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Saturday, May 24, 2014

High-Art in the High-Street…


Polish poster exhibition in the Salt Gallery in Istanbul...

There’s something to be said for mixing, or at least subtly introducing, so called ‘high-art’ into pervasive public contexts, scenes it usually is not exposed to, environments it’s commonly partitioned from. This urban tactic is something that could potentially be considered particularly appropriate for the GCCregion, where - even though today having its own set of cultural institutions and exhibitions of an international esteem and quality - these still remain somewhat hermetic entities and events, insulated both in exposure as well as affect from the general population. As a result they are all defined as destinations – locales one has to ‘plan’ to visit – rather than places one just, apropos, would happen to walk by, get curious about (rather than intimidated by), and walk in…   In Doha examples of such hermetic entities would be the MIA (Museum of Islamic Art) located on a manmade island that can only be accessed by car, and the Katara Cultural Village, which is split from the rest of Westbay by a, in turn, artificial stretch of hills surrounding its collection of cultural institutions.
An allowance for such spontaneous incidents to occur could be much more of a catalyst to engage and awaken a public interest, awareness, even debate, about related cultural interests, exposure to concepts regarding ‘what it all means and is for’. 

Exhibition in the Salt Gallery...

Whereas such quasi-public bodies are currently conceived and segregated into themed settings (cultural theme-parks, of sorts), a more benign approach for engaging the ‘public’ with their intents would be to allow such entities to permeate the local renditions of the high-street – be this along an actual street or one of the regional (village-sized) shopping malls. By mixing in such cultural spaces in amongst chain-shops, department-store POP’s and food venues the threshold for triggering ones curiosity is reduced, allowing for a more organic awareness to evolve. 

A exhibition on contemporary dance at the Salt Gallery...

As examples of existing endeavors of such locales can be mentioned Istiklal Avenue in Istanbul, where the Arter Gallery is found (which recently featured an exhibition by Marc Quinn). A short walk down is the the Salt Gallery, which has a more design and multi-disciplinary focus. It also has a book-store, a restaurant, and a small garden on the top floor. 

Salt Gallery facade...

Another example, here sited in a high-end mall context, is the TCDC (Thailand Creative Design Center) in Bangkok. In this latter example a whole cohort of design related activities – a design library, gallery, coffee-shop, materials library, exhibition space, design-shop, as well as a fancy membership lounge - occupy a floor of the Emporium Shopping Mall. 

The elevation of the Arter Gallery in Istanbul...

Mixing – subjecting – these kinds of conceptual paradigms to an audience that’s not usually exposed to these types of works can only be a good thing. Expanding the awareness about Art and Design, and the catalysts and ideas that trigger and drive such engagement, could be a good way to disseminate info and promote what we do…

The front of the After Gallery...

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