“The truly liberating aspect of art is that it make us doubt our existence.” Faruk Sade
Yazar: Merve Aktaş
So much comes to mind when we say Ankara... For some, Ankara is a departure point. From there you can embark on a journey, then stop by again or maybe not. For others, it is everything learned. And for some, it is simply not Istanbul.
While Ankara is so much at the same time, for some it is composed of only two colors and numerous lives. It means hundreds of lives in black frames fit into a single lifespan. It means laughter that still echoes among the white walls although not really heard anymore, glasses raised in gratitude for some reason or just to toast life, the hands of friends felt on the shoulder, hugs and more.
Since the day it opened at Kavaklıdere Street No. 3, Siyah Beyaz, which has witnessed the near past, hidden and protected it, took ownership of the arts and artists, and become Ankara’s and perhaps Turkey’s first contemporary art initiative, means so much to some. So, what makes a venue so meaningful? How can a venue is forever etched in memory, becomes life itself, and lives on? Answering all of these complicated questions without naming Faruk Sade, Fulya Sade, Sera Sade, and Turkey’s leading artists, architects, academics and intellectuals is not possible. This article is dedicated to Siyah Beyaz as a tribute in its 33rd anniversary, and attempts to tell its story that will never end no matter how much we write about it.
It was 1980 when young architect Faruk Sade, a graduate of the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, completed his architectural education, and on Güllü Aybar’s insistence, decided to pursue his master’s degree in France without speaking a word of French. In the period when Sade spent his time in an apartment at Boulevard du Montparnasse, Raspail No. 210, and the Cafe Gymnase in the building’s ground floor with his old friend Ali Güreli, currently the Chairman of the Contemporary Istanbul (CI) Art Fair, he established close relationships with numerous artists including Hakkı Anlı, Mübin Orhon, Abidin Dino, Komet (Gürkan Coşkun), Sinan Bıçakçıoğlu, Mehmet Nâzım, Mehmet İleri, Selim Turan, and Utku Varlık, among others, building the foundations of what he would do upon his return to Turkey.
The cultural and ethical habits Sade gained in this circle awakened in him an instinct to create a similar “home” feeling in Ankara. Sade, who was greatly influenced by the conversations he had in Paris with Münevver Andaç, who herself had gallery experience, was never able to begin his master’s studies, which was only six buildings away from his apartment at Raspail No. 210, but decided to pursue his dream of opening a gallery. Although he began searching Paris for this purpose, the high rents did not allow this; but Faruk Sade did not give up on his dream and returned to Ankara in 1982, where he decided to put down his roots in the arts. The role of the positive approach that the architects of the time adopted for the arts is undeniable in Sade’s decision, which he would later interpret as “an advantage of starting a business with a conscious circle”.
Siyah Beyaz was founded by Faruk Sade in a building owned by the Sade family with his signature architectural interventions. The history of the building dated to 1954, the year Faruk Sade was born. The building’s ground / basement floor housed Siyah Beyaz Bar with a front and back yard today, while the upper ground and first floors are home to the continuously transforming and expanding Siyah Beyaz Art Gallery. The gallery and the bar get their names from the black and white fireplace on the first floor of the building, and the black and white photography collection that lines the walls of the venue, even though they were initially very small in number at the time.
This collection, which the venue is named after, still lines the walls of the ground floor, or the bar area of Siyah Beyaz. Hosting more than two thousand portraits of friends and stars on the walls over the years, Siyah Beyaz also becomes a favorite hangout of a large number of journalists and writers. This collection gives you the opportunity to discover the foundations of the family’s oldest friendships. Photographs of artists, designers and architects such as Bihrat Mavitan, Hasan Bülent Kahraman, Ahmet Boyacioglu, Güllü Aybar, Suha Ozkan, Erdağ Aksel, Yılmaz Aysan, Mübin Orhon, Alev Ermiş Mavitan, Nevzat Sayın, Mehmet Nazim, Komet and Murat Artu, along with former senior bureaucrats including Yekta Güngör Özden and Emre Kongar adorn the walls. In the collection that provides a brief look at the life of the Sade family, the faces of those who have passed away are illuminated as naively as possible. Nevzat Sayın provides a profound interpretation, saying, “The path taken by those who are not with us any more is depicted only by a light between the spiritual and the worldly in a spectacular manner. This expression is so Faruk, in a language that narrates the deep sentiment in such a witty style. You are somewhat enlightened perhaps in your darkest place.”
Another important decision for Siyah Beyaz was undoubtedly for music. The local blues / rock trio Exit, consisting of Sadık Sağlam (bass guitar), Nusret Gürs (drums) and Gürbüz Barlas (guitar, vocals), has performed at the bar for many years, and offered a way out for people who came to Siyah Beyaz. Exit has been playing blues, representing the oppressed, as an unchanging attitude, and in Faruk Sade’s words, “we did not talk shop, we talked philosophy”, the bar has retained its character since the very beginning, never playing a different genre than rock, jazz, and the blues.
Another important note about Siyah Beyaz is the 92-minute, 2010 feature film of the same title directed by Dr. Ahmet Boyacıoğlu, an old friend of the Sade family, long time guest of the establishment, and President of Ankara Cinema Association. With Taner Birsel acting as the Faruk Sade character, the film also featured actors Tuncel Kurtiz, Derya Alabora, Şevval Sam, Erkan Can, and Nejat İşler. Talking about the film that won the Special Jury Award at the 59th Manheim-Heidelberg International Film Festival, Boyacıoğlu says, “The film is about being of Ankara and also belonging to that bar. And I believe Siyah Beyaz is a part of belonging to Ankara.”
Faruk Sade’s wife Fulya Sade is the not-so-secret heroine of the dream he never considered giving up for a moment and always knew how to keep alive despite great challenges. Their rapport was so precious that when asked the reason for the long-lasting success of Siyah Beyaz many years later, Faruk Sade would say, “If it weren’t for Fulya, I couldn’t have done it.” Faruk and Fulya Sade’s complementary characters, sincere attitudes that established a direct relationship with people, the presence of Sera, their daughter born one year after Siyah Beyaz opened, and countless friendships connected with strong bonds, have no doubt given Siyah Beyaz its much desired “home” feeling.
Today managed by Sera Sade, who studied design and arts in Turkey and London, Siyah Beyaz is still at Kavaklıdere Street No. 3 as it has been for the last 33 years, featuring on its walls the works of artists from both Faruk & Fulya Sade’s and Sera Sade’s art circles. The Siyah Beyaz family is missing one vital member since 2016, casting a doubt on its existence and yet art, which gives life to this large family, also continues to be its savior.