GG was founded in 2003 with the support of Garanti Bank. Until August 2008, it organized thirty-one exhibitions at its 70m2 gallery on Istiklal Avenue. Throughout its active period, its programs were shaped by the contribution of an advisory committee made up of Bülent Tanju, UğurTanyeli, Han Tümertekin, Alpay Er, Semra Öndeş and honorary members Bülent Erkmen and Sibel Asna. GG was directed by Münevver Eminoğlu (2003–2005) and Pelin Derviş (2005–2010). In 2010, GG merged with Platform Garanti Contemporary Art Center and the Ottoman Bank Archives and Research Centre (OBARC) under the auspices of Garanti Kültür AŞ to form a new institution – SALT.
The exhibitions at GG aimed to explore all types of design and to open them to discussion. The exhibition entitled Wearing Architecture Inside Out, Rural Studio: Architecture as Transgression and Ambiguity questioned the concept of social responsibility in architecture by focusing on the experiences the students of Auburn University participating in the applied architecture workshop “Rural Studio” had with their “clients” living well below the poverty line in Hale County, Alabama. Curated by Aykut Köksal, the exhibition entitled Soundspace: Spatial Works in Contemporary Music showcased examples of spatial music produced after the 1950s, accompanied by drawings, texts, video recordings of performances and video works based on these compositions. As part of this exhibition, a concert of spatial music works was organized, a first in Turkey. In another project GG cooperated with OBARC to depict in two exhibitions and a book the intellectual and architectural journey of Turgut Cansever, one of the most original and dissident architects of Republic Era Turkey. Directed by Uğur Tanyeli and Atilla Yücel, this project was the first retrospective exhibition of an architect based on archival documents.
The range of topics GG opened up for debate in the area of design included the digital world. Project MUTEN Istanbul exhibited the urban design proposed by KOL/MAC, one of the leaders of digital architecture, for the Galataport area. Based on network intelligence and strategies, this design was a different and productive scenario that displayed the contradictions and vicious circles in the ongoing debates concerning the area. Following Project MUTEN, the number of experimental works at GG increased and their content became more varied. As one of the stages of the long-term project Fibrous Structures directed by Claudia Pasquero, Marco Poletto and Nilüfer Kozikoğlu, Fibrous Room; Evolving Structural Logic exhibited not the design product per se but rather a phase in the design research process. The life-size prototype made of woven hollow fibers developed in time as the fibers were filled with concrete one month later and as the concrete then solidified. Curated and designed by Marcos Novak, the exhibition entitled Turbulent Topologies dealt with turbulence as a formal principle and a condition of the global metropolis. Novak examined the turbulent topologies of currents, links, connections, networks and stratifications by using high-tech fragile statues and a virtual environment that the bodies of visitors turned into physical sound and images. After the exhibition in Istanbul, Turbulent Topologies was exhibited at Palazzetto Tito (Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa, 2008) concurrently with the 11th Venice Architecture Biennial and at IVAM (Institut Valencià d'Art Modern, 2009) as part of Confines, a retrospective curated by Aaron Betsky.
GG supported the content of all exhibitions with lectures, conferences, panel discussions and workshops, thereby aiming to create an environment of discussion and production. The most radical example of this was Hackers and Haute Couture Heretics: Subconstructive Strategies in the Fashion System. Curated by Otto von Busch, the exhibition examined how the processes of hacking, shopdropping and craftivism were used as tactics at the outskirts of fashion. Throughout the six-week period while the exhibition was open, Busch held workshops with artists and designers who proposed new work methods within the fashion system. The aim of the workshops was to create a variety of practical low-level interventions and perspectives from which to look upon fashion both as a phenomenon as well as a material that can be transformed.
Becoming Istanbul is one of the long-term research and publication projects begun by GG to discuss the method of exhibition as part of the exhibition content itself, and has now been passed on to SALT. For the purposes of the exhibition, an interactive database has been constructed to help defy the received wisdom and clichés that accompany the debates on change and transformation that have been going on in Istanbul for a long time. The database included artist videos, photography series, architectural projects, TV news items and cartoons reflecting the current state of the city, and was projected onto the walls of the exhibition space, allowing each user to browse the database by using a mouse connected to the system. Becoming Istanbul was exhibited at the German Architecture Museum (DAM, 2008) in Frankfurt, Deutsches Architektur Zentrum (DAZ, 2009) in Berlin and Al Riwaq Gallery (Bahrain, 2009) in Al Manama. Curators of the exhibition, Pelin Derviş, Bülent Tanju and Uğur Tanyeli, edited the multi-authored dictionary Becoming Istanbul, which was published in English and German in 2008. The book was published in Turkish in 2009 under the title İstanbullaşmak: Olgular, Sorunsallar, Metaforlar. The same year saw the publication of Tracing Istanbul , a book made up of interviews based on aerial photographs by Oğuz Meriç and edited by Meriç Öner, as well as Mapping Istanbul, which was edited by Pelin Derviş and Meriç Öner and brought together the views and research of numerous academics and experts through maps, diagrams and texts. The exhibition can be visited at SALT Beyoğlu between September and December 2011. The online version of the interactive database can be accessed at http://database.becomingistanbul.org.