Eldorado is a research-based project on gentrification that the artist has been working on since 2016, when his neighborhood Dolapdere in Istanbul started to change rapidly, right after a contemporary art museum construction started. Almost immediately, bigger commercial art galleries bought or restored buildings a few steps away from the construction site.
Despite its proximity to central Taksim, Dolapdere is traditionally a working class neighborhood, housing mixture of cultures and people including Roma, immigrants from Africa and Central Asia, run-down Orthodox churches, car repair shops and mannequin producers. Now it is destined to be a valley of art and tourism. As we have seen in all the major cities like New York and London, in Istanbul too, art and artists have been used as the “infantry troops” of the real estate developers without even realizing it.
In this project, Ali Cabbar, just like in a word challenge game, creates an (almost perfect!) anagram from the name of the neighborhood: Dolapdere becomes Eldorado. Like the Spanish conquistadors of the Middle ages, the developers dive into the jungles of the city and change the diversity and authenticity of the neighborhoods to make fortunes in gold.
Ali Cabbar (born 1956, Istanbul) is a Belgian-Turkish artist based in Brussels. His work draws inspiration from personal experiences, and explores identity and political issues using symbols and black humor. He employs a variety of media such as drawing, painting, photography and 3-D installations, and likes to combine digital and traditional techniques in innovative ways. In his recent research-driven projects, Cabbar delves into the effects of gentrification and political propaganda. Ali Cabbar’s solo exhibitions include: “Ugly” at DEPO, Istanbul (2016); Placebo Effect” at the Operation Room, Istanbul (2015); “Disquiet Shadow” at the Yapi Kredi Cultural Center, Istanbul (2010), “Escape” at Le Botanique, Brussels (2006). He has also participated in group shows, including “Climbing Through the Tide” at Kamel Lazaar Foundation’s B7L9 project space, Tunis (2019) and the YK Bank Collection exhibition “Helix”, Istanbul (2017).