SALT Beyoğlu Closed for Renovations
By HG Masters
Istanbul’s SALT Beyoğlu, one of country’s leading cultural centers, closed in mid-January due to stated “technical reasons.” According to sources close to the matter, in September 2015, an unknown person filed a highly detailed complaint with the prime minster’s office regarding the condition of the historical building, which had opened in April 2011 without securing the requisite permits from the local municipality.
The renovation of the former residential building was overseen by the office of Aga Khan Award-winning architect Han Tümertekin. The architecture firm did not keep the original building’s interior partitions and added an extra floor in a blatant violation of building codes. The uppermost floor of the building had already been closed by the Beyoğlu municipality. Collectively, these decisions violated Turkey’s historical building codes, and had prevented SALT from obtaining the proper licenses from opening and securing permits to make further modifications.
After the news was made public, there was speculation that SALT Beyoğlu had been shut down by the government as part of its tightening campaign against free speech and critical dissent. SALT Beyoğlu’s last exhibition before its closure had been “How Did We Get Here,” a look at the progressive political movements that emerged after the brutal military coup d’état of September 12, 1980.
SALT director’s of research and programs Vasıif Kortun denied SALT Beyoğlu’s closure was linked to its exhibitions or to any political retributions. Kortun said that the organization will continue to run its programs in its locations in Istanbul at the SALT Galata building on Bankalar Caddesi, and in Ankara at SALT Ulus. SALT’s primary funder is Garanti Bank, and it will mediate with the Turkish government over the building’s future, while efforts are finally made to secure the adequate permissions.
HG Masters is editor-at-large of ArtAsiaPacific.