The cellar door: ‘Metamorphosis’ at Adahan

Matt Hanson

Art agency Blue Rhino is presenting a two-part exhibition in the historic cellar gallery at the Adahan …

Art agency Blue Rhino is presenting a two-part exhibition in the historic cellar gallery at the Adahan Hotel titled ‘Metamorphosis.’ Its first part is on until Nov. 15. Part II will open on Nov. 17 and run until Nov. 30. The shows feature Turkish and Iranian artists whose works are rife with shapeshifting humanoids and animal mythology

The word pairing, cellar door, is not beautiful for its meaning. Yet, its sonic aura is said to have transfixed geniuses like philologist J.R.R. Tolkien and poet Edgar Allen Poe as the Victorian heyday of Romantic poetry unraveled before the fin de siecle, toward new inventions of language, throwing off the naturalistic formalism of the classics in favor of the supernatural dynamism of the future. It was a trend that sought the naive purity of the modern imagination bound only to the present. The ways in which people wrote, read and listened to words and made art changed, coinciding with radical redefinitions of the relationships between mind and matter, individuality and creativity, society and production.

It also coincided with a violent confrontation further devoid of reason, strangling everyone under the arms of industry, regardless of economic distinction. Even elites among the wealthiest of Ottoman families would not escape the fate of history, presaged by ideological breakdowns in the arts. Comte Moise de Camondo, the son of Sephardic Jewish bankers, would disappear from the title of his inner-city mansion now known as Adahan, which lures locals and travelers alike to its stunning rooftop cafe and basement art gallery.

From the heart of Istanbul’s traditional European district of Pera, not a single descendant of the Camondo family would live to see the current, stylish renovation of his former residence, built in 1874 when he was only 14. His entire progeny would fall to combat and genocide in Europe, obliterated by two world wars that ensued, and continue in other forms, as a result of the nationalist power struggle for control over the global economy. Around a well-kept alleyway near Kıraathane 24, an exhibition space for the literary community and the temporary location for Istanbul Modern, finely procured marble steps lead to a sleek elevator past the hotel reception.

At the underground level, there is a cellar door. By any ordinary interpretation, the door itself would be negligible, simply an object to mark and divide a way through which someone might pass into the interior. At the same time, its symbolism, to signify it in speech, carries a wholly other dimension, one defined by nonessential grace, by the pure elegance of the sound. Within that awareness, crossing the threshold where idea and sensation merge, the primary theme of “Metamorphosis” is clear, encompassed by the old, dusty ambiance of the rough brick archways and unmoved medieval metalwork centered by a well now covered with soil to complete the otherworldly curation of 25 mercurial works by 16 broad-ranging artists.



Leave a Reply


Recive E-mail updates on our exhibitions, events and more