Vasif Kortun, director of research and programs at SALT, said during a press preview on Tuesday of this week, stressing that it will not operate as a branch of SALT Galata and SALT Beyoglu. Salt Ulus will have its own programming, rather than only displaying the exhibitions and various activities they hold in Istanbul.

As modern Turkey's capital, Ankara has a deep and complex social history explained in the press release of the event: “Yet, during the last two decades it has become trapped by the shadow of the burgeoning arts and cultural development taking place almost exclusively in Istanbul. Aware of the imbalance of contemporary cultural activity across Turkey, but in particular the stark contrast between the current situations in the country's two most important cities, SALT finds it imperative to create a network that broadens the current Istanbul-focused cultural agenda. SALT Ulus has therefore been launched to encourage research to be developed in Ankara in parallel to that being conducted in Istanbul.”

Delving into the exhibitions of the '90s

Previously displayed at SALT Galata, “It was a time of conversation” is an archival project conducted by researcher Sezin Romi, who is attempting to gather documents of three significant shows held in the 1990s. As opposed to the usual exhibition spaces of the time, such as galleries and cultural centers, the three shows chosen by Romi were held in unconventional venues such as a railway station.

Curated by Vasif Kortun in 1993 in Istanbul, “Number Fifty/Memory/Recollection II,” for instance, was located at building #50 in Akaretler. “We have all the documents from this exhibition: the preparation process, the installation images of the artworks, its catalogue, various information on the exhibition space, correspondence as to the opening and the closing of the show, and finally the press reviews written in various newspapers and magazines at the time,” Romi says, adding that the show was closed after a curatorial decision when a banner for the exhibition was replaced with a Democrat Party (DP) poster.

“GAR” took place in the Ankara Railway Station in 1995 as part of the Taboos and Art symposium organized by Sanart (the Association of Support for Visual Arts in Turkey) with the initiative of Selim Birsel, Vahap Avsar, Claude Leon and Fusun Okutan. Unfortunately, the exhibition was shut down by the authorities since the works by Vahap Avsar and Selim Birsel, which referred to the ongoing political and military conflict in the southeastern part of Turkey, “threatened the safety and sanity of the public.”

“Globalization-State, Misery, Violence” was curated by Ali Akay at the studio of Muserref Zeytinoglu and Emre Zeytinoglu in Istanbul and focused on issues of state violence, violence against the state and violence between individuals.

Several documents and videos on the three exhibitions can be seen through June 2 at SALT Ulus in Ankara. There will be parallel events accompanying the exhibition over the course of the show. For more information, visit