When I went to Apel on the first day of my job on the morning of October 2, 2012, I smelled something I had never smelled before and I didn’t know where it came from. I went upstairs and I met the emitters of the smell; the walls and wood flooring. In the dark, there were only bricks and the creaking parquet; then suddenly the lights went on. Now, added to the two emitters of the smell was Emre Senan’s “Instant Rag’s. Gallery Apel had opened.
The first day was over. The lights went off. Gallery Apel was closed. When the “Instant Rag”s were, once again, plunged into darkness. I was left alone with the smell of Apel. When the silence joined the smell, it seemed like Apel would suddenly start speaking. It seemed like if the street were completely empty if the residents of Apelyan Apartment abandoned the building, and Apel was certain that we were alone, it would start telling me its story, it would share with me the times when the smell went much further back. The smell of Apel had, for sure, entered other homes, met other people, witnessed other lives. Beyond the smell of brick and wood combined with dampness, it had the smell of a long life’s experience, and indeed, it was a little sad.
Over time I began to feel like a part of Apel. I had become a part of the gallery. I spoke every day with Nuran Hanim (Terzioglu) about Apel, about the artists and the art world. Then one day, we started talking about how the gallery was established. That day, without even noticing it, together with the gallery I started traveling to the smell’s past. Before me, before Apellians, the smell of Apel was an apartment building owned but never used by Apelyan Efendi, an iron trader from Kayseri. The architects of one of the emitters of the smell, bricks, were Italian. With the transformation of Beyoglu, which continued throughout the 20th century, non-Muslim owners of the homes in the building left Istanbul, and the apartment where Apel is today was occupied. After Nuran Hanim discovered it in 1994, space was reborn, but it took quite some time to take its present form. First, the upper floor of the gallery was altered, its original bricks were uncovered, and the pink balcony was glazed and added to the gallery. Later, the lower floor was acquired from Armenak Usta, who has been a carpenter for many years. Armenak Usta was the son of a carpenter who had adopted the surname “Marangoz”—carpenter in Turkish—when the surname law came out. Together with his brother Agop, he spent his years in this carpenter shop, and he used to live on the upper floor with his wife Armen Hanim. He developed such strong ties with this building that it took him a long time to break the bond. Nuran Hanim waited with patience and understanding. Though he had trouble letting go of the shop, Armenak Usta had grown so fond of Nuran Hanim that he left her what may have been the most precious object in his life; his carpenter’s table. Finally, the ground floor of Gallery Apel became part of the smell of Apel. Lastly, Nuran Hanim also bought Apel 5/2; this section, which is thought to have been used as a laundry or Turkish bath, was altered to suit the spirit of Apelyan; and Gallery Apel became what it is now.
I knew the smell of Apel had a past, and I was able to reach the origin of this smell thanks to what Nuran Hanim had told me. What I didn’t know was actually the smell was not sad; on the contrary, it was a very experienced smell which had witnessed many lives and was perhaps a tired smell. The smell of Apel then started to make me fell now just like an Apelyanian. Smelling it every day made me think it was part of history. On the last day of my job, it felt more like I was leaving the smell of Apel rather than the gallery itself. I took in the smell one last time. I turned the lights off and I dreamed that one day the smell would come to speak and perhaps tell its story to those who come after me.