top of page
The art of our inorganic history


Artist Ali Cabbar, who combines knowledge and irony, criticism and aesthetics effectively in his works, opened his latest exhibition at Adas, Istanbul. Titled, MONSTER (, the show challenges the viewer with “still lifes” of today’s “inorganic” world. Although at first, the show seems like a colorful playground for children and adults alike, in reality it deserves to be viewed with utmost concern and seriousness for it tackles the hotly debated subject of genetically modified food or GMO.



The exhibition is a conceptual nod to the Istanbul Biennial, titled Seventh Continent, opened last week with the mission of raising ecological awareness. Thanks to the statistical and scientific information it includes, MONSTER peels off its colorful “costume” after a while, and leaves us in the middle of a contemporary nightmare, feeling naked and guilty.



Two floors of Adas homes Cabbar’s works that span from 2001 to today. The exhibition is a significant experience as it questions the plasticization of the environment, and our ethic, aesthetic and economic relationship with it. Unfolding our inorganic history in front of our eyes, the show deserves recommendation and recognition as it shares the current Biennial’s gen-ethic concerns.

Evrim Altuğ

Gazete Duvar, Sept. 15, 2019

Gifted designer of flawless food


Read Zeynep Guven Unlu's interview with Ali Cabbar on the occasion of MONSTER ( exhibition, which was published on Diken, Sept. 18, 2019 (In Turkish)

A look at 70-year-old visual language of political manipulation


With the advent of globalization and, in particular, after the first Gulf War, art in Turkey has inevitably been entwined with the political and economic upheaval rocking the region. Contemporary artists, driven by a desire to confront the “reality” of war and terror as well as fake democracies, seek ways to intervene in this new environment. This quest for the real is profoundly related to memory in the sense of finding the source of – and interpreting– current socio-political developments. Artists feel a need to refer to the historical background.

Ali Cabbar’s installation at DEPO is an example of how an artist’s approach may help to clarify and resolve deep-rooted political issues. He applies the parameters of art to Turkey’s current socio-political situation in a reconstruction of political-party logos and posters from the recent past. In his previous work, Cabbar drew on illustration and graphic art with strong surrealistic imagery to explore the socio-psychological quests of the individual. In the installation at DEPO, he resituates the slogans and posters of Turkish politics in a historical perspective.

The posters have multiple meanings, and the artist’s ironic perspective reflects the current disabled state of democracy in Turkey. He urges us to look back at this 70-year-old visual language of political manipulation that has influenced generations. Cabbar views these faded traces of past political ambitions as Turkey's democratic iconography and calls on the viewer to reassess this heritage.

By resurrecting these maladroit logos from the past, he also shows how Turks’ opinions were exploited. Is there any real difference between the visual language used 70 years ago and that employed now? he asks. Cabbar wants us to reflect on how these images have influenced the political decisions of generations. Through the graphic logos and images on these posters we can retrace the political and economic history of Turkey as it swings from state capitalism to liberalism and globalism. In this work, Cabbar uses healthy scepticism to provoke us into questioning the authority of political propaganda, the conventions of spectacle and the power –or ineffectiveness– of the voters’“gaze”.

Here, quoting Žižek , this “gaze” is : “to put it in Lacanese, the subject's gaze is always-already inscribed into the perceived object itself, in the guise of its ‘blind spot,’ that which is ‘in the object more than object itself,’ the point from which the object itself returns the gaze. ‘Sure, the picture is in my eye, but me, I am also in the picture.’*


Beral Madra

September 2016

On Ali Cabbar’s Disquiet Shadow


When I first encountered Ali Cabbar’s works some years ago, I was moved by the different associations and reflections conveyed through his exceptional visual language, which was simple and direct. His works have the potential to unfold themselves through multiple layers that become activated by the effort of the viewer. Hence, they all carry a sense of disquiet and solitude, with fragmentary and incomplete narrations.


Years later, I detected similarities, both form-wise and content-wise, between his works and Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet. Eventually, while working with Ali Cabbar for the “Disquiet Shadow” exhibition in 2009 and 2010, Pessoa’s book came to function as a compass for my curatorial decisions. Therefore, I will follow the paths of this book once again in my attempt to write a text on his works.


Basak Senova, 2010

*Read the full  text on

Ali Cabbar and the Forty Voyeurs


There’s a little bit of everything in the graphic universe of the most Belgian of all Turks living in Brussels. A destructive inference inherent in the art of painting that questions our own imagination: from humor to dimensional loss, melancholy to merriness. He magnificently brings together all the personalities we love in this small country of ours, Belgium, replete with modest heroisms, all hidden behind a hat and enigma. They are the people we meet by coincidence; if not themselves, their brothers or someone akin –like in fairytales-: Simeon and our pirates, our space travellers, our gold hunters in outdated utopic colonies.


Cabbar has become integrated with this foreign place which he has chosen as his second homeland. Here, he finds nourishment from art history for his imagination; it’s as if the place was cut out just for him. The spirit and inspiration of Bosch, Bruegel, Magritte, Delvaux, Folon all sprout straight out from the images of his own graphic and mythological conquests.


On the other hand, for those who know him, this world so rich in discoveries, in the unexpected, in heart breaking abstractions, resembles the road he himself walks on in this life -not always a bed full of roses for one who repudiates the law and refuses to march life’s path without self-questioning.


Ali Cabbar is a political artist. This attitude is not to delude; it is to warn us that nothing can ever be won without an awareness that brings clarity to the fact that any strifeless thing tumbled toward us is not only pointless and wretched, but a big lie. His humorous expression of purifying imagination, especially his elegant poetry that cannot be written in words, is priceless.

Roger Pierre Turine

Art critic for La Libre Belgique, 2010


*Read the full text on


Disquiet of the Shadows




Cabbar, as if endorsing the verses in Baudelaire’s poem, ‘The Man Who Tortures Himself’; “I am the wound and the dagger!/I am the blow and the cheek!/I am the members and the wheel,/Victim and executioner”, puts questions to the viewer through his life experiences, and wants to make them as disquiet as himself.



In fact, conflicts between the solitary figures and their shadows in his works shown at the exhibition, entitled Disquiet Shadow, voice a person’s inner struggle. The shadow becomes a free individual performer. Sometimes accompanies the figure in great harmony, sometimes empowers the figure by becoming the main character and at times completes it perfectly.


Erkan Doganay

Taraf, April 15, 2010

Disquiet shadows
carries mankind into the light


Ali Cabbar’s shadows are far from being still or dark. Disquiet Shadow, the Istanbul exhibition of the Turkish artist presents us with meaningful shadows, which seem like the embodiment of  the mind’s complexity.


Organised in the Yapi Kredi Art gallery since the 7th of April, Disquiet Shadow has been designed to represent the multiple dimensions of the individual. Sometimes tortured, sometimes day dreaming, individuals are envisaged as symbols of the cruelty and injustice of life.


These trials result in different reactions, which Ali Cabbar has tried to depict in his series entitled "Face Cards." This playful series of drawings represent one man in the different phases he goes through. Fear, joy or anger are conveyed, always without any didactic purpose. The artist, trained in Marmara University’s fine arts faculty, does not give any life lesson, and only uses black humour to underline life’s harshness, and its consequences: escape, schizophrenia or shame. Every feeling is transformed into a face expression or a situation.


What is most striking about Ali Cabbar’s work is self-deprication, suggesting that every one has a dark part in them, those "disquiet shadows" that manipulate the characters Ali Cabbar draws, without them noticing it.


Disquiet Shadow is to be seen until the 2nd of May.


Virginie Ballet and Sabri Günbegi

Digitalbridges, 2010

'As if I am copy-pasted to this life'


The artist’s drawings, which are quite similar to himself are isolated – just like his own mind - from the real world beyond them. Cabbar stresses that “I am as if copied and pasted to environment I live, just like my drawings”.


The fact that the same figures are repeated in different size and forms reflect the artist’s confrontation with himself as well as the partition due to being an exile. The Kız Kulesi (Maiden’s Tower), Galata Bridge, traditional Istanbul passenger ferry, seagulls constitute a background for the works, like a theatre set.


In this context, Ali Cabbar finds it necessary to stress that he was influenced by the traditional Turkish shadow show (Karagoz).


“There is a setting, a decor, behind the Karagoz shows. They enter the stage from behind and stand on one corner of the screen. Isolated from the main play. There is a similar concept in the way I position my drawings, and I compose the picture, too.  Both, Karagoz and Hacivat (duet partner of the character Karagoz in the shadow theatre), are myself in my drawings. Speaking to myself, making myself heard, confronting with myself, isolated from the space, playing myself from behind the screen, but still present in front of the screen with my body,” he says.


Elif Yildiz, 2005

Artist Ali Cabbar
Turns Robert Indiana’s
Iconic “Love” into “Like”


When Robert Indiana created his iconic “Love” sculpture in 1970, love might have been most coveted form of gratification. But in our current, Facebook-obsessed era, to get a “like” is just as good.

Or so must have thought the Turkish artist Ali Cabbar, who has reworked Indiana’s pop landmark into a large “Like” drawing, made with Bic biros.

Like {Not Love} / Homage To Robert Indiana (2014) explores how people and ideas are constantly subjected to fleeting (and shallow) appreciation in the form of likes, shares, retweets, and regrams. The drawing is currently exhibited as part of Cabbar’s “Placebo Effect,” a solo exhibition currently on view at Istanbul’s Amerikan Hospital Operation Room Gallery.

In it, the artist also reflects on the use of the “placebo effect” in a range of topics—politics, contemporary art, sports, and alcohol—which are currently causing heated debates in Turkey. The show gathers Cabbar’s recent output across the styles of pop and street art, through a range of media, including ballpoint pen drawings, stencils, and vinyl cut-outs.

“Placebo Effect,” by Ali Cabbar is on view at Amerikan Hospital Operation Room Gallery, Guzelbahce Sokak 20, Istanbul, from April 2 – May 10, 2015.

Lorena Muñoz-Alonso, 

ArtNet, April 13, 2015

Turkish/Belgian artist pays homage to Robert Indiana with a 'LiKE'


ISTANBUL.- Ali Cabbar shows his admiration and respect for great Robert Indiana with a work in his latest exhibition in Istanbul. He has reworked Indiana's "Love" into "Like" in the same style, based on the idea that in today's world earning "Likes" has become more important than love. 

He visualizes the fleeting contemporary aesthetics of ‘like-ing’ that can almost be measured in milliseconds on the basis of retweets and favorites with the sketch version of the sculpture Like {Not Love} / Homage To Robert Indiana and reveals his mischievous sympathy for the avant-garde, displaying a digital art technique which features the use of a BIC biro to boot. 

Ali Cabbar’s latest solo show Placebo Effect is on view at Amerikan Hospital Operation Room Gallery, from April 2 until May 10, 2015. The exhibit features his latest works in pop and street art styles, ballpoint pen drawings, stencils and vinyl cuts on paper. There is also an installation and a 3D object included in the show.

Inspired by the name of the gallery (Operation Room) and its unique location in a medical complex, Ali Cabbar explores the idea of placebo effect in a social context and analyses controversial issues —politics, contemporary art, sports and alcohol among others — that causes extreme polarization in Turkey today. He argues that although originally a medical concept, placebo appears in our daily lives in various forms such as comfort food and drink (taken orally) or empathy and tolerance (conveyed by emotions), and iconizes them as possible placebos used by the people of Turkey. 

The exhibition is accompanied by a 116-page illustrated catalogue which includes an article by AICA Turkey president and art critic Evrim Altuğ.

Artdaily, April 2015

Demokrasi deposu
zamanla boşalırken


Click to read a review by Evrim Altug published on Gazete Duvar, Nov. 2016 (in Turkish) 

Tipsiz: Türkiye Demokrasisinin
Görsel Haritası


Click to read an interview with the artist, published in the Bant Magazine, Nov. 2016 (in Turkish) 

Türkiye  Demokrasisine Hınzır Bir Bakış: Tipsiz


Click to read a review by Efe Beşler published on Sanatatak. (in Turkish) 

‘Tipsiz’ demokrasi


Click to read a review by Ezgi Atabilen published in Cumhuriyet, Nov. 16, 2016. (in Turkish) 

Mapping the Turkish politics


Ali Cabbar maps the Turkish politics from a graphic design perspective. He recreates almost forgotten election posters and party logos of the political literature, and give the politically borrowed animals and objects back to the art. Thus, reinstates their originality.

Levent Özata 

Istanbul Art News, Nov. 2016

Praising the Disquiet



The exhibition, as its title suggests, unfolds the burden of disquiet before our eyes as a serious subject. Inspired by Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet, it brings two injured kids, ill-treated by life, together on the same shores: Fernando Pessoa and Ali Cabbar.



Exiles, alienation, being the odd one always follows him, like a disquiet shadow. When we dig deep into the minimalism of his works, magic appears and absorbs the viewer like an eternal hollow. We see the artist’s face in all his works. It is said that Pessao wrote his books as 70 different personalities. Cabbar too, makes himself understood beneath many different covers. And always points to himself.



Criticism of militarist/authoritarian power mixed with emotions, implications and black humor casts many questions to the viewer.


Musa Igrek, 2010

Celebrating defeats


12 Eylül'de üç yıl Metris'te yatan sanatçı Ali Cabbar yıllar sonra müthiş bir sergiyle döndü.

READ Ezgi Başaran's interview with Ali Cabbar about his Disquiet Shadow exhibition, published in Hurriyet, April 17, 2010 (in Turkish) 

Ali Cabbar’s exilic existence


Ali Cabbar’s own graphic forms, reflect his feelings about himself in a striking manner and makes the exhibition one of the most important displays of art in Istanbul, in recent times.



Ali Cabbar, has skillfully managed to keep these meaningful objects apart from reality, with his minimalist way of drawing. At the same time, he tries to redefine them, taking the strength from himself, from a real human being.


This human being has managed to portray himself, quite honestly as Ali Cabbar, homeless, stuck in the middle, lost his sense of belonging, lost even the ability to communicate with a seagull, with an empty soul and empty body.


An exile is a person who has to achieve an existence, relying only on himself. That is because he knows that nothing but himself is permanent.


As Murathan Mungan wrote in a poem: “Sounds, faces, streets” are permanent, not even the memories. “Never to be forgotten”


But, how will they be remembered?

Ali Cabbar’s works are an attempt to remember them.


The exhibition, “Exilic Existence” open until the 7th October, makes one feel the drama of existing alone. But with a closer look, you feel that it is also a spectacular show of strength and a war survived.


Meral Gündogdu, 2005

Lonely existence in exile


Don’t we very often feel alone even among crowds, alien among familiar people, and uneasy in the middle of a happiness? Ali Cabbar’s exhibition “Exilic Existence”, which relays this torrential downpour of trapped emptiness in us, opened just in the middle of these crowds, at the Ataturk Culture Center in Taksim. When you view the works at the exhibition, words begin flying around in your soul.


Julide Karahan, 2005

A new “Eldorado” in Istanbul?


With the advent of the global neoliberalism, major urban areas became the ideal tools by which to invest capital. In this economic chess game, the use of art became a common strategy. Under the guise of urban renewal or even art-led urban transformation —also referred to as “artwashing”— the process of gentrification has been reconfiguring the spatial and social textures of neighborhoods.  Ali Cabbar’s exhibition: ELDORADO: A Wor{l}d Game, offers us a moment of reflection about these contemporary issues of relationship between capital and art.



After having been home to lower-income non-Muslim minorities during the Ottoman era, Dolapdere continued its trajectory as a shelter for the socially excluded. These new settlers were coming from a large span of ethnicities: extending from Kurds, Africans, Central-Asians, to Roma and non-Muslim local minorities, such as Armenians. In 2015, ARTER, a private art institution, funded by the Koç family, started building an 18,000-square-meter museum space in Dolapdere. The building, designed by the global practice Grimshaw Architects, has promised to become the heart of Istanbul’s contemporary art scene when it opens in September.


In the short period of time following the announcement of the new art space, the Dolapdere valley saw an impressive flurry of construction. New art galleries, office buildings, luxury residences and hotels started to grow like mushrooms.


As depicted in Cabbar’s ELDORADO: A Wor{l}d Game, the valley of Dolapdere turned rapidly into an “Eldorado’’ for the real estate conquistadors. All these new buildings —some even clad with golden façades— have one common configuration: They are positioned along the main avenue, on the valley floor, and are turning their backs to the poorer neighborhoods along the slopes. This burlesque of spatial segregation also resonates in Cabbar’s Postcards of Gentrification, which depicts with humor the branding strategies of urban operations.



Cabbar’s installation Do.La.Do.Re/La.Do.Re.Do (mu$ical), accompanied by Maya Muratoglu’s musical composition Prelude to a Demolition, questions this blurred future. The 12 black and white pictures of the area, taken by the artist, depict the incomplete construction activity. Gold leaf pasted on the scars of the urban transformations are deconstructing the hopes and fears shared by the different urban actors. This feeling of uncertainty and incompleteness emerges from Cabbar’s show

at Galerija umjetnina. The works are unstable and crafted on impermanent, nondurable materials that could easily disappear, like the homes that were torn down in the name of renewal, and deconstructed cutouts on the walls catalyze the sensation of ongoing decomposition and recomposition in Dolapdere.


His work, Final countdown, composed of black and white photographs taken from 2016 to 2019, with handwritten dates and times, places us as the impotent witnesses of the ongoing artwashing in the neighborhood. It’s true that cities are dynamic entities. Their constant transformation is unstoppable. But as actors within this system, we should all imagine other possible futures, including one in which art, local communities and the production of space could run hand-in-hand to define a more permeable and harmonious urban condition.


Sinan Logie

May 2019

Turkish tea, Turkish coffee,
Turkish pop art

Ali Cabbar presents a style that is not all familiar to Turkish contemporary art scene, and particularly to the art galleries. He has created a Turkish pop art with the help of his illustrator identity. He renders cult characteristics to the common objects –tea, coffee, amulets, raki bottles, star, crescent– that we’ve ceased to differentiate as we’ve gotten used to them. In a sense, he has created a brand with his personal patent. “Turkish Placebo” sculptures are the embodiments of this cult state. Perhaps, this is Ali Cabbar’s homage to Andy Warhol’s “Campbell’s Soup Can.”

Levent Özata

Istanbul Art News, May 2015

Ali Cabbar, 
Ermeni Soykırımı'nın
100. yılını bir eserle anıyor


Click to read an article published on Armenian News Agency's website on April 15, 2015 (in Turkish).

Cabbar’s simple variations are complex and deep


A common point of arrival in Istanbul is Taksim Square, which lies on top of the main street of the city’s European side, İstiklal Caddesi. If your mission is to exploare the art life of the city, which this year is named “European Capital of Culture”, you will not have to go far before you are caught up in the long row of galleries on the street.


One of the most interesting solo exhibitions in Istanbul at the moment is Ali Cabbar’s Disquiet Shadow at the Yapi Kredi Gallery.

After a three-year-long imprisonment following the military coup in Turkey in 1980, Cabbar immigrated to Australia for six years and then to Brussels, where he still lives. A very large part of his production in exile could be characterized as a study of how political suppression becomes internalized in the individual body, and accordingly, of the individual conditions–and impasses–of freedom struggle. Perhaps more than ever before, the current exhibition demonstrates the ingenuity with which Cabbar treats this theme using a simple drawing and printing technique.

On two opposite walls in the exhibition’s central room, two series of six wall prints (Face Cards I-II) depict acts of self-blinding and self-silencing respectively. The series can be read from left to right like a comic strip, almost as if they were snapshots of the stages in a magician’s show: the first series starts off with the artist standing upright, eyes open, arms hanging down. In the next four figures he twists and turns, covering his eyes with his hands. In the last one, his eyes have been erased, and he holds up his empty hands as if to demonstrate that he has not hidden them there.

Like in the Face Cards series, many of the works depict the artist’s body as suppressed or deprived of freedom, but at the same time a “disquiet shadow” often lurks behind his acts, defining their meaning, often contradicting his positions. The shadow sometimes points down at him as if judging his suppression as self-exerted and deserved, sometimes expressing the opposite of it, like when his tied hands cast a shadow of free doves behind his back.

The import of Cabbar’s simple variations is complex and deep: the body and its shadow both stand out as political signs, demonstrating how suppression may not only be disguised as freedom within a totalitarian culture but even implanted in the individual in such a way that he effectively blames it on himself, or even takes on the role of his own torturer.

Supposedly, therefore, Cabbar’s drawings are in their essence a battle with and within technique, over the power of representation of the body, which in the end seems to point back at the possibilities of art as a political medium.

This is especially visible in the series Pull the Strings, where the “strings” pulling the individual through hooks in his skin are identical to the color lines that compose the body’s striving movements of opposition. Perhaps more subtly than anywhere else, these wall prints incorporate the contradictory passivity/activity principle implied by Cabbar’s idea of the human being as a politically defined form.

Paal Andreas Bøe

Norwegian art critic and freelance journalist  

Published in C-arts Magazine No. 14, pp. 28-33 (2010)



Ali Cabbar est un Turc installé chez nous depuis quelques années. Cette première exposition bruxelloise devrait en appeler d’autres. Comment, en effet, rester de glace face à la poésie, au sourire, à la fantaisie, à l’absurde émanant a profusion de ses tableautins emplis d’une petite philosophie surréelle corsée de rêves sans fin! L’homme prisonnier, l’homme en voyage dans sa tête, l’homme en quête d’un œil, l’homme qui marche vers où et vers quoi… Le personnage de Cabbar est un funambule sur le fil de la vie, entre rêve et réalité, entre immobilité et dynamique, entre bd et peinture, entre Tintin et Magritte. Il a beau être turc, Cabbar doit se sentir ici en pays de connaissance.


Roger Pierre Turine

La Libre Belgique

Dec. 20, 2006

We’re all exiles


I visited Ali Cabbar’s exhibition titled “Exilic Existence”, at the Ataturk Culture Center (AKM). I immediately remembered the poem “The Disturbed Tree” by Turkish poet Melih Cevdet Anday. The tree gets disturbed when it was taught love.


When you see Ali Cabbar’s works, you will be urged to revaluate normally acceptable concepts. When you realize how the concepts of exile and alienation are a part of daily life, you will feel obliged to reconsider them. Consciously or subliminally.


I sometimes quite like works of art and make an objective comment. But, sometimes there are such works of art, that immediately interact with my inner being. In a way, they allow me share their own challenges. That is when I feel as if I am being identified with it, just like a mystic verse. I felt so, with Ali Cabbar.


I have always followed the global and personel adventure of two concepts: Exile and alienation. As far as exile is concerned, there might be the influence of land, up to a point. But alienation is a state of soul, people feel wherever they are. Ali Cabbar’s minimal approach to art makes me communicate easier.


I have always believed that minimal art has been created with the rules of poetry. Just like poetry, which is a process of screening, all minimal works of art does the same.

The most dominant concept of this age is alienation.

How does ALIENATION take place? Just like the work “An Island in the Ocean”. A boat with oars. And a man. His hands, his facial expression reflect the neutrality of loneliness. The night. The Galata Bridge. Them alone are symbols of alienation. Especially with the dim lamp posts. Like a guest, but not conquering. Two people, sitting on opposite sides. Symbolising the alienation of human beings to each other.


I have always focused on the metaphor of an umbrella. I stood in front of a series of three works: Spring Exile, Winter Exile, Autumn Exile. May be, because the two concepts strengthen each other, I liked the work Autumn Exile more than the others. Exile should not necessarily be associated with politics. Everybody can be called an exile or an exile of alienation.


People dressed in white. The chilling white coats. With a tag on it saying: “Foreigner Forever” You can choose different expressions to describe alienation and the alien. Neither here-Nor there. Now here-Nowhere. Dislocated-Disorientated.

Ali Cabbar’s exhibition is open until the 7th October. Closed on Sundays and Mondays. It is a stimulating exhibition, in the sense that it makes you face your self-awareness and leads to a recollection of your relations with certain concepts.


Dogan Hizlan

Hürriyet Arts Editor, 2005

bottom of page