February 23, 2012

Take a Video Tour of Istanbul's Conceptual New Taksim Square

The pulsing heart of Istanbul, Taksim Square, is about to undergo an operation that will make it all but unrecognizable to many Turks.

Gone will be the honking mix of cars weaving through an estimated 2 million pedestrians who visit the square each day; in the redesigned plaza, automobiles will travel through a complicated series of subterranean tunnels. A vast chunk of green area will disappear, paved over with concrete and tiles. And an Ottoman military barrack that hasn't existed on the spot since the 1940s will rise again, although this time around it will house not soldiers but likely cultural exhibits and tony cafes.

Construction is set to commence on the Taksim Project this year as part of the Turkish government's strenuous push for urban renewal. As with any major civic project, critics have come out in full force, decrying Taksim's transformation into a "soulless, concrete desert." They do seem to have a point: While it would definitely be a bigger delight to stroll across the area without today's thick auto fumes stinging the nostrils, the rejiggered square loses its loveable, chaotic character and stretches toward the horizon like an empty Walmart parking lot. As for that buried labyrinth of streets, drivers navigating it for the first time should carry a good map.

Istanbul Modern Presents Selection from Its Photography Collection

Istanbul Modern is hosting After Yesterday, a selection of its photography collection gathered since the museum’s founding. Featuring 179 works by 53 artists, the show will be held between Feb. 16 and June 3 at the Istanbul Modern Photography Gallery and on the museum’s ground floor. A further 66 works by 213 artists will also be on display in digital format.

Bringing together modern and contemporary examples of photography in Turkey, the exhibition displays the technical and conceptual development of photography from the Ottoman Era to the present day. It aims to show the adventure of photography in reverse chronology, starting at the point reached by present day photography and moving back to the Pera of the 1800s.

Photo Archive Project to Preserve Kadıköy

The Kadıköy Photograph Center and the Fotoamele photography group have announced plans to create a street-by-street, photographic archive of Kadıköy, one of Istanbul’s most important Anatolian-side districts.

The project will show every street and corner of Kadıköy.

The archive will contain the district’s streets, mosques, houses of worship, schools and ancient buildings, said project coordinator Ayşe Küçükkurt.

Organizers said they planned to open an exhibition of all the photographs once the project is completed in the next year. “We will also publish a book with the photographs,” said Küçükkurt.

After completing the Kadıköy archive, Küçükkurt said they would continue by archiving other districts of Istanbul.

Read more on Hurriyet Daily News: Photo Archive Project to Preserve Kadıköy

Istanbul Toy Museum Chosen As A Nominee for EMA Awards

Istanbul Toy Museum’s application for the 2012 Best European Children’s Museum Award has been accepted.
According to a written statement made by the museum, the award will be presented by the European Museum Academy (EMA) in Bologna, Italy.

The statement also said that the Istanbul Toy Museum had become one of the most respected toy museums in the world.

Read more on Hurriyet Daily News: Istanbul Toy Museum Chosen As A Nominee for EMA Awards

Istanbul Supplement in Chinese Magazine

The 21-page supplement included observations of a Chinese citizen living in the Turkish metropolis and spoke about traditional Ottoman and Turkish cultures. Chinese teacher Ging Yang has been living in Istanbul since 2007.

The supplement wrote about Turks’ affection for tea and promoted Istanbul’s history, mosques, culture and Turkish food, particularly döner kebab.

The supplement said Istanbul was not an ordinary city and had hosted the world’s oldest civilizations throughout its history. “The city takes romanticism of Greece, mystery of Egypt, intelligence of Rome and the courage and heroism of the Ottoman,” said the supplement. “Istanbul does not belong to any class. It is unique and in the meeting point of civilizations,” it said.

The culture section of the supplement published an interview with Nobel Laureate in Literature Orhan Pamuk. It also promoted world-renowned Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s award-winning film “Uzak.”

The supplement gave four pages to Pamukkale, which is famous for its thermal water and spa centers in the Aegean region.

Read more on Hurriyer Daily News: Istanbul Supplement in Chinese Magazine

Protocol Signed for Restoration of Iconic Atatürk Culture Center

Culture and Tourism Minister Ertuğrul Günay signed a financial protocol with Sabancı Holding Chairwoman Güler Sabancı yesterday, regarding the restoration of the historic Atatürk Culture Center (AKM) located in Istanbul’s Taksim Square.

Günay said the AKM would be renovated faithfully to its original form, adding that only infrastructural changes are being considered.

The restoration project will be put out to tender at the end of March, and the Center is planned to come into art lovers’ service in October 2013. “Our aim is to restart cultural activities there on the 90th anniversary of the foundation of the Turkish Republic,” Günay said.

Read more on Hurriyet Daily News: Protocol Signed for Restoration of Iconic Atatürk Culture Center

Tatavla Carnival Returns to Istanbul’s Streets

One of the oldest settlements in Istanbul, the neighborhood of Kurtuluş, will host the colorful Tatavla Carnival on its streets again this year.

This year, like last year, Greeks originally from Şişli’s neighborhood of Kurtuluş (which is known as Tatavla in Greek) will descend upon Istanbul from Greece for the carnival, which is held just before Christians enter the 40-day Lenten period before Easter, despite the major economic crisis there.

On Feb. 27 at 7 p.m., a cortege featuring revelers decked in colorful carnival costumes will start from Emekliler Evi (Retirees’ House) in the neighborhood of Feriköy and pass down the Baruthane and Bozkurt streets, ending at Son Durak (last stop) in Kurtuluş.

The entertainment will then continue at the local Tatavla Restaurant, Hüseyin Irmak, a researcher and writer who has been responsible for the revival of the event for the past three years, recently told the Hürriyet Daily News.

Read more on Hurriyet Daily News: Tatavla Carnival Returns to Istanbul’s Streets

February 19, 2012

Turkey's Booming Art Market

After being virtually ignored at home and abroad for decades, Turkish modern art has become a valuable commodity, sought after by international and Turkish collectors.

London’s Sotheby's auction house held its first ever auction of Turkish modern art in 2009. The auction grossed more than $2 million dollars: the next year, those numbers, nearly doubled.

Dozens of new art galleries have sprouted up in Istanbul in the last few years. Industry insiders say a big part of what's driving this growing art market is the rapid growth of the Turkish economy, which has more than doubled in size over the last 10 years.

Read more on CNN: Turkey's Booming Art Market

Istanbul Modern Displaying Photo Collection

Istanbul Modern is hosting “After Yesterday”, a selection of its photography collection gathered since the day the museum was founded. Featuring 179 works by 53 artists, the exhibition is open to visitors between Feb 16 and June 3 at Istanbul Modern Photography Gallery on the museum’s first floor. A further 66 works by 213 artists will also be on display in digital format. Curated by Engin Özendes, the director of the museum’s photography gallery, the exhibition sheds light on how the collection developed over the years.

Read more on Hurriyet Daily News: Istanbul Modern Displaying Photo Collection

Istanbul Biennial Announces Curator

The 13th Istanbul Biennial will be held in the fall of 2013 under the curatorship of Fulya Erdemci, the current director of SKOR | Foundation For Art and Public Domain in Amsterdam, according to an announcement.

Erdemci is a curator and writer based in Istanbul and Amsterdam and was curator of the 2011 Pavilion of Turkey at the 54th International Art Exhibition at the Venice Biennale.

The 13th Istanbul Biennial will be held between Sept. 14 and Nov. 10, 2013.

The conceptual framework will be announced at a press conference in fall 2012 by Erdemci.

Read more on Hurriyet Daily News: Istanbul Biennial Announces Curator

Turkey’s Blockbuster Replays Istanbul Conquest, Stoking Controversy

More than five hundred years after Turkish armies led by Sultan Mehmet II conquered Constantinople, attempts to document the capture of the city which subsequently became Istanbul are still proving divisive.

On Thursday, the most expensive attempt to show the history of that epic battle hits cinemas across Turkey. ‘Fetih 1453’ or ‘Conquest 1453’ cost a whopping $17 million, making it the most expensive Turkish film ever made, according to local media.

With directors promising a two-and-half hour spectacle of blood, action and tub-thumping Ottoman triumph, it’s also shaping up to be one of Turkey’s more controversial cinematic offerings.

2013 Design Biennial Accepting Applicants

Applications for the first Istanbul Design Biennial started yesterday. The Design Biennial will be organized next year with the aim of highlighting the importance of design in production, economics, cultural interaction and quality of life.

The biennial, the events of which will be organized around a certain theme, aims to emphasize the importance of the concept of design in business life and will include national and international design exhibitions, thematic presentations, workshops, seminars and other specific projects.

Main theme ‘Imperfection’
Imperfection is the theme of the first Istanbul Design Biennial. Istanbul is particularly conducive to exploring imperfection because, while far from perfect, it is one of the most exhilarating and dynamic centers in the world. The city has infinite layers that are charged with the vitality that comes from engaging with rapid urban, social and cultural change.

Among the biennial’s primary objectives is celebrating creative potential and sharing it with an international audience in the belief that the diverse viewpoints and distinctive design discourse in Istanbul will enrich global design culture, organizers said. The design biennial also aims to create a platform to support the development of design and innovation policies, as well as a design archive on a national and international scale.

Emre Asaorlat, a Turkish architect, and Joseph Grima will curate the biennial, which will be open to all disciplines of the creative industries in major fields such as urban design, architecture, interior design, industrial design, graphic design, new media design and fashion design, as well as their related subfields.

Read more on Hurriyet Daily News: 2013 Design Biennial accepting applicants

In Istanbul, a Film Festival Is Heavy on Politics

The !f Istanbul International Independent Film Festival opens on Thursday with several movies that touch on controversial issues. It will screen more than 80 movies for an estimated 55,000 viewers in Istanbul, and many of the films examine matters like politics and the environment, at viewings occasionally hosted by stars.

Serra Ciliv, the festival director, said that though there had been no Arab Spring in Turkey, she included two films on protest movements within the country: “Against the Flow,” a student-made film on efforts to block dam-building in the Black Sea region, and “Playing House,” directed by Bingol Elmas, about child brides.

February 14, 2012

Exhibit Offers Bird's Eye View of Aegean Region Beauties

A new exhibition invites people to take a look at the Aegean province of Muğla, which has the longest coastal line in Turkey, through a bird’s eye view. The exhibition titled “Bird’s Eye View Photos of Muğla,” which will open tomorrow at the Press Museum in Istanbul’s Çemberlitaş, will feature 48 photos taken by famous photography artist Abdullah Kırbaş.

It gathers together the visuals of Muğla’s cultural and natural beauties that cannot be reached via highway.

The exhibition will continue until Feb. 22.

Salt Reevaluates Three Exhibitions

Salt’s second Open Archive project, “It was a time of conversation,” calls for a reevaluation of three exhibitions from the first half of the 1990s in Turkey – “Elli Numara / Anı/Bellek II” (Number Fifty / Memory/Recollection II), “GAR” (Railway Station) and “Küreselleşme – Devlet, Sefalet, Şiddet” (Globalization – State, Misery, Violence) – based on original documents from the period.

The exhibition can be viewed through April 22 at Salt Galata.

“It was a time of conversation” is the visualization of Salt Research’s ongoing attempt to explore those exhibitions that have reached beyond commercial concerns, contributed to the clarification of new artistic and cultural moments, and produced ruptures – exhibitions that may have historic importance today.

This project was initiated by Salt Research’s Sezin Romi in 2010 and has since continued in collaboration with the exhibition’s organizers, artists and assistants. The project brings together information, documents and video from a variety of sources.

Curated by Ali Akay in 1995, “Küreselleşme – Devlet, Sefalet, Şiddet” was exhibited at Beyoğlu’s Devlet Han – at the time, the studio of Müşerref Zeytinoğlu and Emre Zeytinoğlu. The exhibition focused on state violence, violence against the state and violence between individuals and coincided with the fourth Istanbul Biennial.

The exhibition brings together the archives of these three exhibitions, all organized during a period when individuals from different disciplines were beginning to see art as a “form of conversation”

It takes these exhibitions – all products of collaboration and discussion – as a launching point, offering a new perspective on art in Turkey during the 1990s.

Read more on Hurriyet Daily News: Salt Reevaluates Three Exhibitions

Turkish Coffee Has First Only Museum

The first museum of Turkish coffee opened Feb. 11 at Istanbul’s Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum. The museum, opened by the Bilintur Culture Initiative (BKG), which is carrying out a number of works with Turkey’s Culture and Tourism Ministry, is considered the “first place where Turkish coffee is cooked and served in the most prominent way” by the Turkish Coffee Culture and Research Center.

The ceremony was conducted with the participation of Culture and Tourism Minister Ertuğrul Günay, who said Turkish coffee had been presented at a ceremony in the Far East and that tourists showed great interest in it there. He also said coffee was very important in Turkish culture, but that no steps had been taken so far to officially reflect this.

Read more on Hurriyet Daily News: Turkish Coffee Has First Only Museum

February 12, 2012

New Project to Host Music Enthusiasts

Borusan Culture and Arts Center is collaborating on a project with Turkey’s first and only music research center, the Dr. Erol Üçer Music Advanced Researches Center (MIAM), which provides education in the fields of performance, composition, ethnomusicology, music enterprise and sound engineering.

Within the scope of the joint project, workshops and concerts will be organized with the participation of Turkish and foreign musicians. The project will take place at Borusan Music House and is open to everyone who is interested in music.

The first guests of the project will be Turkish free-improvisation ensemble Islak Köpek and actress Serra Yılmaz. The ensemble and Yılmaz will stage a performance bringing together poetry and improvisational music on Feb. 14. They will discuss how feelings and thoughts can be expressed via speech and music.

Read more on Hurriyet Daily News: New Project to Host Music Enthusiasts

Van Gogh Alive Digital Art Exhibition

The Turkish Pharmaceutical firm Abdi İbrahim is celebrating its 100th year with the new Van Gogh Alive Digital Art Exhibit at Karakoy Antrepo.

Over the next couple of months, more than 3,000 digital images of Van Gogh’s most famous work will be on display in Istanbul for the first time since its premier in Singapore.

Providing art lovers with an experience above and beyond everyone's expectations, Van Gogh Alive uses  image projection technique, displaying artist's work on giant screens, walls, columns, floors and even ceilings of the exhibition space in an attempt to redefine the audience’s connection with art. The exhibition heightens all the senses, using light, color and sound techniques while challenging all preconceived notions of how an art exhibition should be.

Van Gogh Alive - created by Australian Grande Exhibitions will be running until May 15, 2012.

Visit The Official Website (in Turkish): Van Gogh Alive Digital Art Exhibition

The Memoirs And Works of Fausto Zonaro Compiled in a Book

The predominance of pictures in “Twenty Years Under the Reign of Abdülhamid: The Memoirs and Works of Fausto Zonaro” sets it apart from most Istanbul-themed books.

The book is as absorbing and visually fluid as it is informative. As the name suggests, it is a collection of the memoirs and works of Fausto Zonaro, an Italian artist who was appointed court painter by Sultan Abdülhamid II in 1896. The book covers the period of time between Zonaro’s arrival in Istanbul until his return to Italy, when his position as court painter was brought to an end following the deposition of Sultan Abdülhamid.

Read more on Zaman: The Memoirs And Works of Fausto Zonaro Compiled in a Book

February 10, 2012

The Istanbul Art-Boom Bubble

Earlier this winter, the giant 120-year-old Ottoman bank building in Istanbul reopened as a multimillion-dollar contemporary art space called SALT. This was surprising. Turks were never big on contemporary art, and for years rich people didn't visit that part of town. When I moved to the neighborhood five years ago, it was all electrical-supply stores and abandoned buildings and men smoking. My building didn't have heat; girlfriends wouldn't visit after dark; a neighbor once attacked another neighbor with a small sword. I don't see swords in Istanbul anymore. I do see a lot more art.

One evening in November, Turks and foreigners traipsed up the cobbled sidewalks to SALT's huge, heavy doors for the opening-night party. The headline exhibit featured thousands of old black-and-white photographs taken by a dead Armenian studio photographer and carefully assembled by the young artist Tayfun Serttas. Another exhibit was an installation by Gulsun Karamustafa, Turkey's doyenne of contemporary art. Another was about archaeology and Europeans looting the Ottoman Empire.

But the space overwhelmed the art. It was too magnificent. Nothing like SALT existed in Istanbul. Inside, the building was five floors and 100,000 square feet of carved white marble. Curators, bankers, interior designers, writers, musicians, academics, artists and wealthy wives craned their necks to take in the soaring ceiling as they climbed the grand staircases. They gaped at the stylish library, and the plush movie theater, and the smoking terrace that was also a restaurant. The great imperial bulk of SALT loomed over the Golden Horn and the forlorn rooftops below.

Foreigners and expats gushed with approval. Even the fatalistic Turks, skeptical of Westerners' enthusiasm, couldn't help admitting that this strange art institution was awesome.

It appears that Istanbul, which went from a cosmopolitan wonderland in the 19th century to, in the Nobel-winning novelist Orhan Pamuk's words, a "pale, poor, second-class imitation of a Western city" for much of the 20th, is having its moment of rebirth. These newly wealthy corners of the East seem full of possibilities, but what kind of culture will the Turks create?

Read more on the New York Times: The Istanbul Art-Boom Bubble

Istanbul’s Cultural Rebirth

Istanbul, which went from being a cosmopolitan center in the 19th century to a faded remnant of the Ottoman Empire, is having a moment of cultural rebirth. Suzy Hansen writes about the city’s growing artistic communities for our Voyages issue.

One recent marker of Istanbul’s burgeoning role in the international art scene was the 2011 launch of SALT, two multimillion-dollar contemporary art spaces in Galata and Beyoglu.

Visit The New York Times to See The Interior of the SALT Galata Housed in the 120-year-old Ottoman Bank Building: Istanbul's Cultural Rebirth

Istanbul Hosting Health and Nutrition Biennial

Istanbul`s Sheraton Maslak Hotel welcomed the `Health and Nutrition Biennial` yesterday.

In recent months, there has been much discussion in the media about how levels of poor food and nutrition have reached an alarming level in Turkey. The `Obesity and Diabetes Prevention and Treatment Strategy Program` of the Ministry of Health is based on cooperation between government, civil society and the scientific community.

The biennial seeks to answer questions such as: What should be done to preserve food safety, from food production to packaging, preservation, distribution and consumption? What are the current efforts of the food industry in Turkey? Are these efforts enough? What kind of measures should be taken in retail stores and places of mass consumption such as grocery stores, restaurants, cafes and schools? Was this issue discussed sufficiently scientifically in Turkey? Professors are chairing symposiums on these issues at the conference, which will end tomorrow.

Read more on Hurriyet Daily News: Istanbul Hosting Health and Nutrition Biennial

Turkey's Bosphorus Remains Closed Due to Snow

Tanker traffic through Turkey's Bosphorus Strait, a key shipping route for Russian oil and other commodities, remained closed on Friday for a second day due to reduced visibility caused by a snowstorm.

Passage for vessels was suspended on Thursday due to poor visibility in the strait, which runs through Istanbul and forms a vital link for traffic between the Black Sea and Mediterranean.

Read more on Reuters: Turkey's Bosphorus Remains Closed Due to Snow

Ghetto to Celebrate 5th year

Club Ghetto in Istanbul is celebrating its fifth year with a spectacular concert featuring Bibi Tanga & The Selenites.

Read more on Hurriyet Daily News: Ghetto to Celebrate 5th Year

February 09, 2012

Exhibition Shows That Criticism is ‘What I Love’

In September 1968 Marcel Broodthaers established the Musée d’Art Moderne, Département des Aigles, which consisted of an installation of crates, postcards and inscriptions in his Brussels apartment. The museum was opened with an inaugural speech by Johannes Cladders, then director of the Museum in Mönchengladbach, Germany, which was followed by a discussion on the role of art within society.

In present-day terms, in Turkey, while the country is going through a wild art market process with newly opening galleries and newly opened museums (both private and public), some exhibitions or some works act like “messages” sent to the future art society, hinting at the fate of works of art once they become a part of the art market.

The current exhibition at the Borusan Art Center, “What I Love,” may offer the best example of such messages. The exhibition brings together the latest works of 10 young artists, ranging from sculpture to video installation and including 3-D site-specific works.

CRR Venue Prepares to Host 80 New Concerts

Istanbul’s culture and art venue Cemal Reşit Ray is preparing to present its new season of 80 new concerts.

“The saloon will gather flamenco, jazz, classic and Turkish musicians this year,” said art manager Kemal Karaöz to Anatolia news agency.

“Cities create their own cultures,” said Karaöz, adding that the first concert of this season will take place on Feb. 16 with Trilok Gırtu and Tuluğ Tırpan.

On Feb. 19 the program will continue with Tanburi Cemil Bey Days, said Karaöz, and on Feb. 20 the CRR will host Gabriela Montero and on Feb. 22 Cristina Branco.

The most awaited concert is Fazıl Say’s piano recital, Karaöz said. Fazıl Say will be onstage on Feb. 24 and 25.

Read more on Hurriyet Daily News: CRR Venue Prepares to Host 80 New Concerts

February 07, 2012

Madonna Coming to Istanbul in June

Madonna will go on tour in May for the first time in three years, starting in Israel before moving on to Europe, with legs in South America and Australia, where she has not performed for 20 years.

The tour will start May 29 in Tel Aviv and she will take the stage in Istanbul June 7 at the Türk Telekom Arena. The European leg will conclude Aug. 21 in Nice, France, and the North American leg will end in Miami, with the date yet to be confirmed, tour promotion company Live Nation reported yesterday in a statement.

The 2012 World Tour will be the first for the Grammy Award-winning 53-year-old Material Girl since her “Sticky & Sweet Tour” in 2008 and 2009. The tour will stop in more than 20 European and Middle Eastern cities, including London, Edinburgh, Paris, Milan, Abu Dhabi and Berlin.

Read more on Hurriyet Daily News: Madonna Coming to Istanbul in June

February 05, 2012

Bvlgari Set to Open Boutique Hotel in Istanbul

Italy’s luxury jeweler Bvlgari is planning to open a luxury boutique hotel on Istanbul’s Bosphorus, according to daily Milliyet.

Bvlgari, like the Ritz-Carlton brand, is under the Marriott Hotels umbrella. Bulgari has already found a local investor and is scouting locations on the Bosphorus, according to Massimiliano Zanardi, general manager of Ritz-Carlton hotels.

Countdown Starts for Istanbul Fashion Week

The sixth edition of Istanbul Fashion Week will be held between Feb. 8 and 11 in Tepebaşı. The event has been organized in collaboration with the Istanbul Apparel Exporters Association (IHKİB), Fashion Designers Association (MTD) and United Brands Association (BMD) and Istanbul Fashion Academy (IMA).

“Our purpose is to increase Turkey’s apparel export, which was $16.2 billion in 2011, to $52 billion in 2023. Our brands have made contracts with Turkish designers. We also export designers. Turkish fashion is being recognized by the world. This is very important for Turkish fashion brands to become popular in the world,” IHKİB President Hikmet Tanrıverdi told a press conference held at Feriye Restaurant Jan. 26

Istanbul Fashion Week (IWF) brings together the concept of design, fashion and brand under the same roof, and had an important mission in the growth of sector based on brand economy, Tanrıverdi said.

Read more on Hurriyet Daily News: Countdown Starts for Istanbul Fashion Week

Nevizade Street to Go Under Restoration

One of Istanbul’s most famous nightlife areas, Nevizade Street, is to be restored, according to a statement released by Beyoğlu Municipality following consultations with shop owners, hotel managers and restaurant owners in the area.

Beyoğlu Mayor Ahmet Misbah Demircan said the Nevizade locals were in favor of the “quality” and “beauty” of the area and that this would be considered in the plans for Nevizade.

Demircan said the municipality was also currently working with hotel owners in nearby Talimhane. During recent years, the sleeping capacity of the Talimhane area, which was around 6,000, increased to 21,000. A similar project in Nevizade will further increase the tourist capacity.

Read more on Hurriyet Daily News: Nevizade Street to Go Under Restoration

Tickets for !f Istanbul Independent Film Festival Go Online

Early bird tickets for this year’s !f İstanbul AFM International Independent Film Festival went on sale Friday as the city’s film buffs prepared for a 10-day indie marathon in four movie theaters from Feb. 16-26.

The discount tickets will be available through Sunday midnight via the website Mybilet.com.

The festival’s 2012 edition will present a selection of the latest films from independent directors as well as award-winning festival favorites from prestigious fests such as Toronto, Cannes, Sundance and London, among others.

Istanbul Prepares to Host ‘Orizzontitaliani’ Events

Percussion group Odwalla will kick off Italian institutions’ events at the 15th Akbank Jazz Festival, the program from the event series titled “Orizzontitaliani 2012” (Italian Horizons 2012) has revealed.

“We aimed to be interesting and contemporary and we want to reflect a friendly Italy image to our Turkish friends,” Italy’s Ankara ambassador Gianpaolo Scarante told a press conference held in Venice Palace in Istanbul to launch the event’s program.

“Our aim is to promote Turkey in Italy and Italy in Turkey in the best way that we can,” Scarante said, adding that and art events are the supplementary of the political relations.

Istanbul's 10 Most Romantic Spots

Istanbul is one of the most romantic cities in the world. So much so that JFK Jr. took his new bride Carolyn Bassett there for their 1996 honeymoon. Majestically astride two continents, it is a mystical playground of historical marvels, a palimpsest of civilizations that takes travelers back in time. When the sun goes down, the city turns intriguingly contemporary, luring visitors with pulsating night life and the most vibrant restaurants and clubs in Europe.

Read more on The Huffington Post: Istanbul's 10 Most Romantic Spots

Istanbul Restaurants Change Tune – And Language – to Woo Big-Spending Arabs

In the Turkish restaurants around Taksim Square in Istanbul, the menus are getting a new look. It's not so much the food that is changing but the languages, as more and more restaurateurs choose to include Arabic.

Erkan Ali Karabulut, manager of Cafe Eylül in the touristic Talimhane district near the square, is reprinting his menus this year. "If you speak Arabic with Arabic tourists, they see you as a friend, and feel more comfortable," he said.

"But sometimes I get negative reactions from Turks. 'Why is everything here in Arabic?' they ask." Pointing to the list of MP3 songs on his laptop, he added: "I now play English music, as a compromise. But in the evenings, it's all Arabic."

In Booming Istanbul, A Clash Between Old And New

On a frigid January morning, bundled-up travelers step off a ferry and scurry toward the imposing stone walls of the Haydarpasa train station, a 19th century landmark in Istanbul, a city full of history.

The people boarding this morning are nostalgic. They're longtime station employees, taking one of the last train runs to Eskesihir, where the station's first director-general is buried.

They're going, as it were, to give him bad news — that Haydarpasa's 150-year service as a public transportation center may be coming to an end.

Officially, the station is closing temporarily, for repairs and the laying of high-speed track. But employees fear that during the two-year closure, the decision will be made to convert the station to a more lucrative purpose. Plans are still under discussion, but possibilities include a luxury hotel, perhaps with a museum, and a shopping mall.

The potential closing of this iconic station is just one of the fast-moving major projects alarming urban planners and local activists.

Working-class neighborhoods have been cleared of their inhabitants to make way for villas and hotels. Public schools and hospitals, some in historic buildings, are being sold to private developers. And a third bridge across the Bosporus is planned, which would bring roads and development to a large swath of forest land in the city's northern reaches.

How Istanbul Became One of Europe's Safest Cities

Political observers have recently been trumpeting the Turkish Model, citing Turkey's democracy, its open-minded Islamists and economic zip as an example to newly liberated Arab nations and other Muslim countries.

In the 18th century, however, its capital presented a less positive model. The Istanbul of that era – with waves of migrants, an underclass of servants and unskilled laborers, overburdened housing stock, dirty slums abutting elegant mansions, high levels of petty and violent crime – looked much like Dickensian London.

"The scholarship has kind of put all cities in the Middle East in the category of 'Islamic cities,' focusing on Islamic institutions and drawing a hard-and-fast line between these cities and European cities,” says Fariba Zarinebaf, professor of Islamic studies at University of California, Riverside.

In Crime and Punishment in Istanbul, 1700-1800, Zarinebaf uses court, prison and police records, surveys, imperial orders and a variety of Ottoman narratives to map the city's criminal activity. She also highlights Istanbul's importance as a port, its layered history and its great diversity. "It was so much more diverse than any other European city," she says. "It's the most cosmopolitan city in the Mediterranean world."

Read more on The Atlantic Cities: How Istanbul Became One of Europe's Safest Cities