Quick tip: if you’re interested in searching about the SALT institute in Turkey, don’t google, “Salt Turkey” unless you want a hundred and one ways to salt, brine, and cook a turkey.
SALT is a not-for-profit art center based in Turkey whose mission is to explore cultural and historical issues and cultivate innovative programs for research and experimental thinking. Unsatisfied with one-way communication of past institutes, SALT seeks to challenge and provoke people, encouraging them to not only witness but to also communicate back, critique, respond and get involved. The more I see of what SALT is trying to accomplish, the more I realize that they are a vital player in Turkey’s art ecosystem. This in turn has led me to a eureka moment while writing this article and pondering the bigger question, “What makes an art ecosystem? How do you know when you have one?” I think I may have stumbled upon the answer. Sure, there are many variables that come into play, but when the thought hit me, when I heard myself say it out loud, it felt like a magical incantation, a whispered word of power that carried upon it the weight of the Truth, with a capital T.

Hipsters.
Bear with me for a moment. I’m not trying to use the word in any derogatory fashion. Far from it, as a tech geek and sci-fi nerd, hipsters are basically my cousins. They are obsessed with their art world just as much as I am with my technology and science fiction worlds, delving into all its obscure corners and showing off our knowledge, protecting it with the vehemence of a fanatic (albeit they do it with a quieter intensity), and shunning any blatant commercialization and acts of selling out.

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My point with all this is a simple one: where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Where there are hipsters, there’s an art ecosystem.
And guess what? Turkey’s got them.
Serving up an art ecosystem doesn’t happen in a day. It’s a slow and elaborate recipe. You need government and private foundations to provide funding and resources; galleries to provide space, infrastructure and logistics; artists to actually create their masterpieces; and most importantly, an engaging and curious public to provide support and appreciation.

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After all, what’s the point of a delicious meal if there’s no one to eat it.
Each country develops its own recipe and serves its own unique taste. In Turkey, since there has been a lack of publicly-funded and state-run institutions, it has fallen to the private industry to take on the mantle and the responsibility. For decades, it has been left to the wealthy, the corporations and the banks to maintain the Turkish art world; opening galleries, art centers, museums and foundations, and now, the next link in the artistic evolutionary chain. This is where SALT comes in.