Art on the Bosphorus

Here are photos from a Saturday (March 7, 2015) on the European side of the lower Bosphorus. I often go there, without a particular plan. Saturday was another cloudy day; but in Istanbul, in winter, one might wait weeks for a sunny day. No rain was forecast: that was enough reason to go out.

I first got the camera out at the Bezm-i Âlem Valide Sultan Camii, a.k.a. Dolmabahçe Mosque. The date at the door is 1851. The qibla is straight out to the Bosphorus. On that side of the mosque, a lovely garden can be seen through the windows; however, the garden gate was locked.






I ended up in Istanbul Modern, where I had free admission—a perquisite of working at Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University. I took no photos of the inside, but from the inside I photographed the mouth of the Golden Horn and its other side, where sat the former churches of Holy Peace and Holy Wisdom (Ἁγία Εἰρήνη and Ἁγία Σοφία).



Istanbul Modern is in one of several old seaside warehouses, and the surroundings have the corresponding ambience. However, not every collection of warehouses in the world sits behind a baroque mosque. I have a few photographs of the Nusretiye Camii from October 4, 2011, before it was closed for renovation.


There is a threat to turn this whole area into another shopping mall. Let us hope that the coming economic crisis hits before the demolition of the existing businesses. (These seem to be mostly nargile salonları, thus not places I expect to patronize. However, some years ago, before we actually moved to Istanbul, Ayşe and I hung out with some friends and played backgammon there.)


Let us also hope that the work to turn another of the old warehouses into the new Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University Museum is completed on schedule, some time this year. A feature of Istanbul Modern that I do not like is that all of its angles are right angles. The Mimar Sinan Museum will use the three-dimensional rectangular grid of the skeleton of the old warehouse, but will insert shipping containers (or something like them) obliquely into the grid for display space. The museum has already has had temporary exhibits, showing a sample of what is in store. I am enchanted.



Old Byzantine walls (or are they not that old, but only Ottoman?) rise above the shore road.


Topehane-i Amire also provides my university with exhibition space: actually two spaces, called the five-dome hall and the single-dome hall (beş kubbe salonu ve tek kubbe salonu). The five-dome hall turned out to have a spectular display of mostly contemporary calligraphy. The piece I show here as an example, by Riyad Abdullah, is dated 2011 (or 1432 in the Islamic lunar calendar).



The piece on the left here is by Muhsin Abadi, 2011.




In the single-dome hall were sculptures by Heinz Ackermans.



Stepping outside into the space between the two halls, one sees the Kılıç Ali Pasha Complex, which I also photographed on October 4, 2011. Note to self: I have many more photos of this complex, taken May 1, 2012, after the May Day march to Taksim—the last such march permitted by the authorities; but I seem not to have posted any of the photos from that day. A blog article, May Day One Month Late, gave my opinion of the banning of the march in 2013.




I walked up towards İstiklâl Caddesi, first on Boğazkesen Caddesi (“Bosphorus Cutting Avenue”—or “Throat Cutting Avenue”), but then turning left on Tomtom Kaptan Sokağı, which becomes the steep walkway called Postacılar Sokağı (see below). The Italian Consulate was there, along with, as it happened, a boutique hotel advertising an art exhibit in its lobby: so I went inside to have a look.



A plaque inside the hotel is worth transcribing:

Maison Des Soeurs Franciscaines

‘The Franciscan Nuns’ House’, built in 1901, was originally called ‘Maison Des Soeurs Franciscaines’. In 1892, the Franciscan nuns settled at Tom Tom Street, which was then inhabited mostly by Levantine families. At that date, the building had not yet been constructed; wooden row houses occupied the area. After the arrival of the nuns in 1860s [sic], The [sic] French Post Office, which was adjacent to the row houses, was converted to a monastery; hence the previous name of today’s Postacilar [Postmen] Street which connects Tom Tom to Istiklal Street: ‘Rue Des Postes’.

Barborini, who came to Istanbul during the 1850s, was the architect of the monastery. The nuns operated a school called St. Joseph in the monastery between 1910 and 1922.

Before the building was bought to be restored by its current owner in 2003, it was used as an archives depot of Ziraat Bank for fifty years.

The bracketed instances of sic are mine. I think I could have so labelled the capitalizations of the French des as well. In any case, I continued up Postmen Street, which looks like a place to get your throat cut if there is any such place around (I don’t think there is).


The part of the Greek Consulate on İstiklâl Caddesi called Sismanoglio Megaro was advertising an exhibit of paintings of Istanbul. I started in through the open door, but paused when I noted the sign on the big black open door with an arrow pointing right (or an arrow that would point right if the door were closed). A man coming out said I should just go on in, but then he continued talking to me, in English. He was sometimes difficult to understand. He was somewhat elderly; at least I think he was older than I. He said things like the following:

The Pope’s color is white, and the Patriarch’s color is black; so they are like Yang and Yin. Are you Orthodox? Catholic? Buddhist? I am a Yogi. I do Kundalini Yoga. I can enlighten everybody.

This is not a direct quotation, but an approximation and summary. I suspected that the man had Turkish citizenship, if not Turkish nationality. When I asked him, he took out his Turkish Republic identification card, but explained that he was Greek. This all happened in the doorway of the Consulate, as others came and went. Then he went his way, and I went in to see the paintings. They were paintings of attractive scenes in Istanbul—or of scenes made attractive by being painted. I give just one example, and “only” a drawing.



A photograph of a photograph of the artist, Konstantinos Kerestetzis (born 1969 in Greece):


Finally, as I saw noted on Twitter recently, Taksim actually has a few places to sit now: there are benches around the subway entrances.


Edited for style, January 21, 2019. The nargile salonları have been demolished; their replacements are still conceptual; construction of the Mimar Sinan Museum continues.


  1. Posted March 9, 2015 at 5:11 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks David. Why is the chandelier so low in the first set of pictures?

  2. Arianne
    Posted March 12, 2015 at 8:56 am | Permalink | Reply

    So glad you take pictures to compliment your remarks. THANKS

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