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Modern Istanbul

By JC, Germany, June 2011

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The 2004 opening of Istanbul Modern, a contemporary art space plonked audaciously on the Bosphorus, signaled a new mood in Istanbul. It wasn’t just to be a stopover for international exhibitions, rather a catalyst for dialogue between Turkey and the rest of the world.

The museum was one of the venues for last year’s Istancool, a festival which was inspired by that same spirit of global openness, bringing together Turkish and international tastemakers to mark Istanbul’s reign as European Capital of Culture. Talks, forums, exhibitions and other events spanned the worlds of design, literature, film, fashion, art and beyond. People like architect Zaha Hadid, writer Gore Vidal and local artist Haluk Akakçe enlivened discussions which encompassed everything from the future of digital media to the role of arthouse cinema.

It was evidently a successful gambit, because Istancool is back in 2011, a three-day festival starting on May 27 and bringing with it even bigger marquee names. While full program details haven’t yet been released, organizers have confirmed the participation of Tilda Swinton, Michael Stipe, Sam Taylor-Wood, Kirsten Dunst, Miloš Forman, Pierce Brosnan, Courtney Love and Sophie Calle (imagine that photo call). Hipster journal of choice, London-based AnOther Magazine, is the “collaborative partner”, indicating that the festival isn’t sacrificing style for substance.

The body behind it, Liberatum, is a British organization which seeks to encourage discussion and collaboration, hoping to achieve a kind of cross-disciplinary, cross-cultural co-operation which they call “dynamic arts diplomacy”. It’s a formula they’ve already brought to destinations as diverse as Russia, India, Morocco and Papua New Guinea. And Istancool now looks to be a fixture on the international cultural calendar.

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