On a side street in Istanbul

There is nothing better, in my opinion, than stumbling on a hidden gem while traveling, be it a small restaurant, a boutique or an art gallery. It is satisfying to hit the landmarks and strike the obligatory pose but it’s thrilling to find a place you have not read about on a blog or in a magazine.

Accidental discoveries are my favorite and came across this little art gallery on a side street in Istanbul. The alley itself looked like any other – long, narrow and curved like a long snake. I noticed some graffiti on a wall and stopped to take a closer look, curious about the way the wall was tagged. That’s when I noticed the first message: “Be afraid of your mind/Be afraid of art”

statement, graffitiI was intrigued by this strange message. I looked around, hoping to catch the culprit. Seeing nobody around, we walked further down the alley, looking at the brightly, spray-painted walls and trying to understand the large letters. That’s when we stumbled on what looked like a loft. The entrance was covered in art and right at the bottom we found our next direction: “art gallery. Don’t be scared. You will like”

art gallery, don't be scaredWould you be scared? Would you walk in? I might have been a little wary but my curiosity got the best of me and I took a few steps forward. The place was empty but my sister and I were suddenly reassured (don’t ask me why) when two Caucasian girls walked right past us. They were dressed like tourists, long comfortable skirts and colorful slippers. If this was a trap, I would say it was set up well because we fell for it and kept walking further into the loft. Next we came across the artist’s den. Acrylics were carefully thrown about to appear casual. Excuse me, that was my paranoia speaking.

art gallery in istanbul paintsI breathed a sigh of relief when we walked into the gallery itself and found other wide-eyed tourists looking around. The place was full of painted canvases and smaller sketches. The fear vanished, I was now really excited, thinking I could finally purchase my first real piece of art.

art istanbul TurkeyNeedless to say, everything was out of my price range and those paintings that I could afford did not impress me. What made this experience unforgettable was the artist himself. A raving, old man (probably part of his “act”) who was shamelessly promoting his art and almost forcing the naive tourists to make a purchase.

I found him slightly amusing but also annoying. I felt like he knew no boundaries and I was glad the gallery had at least 6 or 7 other people, including a few couples.

artist Istanbul TurkeyAfter taking enough pictures to document my hidden art gallery, I excused myself from the artist, grabbed my sister and we escaped unscathed. I am glad I didn’t buy anything on impulse because there was nothing special about his art. The story of my hidden art gallery was a dramatic experience in itself and I am glad I had my camera at hand to record the adventure.

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