Art Guide

Istanbul art galleries, exhibitions, news and editorial.

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Outside of its rich and complex history within the Ottoman Empire, Istanbul is widely known for its art, particularly through the art fair Contemporary Istanbul and the Istanbul Biennial, both of which prove the city as a major art hub not only in the far past, but also for contemporary art today.

Istanbul Modern is Turkey's first private museum of modern and contemporary art and was opened in 2004. Istanbul Modern places emphasis on artists from the region. Such artists include Hoca Ali Rıza, Nurullah Berk, Nedim Günsür, Omer Uluç, and Canan Tolon, amongst others. The museum's permanent collection also includes renowned international artists such as Adrián Villar Rojas and Olafur Eliasson. Past exhibitions range from a retrospective on Erol Akyavaş to a group exhibition on love and politics featuring Alessandro Pessoli, Hiraki Sawa, Boyd Webb, and Saskia Olde Wolbers. In addition to the permanent collection and temporary exhibition spaces, there is also a photography gallery, video area, library, and cinema. For galleries, a highly recommended area to explore is Karaköy neighbourhood of the city, where you can find artSümer.

A modern art museum, but much more research-informed, Salt Beyoğlu is equally known for its programming as its exhibitions. The museum has another locationin Istanbul called Salt Galata, dedicated to workshops, research, exhibitions, and conferences. Focused on visual and material culture, Salt Beyoğlu's exhibitions have included research-based, Eurasia-focused collective Slavs and Tatars' first mid-career survey. The not-for-profit art centre Arter is a contemporary art space opened in 2010; its inaugural exhibition was titled Starter and ambitiously exhibited more than 160 works by 87 artists.

For older works visit the Pera Museum's permanent collection, which consists of four sections: Orientalist paintings, Anatolian weights and measuresy, Kütahya tiles and ceramics, and photography. The impressive photography collection covers the 19th and 20th centuries, with more than 7,000 photographs of the city. Pera's exhibits feature artists like Rembrandt, Joan Miró, Akira Kurosawa, Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso, and Frida Kahlo.

For more local and international historical paintings, check out the National Palaces Painting Museum, which showcases pieces from the palace's collection. For even older works that date further back, visit The Church of the Holy Saviour in Chora, now known as the Chora Museum. Previously a medieval Byzantine Greek Orthodox church, it was turned into a mosque in the 15th century and a museum in 1945. It has preserved many of its mosaics, which mostly date from 1077–1081, and provides a satisfying timeline of the history of the arts in Istanbul.

Image: Istanbul Skyline. Photo: Julian Nyča (CC BY-SA 4.0).

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16 September–12 November 2017 15th Istanbul Biennial