Istanbul to showcase its charms as European capital of culture
Dec 22, 2009, 11:16 GMT
Istanbul - The European capital of culture concept has been further enriched by Turkey which is taking part as a title-holder for the first time.
Organizers hope the bustling metropolis of Istanbul on the Bosporus will attract many more visitors above and beyond the more than seven million who already come to the city annually to view traditional tourist gems such as the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque and Topkapi palace.
Istanbul has lined up an ambitious programme of art, music, literature and dance to last the whole year and at the same time, highlight some of the challenges currently facing the European continent.
'Istanbul is a living example of the blending of civilizations and it has managed to mould the various cultures, religions and languages into a durable unity,' wrote Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in support of his country's application to be designated a European cultural capital.
For the duration of 2010 Istanbul shares the accolade of being a European cultural capital with Germany's central Ruhr district and the Hungarian city of Pecs.
The guiding principles of the cultural year this time around are the four elements of earth, air, water and fire. During the first phase everything revolves around earth as a motif and at a time of year when even Istanbul is traditionally damp and cold the city aims to woo visitors with an exhibition of Turkish design and the cultural treasures of the Ottoman Empire. Stages will also be given over to contemporary Eastern music and an international puppet theatre.
Air as a symbol for the spiritual richness of the city will define the cultural events until June. 'For hundreds of years people of different confessions have lived alongside one another and practiced their faith and their religious services unhindered,' the organization committee declared.
During the summer months up until September 22 the theme of the cultural year in Istanbul is water and Istanbul as a bridge between Asia and Europe. The main exhibition is entitled 'Europe on the Bosporus' and it is designed to give artists from all over Europe an opportunity to present their works along the straits on rafts and piers.
Fire as a powerful catalyst of change ushers in the final phase of the showcase year in Istanbul. It stands for forward-thinking and the modernization of Turkish society. The city itself will be depicted in a state of transformation, improving its infrastructure and forging a vision for the future. As the economic and cultural metropolis of a country eager to join the European Union, Istanbul sees its role as showcasing what Turkey has to offer.
So much for the concept: A number of Turkish artists have criticized the agenda for allegedly presenting Istanbul as a conservative city with too much emphasis on the past. Those who were hoping for a bolder cultural programme which would show Istanbul as a burgeoning city at the crossroads of change have been disappointed.
Artists submitted proposals for a total of 1,990 projects. So far 300 draft schemes have been approved for which the organization committee has set aside around 120 million euros (175 million dollars).
Visitors to this vibrant city are unlikely to experience any of the wrangling behind the scenes or the issue of whether Istanbul should present itself to the world as an epochal museum or a platform for young artists.
Next year will give Istanbul an opportunity to broaden its base as a destination for sophisticated visitors interested in the culture of the city. These well-educated travellers tend to spend three times more money than the average visitor.
With its numerous landmarks, exhibitions, concerts and nightlife, Istanbul already acts as a magnet to tourists and the success of the city as a European Capital of Culture is a more or less foregone conclusion.