1. Setting up at the Pera Museum
    Setting up at the Pera Museum
  2. Büyükada
  4. Luigi Serafini
    Sahir Ugur Eren


Organised by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts since 1987, the Istanbul Biennial has become one of the leading art events in the world. Titled ‘The Seventh Continent’, this year’s edition looks to be as exciting as ever.

Written by
Cansu Oral

Meet the curator

The 16th edition of the Biennial will be helmed by French art historian, writer, and curator Nicolas Bourriaud. A co-founder and past director of Palais de Tokyo, one of Paris’s most important centres for contemporary art, Bourriaud is currently the head of Montpellier Contemporain. In addition to holding stints at some of the world’s most prestigious arts institutions, Bourriaud is also a revered figure in academia and has authored several books on the philosophy of aesthetics.

A closer look

The Biennial takes its name from a gargantuan pile of junk drifting in the Pacific Ocean dubbed ‘The Seventh Continent’ that is five times the size of Turkey. Set to explore art in the Anthropocene age, which is the new geological era characterised by human activity on nature, Bourriaud’s selection aims to raise awareness of issues like climate change while celebrating the diversity of global life, where migratory flows turn cities into megapolises sheltering a multitude of cultures

Where is the Biennial taking place?

One thing we love about the Istanbul Biennial is that we get a chance to see inside buildings normally closed to the public, and often in areas off the beaten path, where encountering a site-specific installation becomes an otherworldly experience. This year the Biennial returns to the Pera Museum, and Büyükada, where artworks will be dotted across houses and old buildings on the biggest of the Princes’ Islands. The previously announced Istanbul Shipyards has been scrapped as one of the venues after a last-minute change of plan, following the discovery of asbestos – yikes! – in some of the historic buildings inside the dockyard. The Biennial crew were somehow able to pull a rabbit of the hat, though, and they promptly announced another waterfront venue, Antrepo 5, as a replacement. Located in the Tophane district of central Istanbul, Antrepo 5 is a former warehouse that has been undergoing transformation over the last eight years to be turned into a museum for the Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University’s painting and sculpture collection. The Emre Arolat-designed building is slated to open to the public in 2020, but you’ll get a sneak peak of the sleek space during the Biennial.

Meet the artists

Of the 57 participants at this year’s edition, 38 artists will be showcasing work specially created for the Biennial. The net for this year’s pool of artists was cast far and wide as usual, with participants hailing from Japan, Argentina, USA, Poland, Iran, and Thailand among other countries. Seven Turkish artists were handpicked to take part, including Deniz Aktaş, whose drawings deal with urban memory and transformation; Ozan Atalan, whose multimedia installations create experiences where the physical and the digital co-exist; Elmas Deniz, who was also one of the artists of the 2015 edition; and Hale Tenger, whose socio-politically charged work has been exhibited in places like the 57th Venice Biennial and Centre Pompidou, Paris. International artists like Luigi Serafini, who you may know as the creator of Codex Seraphinianus (1981), an illustrated encyclopaedia of an imaginary world, and Thai visual artists and filmmaker Korakrit Arunanondchai will also be exhibiting at the Biennial. This year’s edition will also honour the work of artists who are no longer alive, with entries by the Danish-Greenlandic artist Pia Arke, and Anzo, considered among the leading Spanish artists of the 20th century.

What’s on?

The Biennial will also host various talks, film screenings, concerts, and food performances as part of its admissionfree public programme. A discussion series entitled ‘Exploring the Seventh Continent’ aims to initiate a discussion between philosophers, scientists and artists with art, ecology and anthropology as its focal point. A film programme held in collaboration with the Pera Museum will also constitute a part of the public programme, unspooling a selection of genre and cult movies dealing with disaster scenarios and documentaries.

September 14-November 10, Free, bienal.iksv.org

    You may also like