Art & Culture

Art galleries, exhibitions and reviews of the best art in Istanbul

Taner Ceylan's Olympian quest
Art

Taner Ceylan's Olympian quest

One of Turkey's most influential contemporary artists, Taner Ceylan, is currently gearing up for the first leg of his ‘Olympos Exhibitions’ series, for which he has chosen 10 artists to create original works dealing with the common theme of portraiture. Set to take place at Sadık Paşa Konağı, an abandoned Ottoman-era mansion in Cihangir, the project was funded by an olive grove owned by Ceylan near his house and studio in Olympos in the south of Turkey. Not knowing what to do with the olive oil he produced, Ceylan turned to the late businessman Ali Dinçkök, who advised him to create a boutique line of oil and organise a yearly exhibition with the proceeds from the sales. “I wanted the exhibition to be in an independent space” says Ceylan when we sit down over coffee in Cihangir. “The aim has always been to introduce artists with art galleries, and you couldn’t do that in an institution, so it had to be an independent space. I had seen Halil’s [Altındere] exhibition ‘Homeland’ at Sadık Paşa Konağı in 2017 and he helped me a lot with mine.” While Altındere’s exhibition only made use of the upper floors, with the encouragement of architect Fahrettin Aykut, Ceylan decided to venture down into the basement – though his cleaning personnel were apparently not as keen. “The derelict mansion looks something out of Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’” says Ceylan, “both eerie and majestic.” The show will be Ceylan’s first foray into curating, though he shies away from the term and likes to think o

Mamut Art Project 2019
Art

Mamut Art Project 2019

Since its first edition in 2013, Mamut Art Project has established itself as one of the most important platforms for up-coming artists to show their work. Among the 1350 submissions this year, only 50 artists were selected to present their work at the sprawling exhibition tent set up inside KüçükÇiftlik Park.

A balcony with a view
Art

A balcony with a view

The photographs have been made into a book by the eminent publisher Gerhard Steidl, who has also curated the exhibition. The show is a must-see for readers of Pamuk as well as anyone interested in the visual world of the celebrated author. As he recounts throughout his autobiographical book ‘Istanbul: Memories and the City’, Orhan Pamuk wanted to become a painter long before he took up the pen. As anyone who has read his novels or visited the Museum of Innocence can attest, visual narratives have always been an important part of Pamuk’s work. The author famously draws doodles on the edges of his manuscripts when he procrastinates and, after bringing back home a Canon camera he picked up during a trip to New York, Pamuk also began taking photographs to distract himself whenever words started to lose their flow. Pamuk says this soon evolved into a compulsive need to “record” the landscape before his eyes and he was soon taking an average of seven photographs per hour. Between December 2012 and April 2013, Pamuk took a total of 8.500 photographs from the balcony of his flat overlooking the Cihangir Mosque. When Gerhard Steidl, the founding director of the eponymous publishing company, saw the resulting work, he asked the author to come up with a selection. The 600-plus photographs that made it through this elimination were made into a book entitled ‘Balkon’ by Steidl and are currently on display at the Yapı Kredi Culture and Art building on Istiklal. Steidl also curated the ex

Dreaming the Future. Russian Avant-garde Art and Design
Art

Dreaming the Future. Russian Avant-garde Art and Design

The new blockbuster exhibition at the Sabancı Museum brings together a sweeping selection of Russian avant-garde art, culled from multiple museums and private collections in Europe. The works on display include masterpieces by Kazimir Malevich, Vladimir Tatlin, Alexander Rodchenko and the many female artists of the period including Olga Rozanova, Lyubov Popova and Natalia Goncharova. The photographs, paintings, sculptures, installations and films on display are accompanied by informative texts exploring the historical and political backdrop of their creation. Concerts, literary talks and workshops related to Russian avant-garde will run concurrently with the exhibition.

Mihri: A Migrant Painter of Modern Times
Art

Mihri: A Migrant Painter of Modern Times

One of the leading advocates for the creation of the Academy of Fine Arts for Women, which was founded in 1914, portrait painter Mihri went on to become the school’s first female director and dedicated her life to women’s rights. While little is known about the life of Mihri – the artist spent a considerable amount of her life in Europe before settling in New York – this exhibition at Salt Galata brings together a selection of her works alongside archival documents to draw a portrait of the artist.

Istanbul's must-see museums

Istanbul Modern
Museums

Istanbul Modern

Forced to leave its original location on the shores of Karaköy due to ongoing construction work in the area, Istanbul's foremost modern arts museum moved earlier this year to a smaller, temporary location in the Beyoğlu/Pera area. Founded in 2004 as Turkey’s first museum of modern and contemporary art, Istanbul Modern continues to host exhibitions as well as its permanent collection and eventually plans on moving back to Karaköy once its facility there is rebuilt. The in-house cinema regularly screens independent films programmed around ongoing exhibitions, contemporary directors and stand-alone events.

Pera Museum
Museums

Pera Museum

Established in 2005, the Pera Museum takes its name from the original name for the Beyoğlu district and is housed in a handsome 19th century building. Known for its diverse and well-curated temporary exhibitions by artists from all over the world, the Pera Museum is also home to a permanent collection of Orientalist paintings, Anatolian weights and measures, and Kütahya tiles and ceramics on display. Pera Museum's in-house cinema screens a variety of independent features and shorts throughout the year.

Museum of Innocence
Museums

Museum of Innocence

Inspired by renowned novelist Orhan Pamuk's novel of the same name, the Museum of Innocence is nestled in the picturesque quarter of Çukurcuma, where much of the book transpires. The countless number of household objects and photographs meticulously collected and displayed in the museum are connected to the bittersweet love story that unfolds in the novel. Taking his cue from the works of Joseph Cornell, Pamuk has arranged these objects into installations and collages housed in custom-built vitrines, which gleam like cabinets of curiosities inside the dimly lit museum. The winner of the European Museum of the Year Award in 2014, the Museum of Innocence is a must-see for readers of the book as well as anyone interested in the cultural and material history of Istanbul. Note that the ticket printed in the closing pages of the novel can be stamped at the ticket booth in exchange for an entrance to the museum.

Sakıp Sabancı Museum
Museums

Sakıp Sabancı Museum

Set in the palatial Bosphorus mansion and former home of the late business tycoon Sakıp Sabancı, the Sakıp Sabancı Museum is one of the major privately owned museums in the country and has hosted some of the biggest exhibitions in Istanbul, including blockbuster shows by the likes of Monet, Rembrandt, Picasso, Dali, Anish Kapoor and Ai Weiwei. The museum's permanent collection houses works of calligraphy and illuminated books, including official Ottoman documents bearing the sultans’ imperial ciphers and calligraphic compositions from the 14th century up to the present. Also within the museum grounds is MSA's Restaurant, helmed by chefs from the Culinary Arts Academy of Istanbul serving delicious, creative and modern Turkish cuisine.

The best art galleries in Istanbul

Pilot
Art

Pilot

PİLOT, whose current space was occupied by a night club in the 1970s, brings audiences together with local and international artists who have caught the pulse of the future and the contemporary, as well as with works which have left a mark on the past. With its gallery, foyer, office, and presentation area spread out over a 700 m2 space, PİLOT can accommodate a variety of purposes. Adjacent to the main gallery space is Co-PİLOT, which serves in a multi-functional manner and is host to an everchanging slew of talks, screenings, performances, workshops and exhibitions.

SALT Galata
Art

SALT Galata

Designed in 1892 by the Frenchborn Levantine architect Alexandre Vallaury for Bank-ı Osmanî Şahane, the SALT Galata building is one of the most handsome structures in the city. The project to re-structure and re-functionalise this space was overseen by Mimarlar Design, under the supervision of Ağa Han-recipient architect, Han Tümertekin. The focus here, of course, was in creating a space that could respond perfectly to SALT’s multi-layered programme needs. The result? In one word, incredible. The stairs, the interventions that Autoban (the masters of reworking marble) did on the marble to draw attention to its production process, the offices, the auditorium, the library... Each one leaves you in awe – even the bathrooms. Could you fall in love with a bathroom? At SALT Galata, it’s quite possible. Moving back outside, where neoclassical and orientalist architectural details grace the front and back facades of the building, you’ll also find the bookshop Robinson Crusoe and a restaurant that Doors Group designed specifically for SALT Galata. One of the institution’s most magnificent, unique areas that touches upon our researching spirit is SALT Research, which opens up digital and printed resources for access. The library located to the left of the entrance is like a temple to the building. This section places the institution’s mission of research, sharing and formation of new ideas in the centre of the building. Nearly 40,000 titles focus on areas such as art, architecture, d

Pilevneli Mecidiyeköy
Art

Pilevneli Mecidiyeköy

In 2017, Murat Pilevneli opened his eponymous gallery in Dolapdere, a blue-collar neighbourhood which had very little to do with art until the opening of Dirimart there in 2016 and the announcement that Arter would be moving into a museum space down the street. In keeping with his penchant for setting up shop in unusual locations, Pilevneli has recently unveiled a second, much bigger space in the Mecidiyeköy business district. The building it occupies has a fascinating history, having been built by the celebrated French architect Robert Mallet-Stevens under Atatürk’s orders, serving as a state-owned liquor and cognac factory for many years. One of the first buildings commissioned by the newly found Turkish Republic, the building was destroyed in 2012 and rebuilt in its original style. Currently owned by the Swiss real estate development company Viatrans, the building is temporarily bequeathed to Pilevneli Gallery.

Mixer
Art

Mixer

Mixer discovers new talents in contemporary art and organises various events with the aim of making art accessible to all, as well as creating a space for visiting/local artists to focus on producing their work. Mixer particularly appeals to collectors of independent and innovative art. The gallery was first located in Tophane, where it opened in 2012, and moved to its current location on Sıraselviler Caddesi in 2015. Both solo and multi-artist shows are put on at Mixer, where young curators have a change to realize their projects.  

Dirimart Dolapdere
Art

Dirimart Dolapdere

Dirimart first opened in its Nişantaşı location in 2002 with an exhibit organized by Komet in which 55 artists participated. Since then, Dirimart has regularly participated in national and international art fairs. In 2016 a second location, designed by architect Markus Dochantschi, opened its doors in Dolapdere. With its office space and statue garden, Dirimart Dolapdere spreads out over a space of 1000 m2.

Ara Güler Musuem
Art

Ara Güler Musuem

Having just opened in Bomontiada, the Ara Güler Museum features the iconic work of legendary Turkish-Armenian photographer Ara Güler, known as the 'eye of Istanbul'. Featuring a rotating cast of exhibitions, the team behind the museum is cataloguing Güler's extensive archive here while planning to turn his longtime studio, the Güler Apartment in Beyoğlu, into a permanent museum.