By Nadia Sesay


Nix the white-walled gallery and its bland exhibit opening with the all-too-common formula of art, wine, repeat - yawn! The trailblazing concept space 'No Lab' - which opens tonight in Istanbul - shakes up the art show formula with live performances and a DJ, a pop-up braiding salon, and an energetic display of contemporary African art.

Namsa Leuba,  The African Queen - 2 . Courtesy No Lab.

Namsa Leuba, The African Queen - 2. Courtesy No Lab.


No Lab is the brainchild of two creatives ("The"Chemists") - interior designer Zeynep Ercan and Ala Onur, who refrains from labels. (No Lab, by the way, is shortened from "No Labeling"). The founders share a childhood in Istanbul and early working years in New York City. A joint idea to create an artistic hub and to forge an environment for ongoing and dynamic conversations inspired a return to Istanbul to realize their vision.

The Chemists developed No Lab as a series of "conceptual exhibitions in different locations at different times; bringing together artists, creators, idea-makers, unique pieces from all around the world; exhibiting and exploring cross cultural, oxygenating, and collaborative artistic works; aiming to provoke you with creative concepts, events, and shows." With this in mind the standard gallery vernissage just falls short. (For an added note of non-conformity, tonight's opening boasts an all-night agenda, 7pm to 2am).  

The first exhibit of No Lab is Modern Africa / A Rainbow Nation. Created to break the common bias on what African culture and art is, Rainbow Nation "does not put African art and creativity under one umbrella but allows people to see the rainbow above it. It depicts the shift in African creativity from very tribal to modern. It is an exhibition which allows the Rainbow Nation to show how colorful and modern it is."

Get a look at of some of the artworks in Modern Africa / A Rainbow Nation below and follow No Lab on Instagram to see more art and keep up with festivities of opening night!

Modern Africa / A Rainbow Nation is on view until December.

Ralph Ziman,  Murarabungu Chigwagawag 7 . Courtesy No Lab.

Ralph Ziman, Murarabungu Chigwagawag 7. Courtesy No Lab.

Hassan Hajjaj   African Boy . Courtesy No Lab.

Hassan Hajjaj  African Boy. Courtesy No Lab.

Beril Gulcan,  Black Face Wedding . Courtesy No Lab.

Beril Gulcan, Black Face Wedding. Courtesy No Lab.

Sindiso Nyoni. Courtesy No Lab.

Sindiso Nyoni. Courtesy No Lab.

Nadia Sesay