Istanbul Art Guide

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.

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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.

Past Exhibitions In Istanbul

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Contemporary art exhibition, Antonio Cosentino, Jpeg Archipelago at Zilberman Gallery, Istanbul
28 February–29 July 2020 Antonio Cosentino Jpeg Archipelago Zilberman Gallery, IstanbulIstanbul
Contemporary art exhibition, Elmas Deniz, Three Hues of Water at Zilberman Gallery, Istanbul
14 December 2019–21 February 2020 Elmas Deniz Three Hues of Water Zilberman Gallery, IstanbulIstanbul
Contemporary art exhibition, Isaac Chong Wai, I Made a Boat in Prison–A Journey to the Shore at Zilberman Gallery, Istanbul
11 September–8 December 2019 Isaac Chong Wai I Made a Boat in Prison–A Journey to the Shore Zilberman Gallery, Project Space, IstanbulProject Space, Istanbul

Ocula Member Galleries In Istanbul

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Zilberman Gallery contemporary art gallery in Istanbul, Turkey Zilberman Gallery Istanbul, Berlin
Zilberman Gallery contemporary art gallery in Project Space, Istanbul, Turkey Zilberman Gallery Istanbul, Berlin

Contemporary Institutions In Istanbul

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Elgiz Museum contemporary art institution in Istanbul, Turkey Elgiz Museum Istanbul
Istanbul Modern contemporary art institution in Istanbul, Turkey Istanbul Modern Istanbul

Istanbul In Ocula Magazine

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16th Istanbul Biennial Collapses Culture-Nature Divide Ocula Report 16th Istanbul Biennial Collapses Culture-Nature Divide By Stephanie Bailey, Istanbul

At the opening of the 16th Istanbul Biennial, The Seventh Continent (14 September–10 November 2019), curator Nicolas Bourriaud began his introduction with a clip from Werner Herzog's 1982 movie Fitzcarraldo, the story of a man who moves a steamship up a hill in the process of fulfilling a fantasy to build an opera house in the Amazon jungle....

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Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev Ocula Conversation Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev By Stephanie Bailey, Istanbul

In this Ocula Conversation, curator, author and researcher Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev talks about the 14th Istanbul Biennial:  SALTWATER: A Theory of Thought Forms (5 September-1 November 2015). This conversation considers the title of the Biennial, and the themes being addressed, and for what purposes. Christov-Bakargiev describes some...

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Jannis Kounellis Ocula Conversation Jannis Kounellis By Anna Dickie, London and Hong Kong

Born in Greece, but living in Italy since 1956, Kounellis has been a major figure in contemporary art for over fifty years. The artist is often referred to as one of the forefathers of the Arte Povera movement – a movement that arose in the 1960s and played a central role in redefining artistic practice with radical and highly original...

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Recent Events In Istanbul

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Contemporary art exhibition, 15th Istanbul Biennial at Ocula Private Sales & Advisory, London
16 September–12 November 2017 15th Istanbul Biennial


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