Istanbul has a vibrant contemporary art scene, with many galleries and museums showcasing the work of local and international artists. The city has a long history of art and has always been an inspiration for many artists. Istanbul’s contemporary art scene has grown significantly in recent years, with many private galleries and non-profit spaces opening their doors to the public.
The city is home to many contemporary art galleries and museums. These galleries and museums showcase the work of local and international artists and regularly host exhibitions and events. Additionally, Istanbul has a thriving street art scene, where you can find many murals and graffiti on the walls. The city also hosts many cultural festivals, such as the Istanbul Biennial, the Contemporary Istanbul, and the Istanbul Design Biennial, which showcases the work of established and emerging artists from around the world.
In summary, Istanbul has a dynamic contemporary art scene, with a variety of museums and galleries, showcasing local and international artists, and a growing street art culture, making it an exciting destination for art lovers.
Contemporary Istanbul is the leading art fair in the region and a major platform connecting artists, galleries, and collectors from around the world. Launched in 2006, it is committed to showcasing exceptional contemporary art and advancing new ideas. Strongly rooted in the rich local context, the fair actively contributes to the dynamic culture of Istanbul and supports its creative industries.
Through new initiatives and multiple collaborations with Turkish and international partners, Contemporary Istanbul is aiming to shape the future of art in the region. The 18th edition of Contemporary Istanbul, which took place in Tersane Istanbul from September 27 to October 1, 2023. You can find more about it here.
If you are looking to explore the booming art scene in Istanbul, there are a few neighborhoods that you should definitely check out. Tophane and Karaköy are two neighborhoods that are known for their hidden galleries and exciting art scene. These areas are home to some of Turkey’s most talented and emerging artists, and they offer visitors a chance to discover new talent and explore the latest trends in contemporary art.
Explore the modern art scene of Istanbul with our 4-hour walking tour that takes you through the city’s most vibrant neighborhoods. Our knowledgeable guides will lead you to the city’s top contemporary art museums and galleries, where you’ll get to see works by both established and emerging artists.
The tour also allows you to experience the unique architecture of these neighborhoods, where you’ll get to see the city’s most spectacular buildings and landmarks. Book your tour today and get ready to be amazed by the rich art and culture of Istanbul.
The Best Modern Art Museums in Istanbul
Istanbul’s modern art museums not only showcase established artists but also provide a platform for emerging talents, fostering a dynamic and diverse art scene. I selected for you 10 Modern and Contemporary Art Museums and Galleries to visit. Surely you will find much more museums and galleries when you are walking around the city. Here are my recommendations:
10. Istanbul Museum of Graphic Arts (IMOGA)
The Istanbul Museum of Graphic Arts is a museum located in the Üsküdar district of the Asian side of Istanbul. The museum is dedicated to the art of printmaking and has an extensive collection of works from the 20th century. The museum’s collection includes a wide range of prints and drawings, including woodcuts, lithographs, etchings, and engravings. It also includes works by both Turkish and international artists.
The museum’s permanent collection is on display in its galleries, along with temporary exhibitions that focus on specific themes or artists. The museum also hosts workshops, lectures, and educational programs to promote the art of printmaking and to educate visitors about the techniques and history of the medium.
The primary purpose of IMOGA, an institution that emerged from the life and experience of Süleyman Saim Tekcan, is to broaden the horizon for artists to produce with original printmaking techniques and to ensure their convergence upon this technique. IMOGA also aims to ensure that the works produced with original printing techniques reach the art audience.
IMOGA started to serve in the building where it is located in 2004, in order to preserve, document, create and exhibit a very large collection, as well as to continue its tradition of studio production. Thus, IMOGA documented and formalized the prints produced by leading artists of the Turkish art world between 1970 and 2004, and created a memory of this period. In the Çamlıca Art House founded by Süleyman Saim Tekcan, the works produced from 1970 until 2004, when IMOGA was opened, were kept, documented and archived enabling a memory to be created in the name of Turkish printmaking.
IMOGA is a must-see for art lovers, especially for those interested in printmaking. The museum is housed in a beautiful historic building, and its collection is a unique and diverse representation of the art of printmaking from the 20th century.
Dirimart was founded in 2002 by Hazer Özil, in İstanbul. Before long, it became one of the leading contemporary art galleries in Turkey. Dirimart, mostly working with established and emerging artists from Turkey and has also been a pioneer in the exhibition of internationally acclaimed foreign artists in Turkey.
The gallery regularly participates in domestic and international art fairs, and continues to contribute to the world of art publications through its brands, RES (est. 2007) and Dirimart. Dirimart Dolapdere was inaugurated on May 26, 2016, as Dirimart’s second gallery space and as of January 2019 combined all its activities in this premise.
The gallery with its 1000 square meter space including an office area that houses a comprehensive art library and a sculpture garden, is located in the rapidly-emerging Dolapdere district within Beyoğlu, the cultural center of İstanbul. The gallery being designed by architect Markus Dochantschi stands out with its spacious space and flexible structure.
Galeri Elipsis is Turkey’s first private photography gallery. It was established to make the works of leading names in photography more accessible to collectors, create new collectors and reach wider audiences. It supports young and promising Turkish photographers. By visiting Galeri Elipsis in Karaköy, you can easily combine your art viewing experience with a shopping or sightseeing trip.
Santralistanbul is an international arts, culture and learning platform that aims to promote urban regeneration through a comprehensive, multi-dimensional, and interdisciplinary approach.
The facility was originally the Ottoman Empire’s first urban-scale power plant, built in 1911 and supplying the city with electricity until 1983. After being restored, it was converted into Santralistanbul, an ambitious project that brought together public, private and non-governmental organizations.
Since opening in 2007, it has hosted over 20 national and international exhibitions and welcomed numerous leading international artists and thinkers for various events. The facility includes the Museum of Energy, Turkey’s first industrial archaeology museum, a 3500 sq m Main Gallery building for contemporary art exhibitions, and various dining, refreshment, and entertainment venues that were converted from the former power plant’s maintenance and storage buildings.
Santralistanbul is a complex of various components, including the Museum of Energy, Turkey’s first industrial archaeology museum created through the conversion of the power plant’s original turbine rooms and preservation of its contents, the Main Gallery building, a 3500 sq m space for contemporary art exhibitions and cultural events that won an International Architecture Award in 2010, and various dining, refreshment and entertainment venues, such as Lokma, Lokanta Sosyal, Şütte, ISS, No 55, Cassarisso, Oneller, Cafe Nero, and Espressolab, which were designed by award-winning architects and converted from the maintenance workshop and storage buildings of the former power plant.
Santralistanbul offers the opportunity to experience contemporary art while enjoying dining and drinks on its campus. Visitors can also combine their visit to Santralistanbul with a trip to Pierre Loti Hill, which offers some of the best views in Istanbul.
Zilberman Gallery is a contemporary art gallery based in Istanbul. The gallery was founded in 2008 and is focused on representing emerging and established artists from Turkey and the Middle East. Zilberman Gallery stages 10-12 exhibitions every year at its main gallery spaces in Istanbul and Berlin and at the project space. The gallery occupies two separate floors of Mısır Apartment, one of the most famous examples of art nouveau architecture in Istanbul.
The gallery has a program that focuses on the promotion of contemporary art from the region and the international art scene, by organizing exhibitions, projects and collaborations with institutions. It has a strong focus on conceptual and interdisciplinary art, as well as representing artists who work in a wide range of mediums including painting, sculpture, photography, installation, and video. The gallery has also been known to participate in various art fairs such as Art Basel, Istanbul Art Fair and Art Istanbul. Zilberman Gallery has also been recognized for its role in promoting contemporary art in Turkey and the Middle East, and for its efforts to foster cultural exchange between the region and the rest of the world.
In 2016, Zilberman Gallery opened its new Berlin space in a turn-of-the-century building in Berlin’s Charlottenburg neighborhood. The gallery has a strong presence at international art fairs, forging close relationships with collectors, curators and art professionals, and creating opportunities for gallery artists. With the firm belief that a commercial gallery should also assume its social responsibility of education and audience development, Zilberman Gallery organizes artist talks, lecture performances, book launches, as well as round table discussions.
The Gallery is located in the Beyoglu district, making it a convenient stop for those who are already visiting the area for shopping or sightseeing. If you are interested in contemporary art, it is worth taking a break to visit this gallery.
5. Borusan Contemporary
Borusan Contemporary is an art center located under the Fatih Sultan Mehmet bridge in Istanbul. The art center aims to promote contemporary art and culture in Turkey through exhibitions, educational programs, and collaborations with international institutions.
The center is part of Borusan Holding, a large Turkish conglomerate, and is housed in a restored 19th-century building in the city’s Beyoğlu district. The center hosts exhibitions of contemporary art by local and international artists, with a focus on emerging artists and new art forms.
The exhibitions are curated by an in-house team and guest curators, with an emphasis on promoting interdisciplinary and cross-cultural dialogue. The center also has an educational program for children and adults, which includes workshops, lectures, and guided tours.
Borusan Contemporary also collaborates with other art institutions, both locally and internationally, to organize exhibitions, artist residencies, and other cultural events. The center also has a collection of contemporary art, which is frequently exhibited at the center and loaned to other institutions for exhibitions.
The Borusan Contemporary Art Center is located slightly farther from the main tourist attractions, but it can be easily reached by taxi from the Karaköy, Beşiktaş, and Nişantaşı areas in around 20-25 minutes, depending on traffic conditions.
Arter is a contemporary art space located in the Beyoğlu district. The space is dedicated to promoting contemporary art and culture through exhibitions, educational programs, and collaborations with other institutions. Arter hosts solo and group exhibitions of local and international contemporary artists, as well as performances, screenings, and other events. The exhibitions are curated by an in-house team and guest curators, with an emphasis on promoting interdisciplinary and cross-cultural dialogue.
Arter also has an educational program that includes workshops, lectures, and guided tours, aimed at providing opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds to engage with contemporary art. Arter is a not-for-profit contemporary art space that is funded by the Koc Foundation, which is a non-profit foundation established by the Koc Group, one of the largest conglomerates in Turkey. The Koc Group is known for its philanthropic efforts in various fields including education, culture, and the arts. The foundation aims to support and promote contemporary art and culture in Turkey, and Arter is one of its major initiatives in this field.
Additionally, the space also features a library, a bookstore, and a café, making it a place for art enthusiasts to gather and exchange ideas. Arter is also known for its ambitious and innovative exhibitions and projects and is considered as one of the major contemporary art spaces in Istanbul.
Galerist is located in a historical building that dates back to the 18th century, providing a rather small 250 sqm of exhibition space. Founded in 2001Galerist is a pioneering contemporary art gallery in Istanbul.
Since it’s early years, the gallery has established a reputation for nurturing the careers of distinguished Turkish contemporary artists and introducing their work to a global audience. The gallery continues to pursue a creative direction that balances the emerging with the established and the estates, national and international artists – with the constant aim of presenting and supporting outstanding contemporary visual art practices. Galerist has been publishing the bimonthly bilingual art magazine Art Unlimited since 2006; endorsing and promoting Turkish contemporary art.
Galerist, although it may be a small art gallery, its location close to Istiklal street makes it a convenient destination for visitors. It allows for the combination of art viewing with a shopping trip on Istiklal street, as well as easy access to the Pera Museum, which is located nearby. The gallery specializes in contemporary art, with a focus on works by Turkish artists, making it an attractive destination for those interested in the contemporary art scene in Turkey.
2. Salt Galata and Salt Beyoğlu
Salt Galata and Salt Beyoğlu are both independent cultural institutions located in Istanbul, Turkey, but they have different locations, programs and focus.
Salt Galata is located in the Galata district on the European side of Istanbul, in a 19th century building that has been restored and converted into an exhibition space, research center, library, archive, performance hall and café. It focuses on contemporary art, culture, and social issues, and organizes exhibitions, public programs, workshops, lectures, and symposiums on these topics, with a particular emphasis on the study of contemporary art and culture in Turkey, the Middle East and the Black Sea region.
Salt Galata, in addition to its exhibitions and cultural programs, also offers a unique work environment for those who are working remotely. The institution’s restored 19th-century building features a library and indoor working spaces, making it an ideal location to work while enjoying the beautiful architecture and nearby dining options.
Salt Beyoğlu, on the other hand, is located in the Beyoğlu district on the European side of Istanbul. It is housed in a building that was once a bank and has been restored and converted into an exhibition space, research center, library, archive, performance hall and café. Salt Beyoğlu’s focus is on contemporary art, architecture, design, film, literature, and social sciences. It also organizes exhibitions, public programs, workshops, lectures, and symposiums on these topics, with a particular emphasis on the study of contemporary art and culture in Turkey, the Middle East and the Black Sea region.
Both Salt Galata and Salt Beyoğlu are considered as important cultural institutions in Istanbul and they share the same mission, which is to promote research, education and dialogue in contemporary.
1. Istanbul Museum of Modern Art
Istanbul Museum of Modern Art (IMoMA) is considered as one of the most important contemporary art museums in Turkey. The museum was founded in 2004 and was located in the Tophane district of Istanbul. Istanbul Modern has recently moved to a new location in Karaköy which is designed by Renzo Piano, a Pritzker prize-winning architect who is behind many renowned international museums and art institutions such as Centre Pompidou, Whitney Museum, Centro Botín, and Beyeler Foundation Museum.
The new building offers visitors a range of exhibition halls, educational workshops, a cinema, library, design shop, event spaces, a café and a restaurant, providing all the facilities and activities of a world-class museum.
The museum’s collection includes works by both Turkish and international artists, with a focus on contemporary art from the 20th and 21st centuries. It has a permanent collection that includes works by artists such as Burhan Dogancay, Yoko Ono, Nam June Paik, and many others.
The museum also has a program of temporary exhibitions, which are curated by an in-house team and guest curators. These exhibitions often focus on contemporary art, but also include exhibitions of design, architecture, and other related fields.
The museum also organizes workshops, lectures, and educational programs for visitors of all ages. IMoMA is known for its ambitious exhibitions and projects, and it attracts both local and international visitors. It is located in a restored historic building and it has a beautiful architecture and a modern design, making it a great place to visit in Istanbul.
Istanbul Modern has been included in The New York Times newspaper’s list of “52 places to visit in 2023”
In conclusion, Istanbul is a city that has a lot to offer when it comes to contemporary art. From the hidden galleries in Tophane and Karaköy, to the world-class institutions like Istanbul Museum of Modern Art and Salt Galata, the city has something for every art lover. The art scene in Istanbul is constantly evolving, and the city has become a hub for contemporary art in the region.
One of the best ways to experience the art scene in Istanbul is by taking a walking tour of the city’s most exciting neighborhoods. These tours are led by expert guides who will take you to the best galleries and museums and will provide you with insight into the city’s art scene.
Some of the Museums and Galleries are near Coworking spaces. So, If you are a digital nomad who also works from Istanbul I can definitely recommend you to visit some of these museums after your workday. If you are looking for a coworking space, you can read my article about the best coworking spaces in Istanbul.
Overall, Istanbul’s art scene is not only a reflection of the city’s rich history and culture but also of its present and future. As the city continues to grow and evolve, so too does its art scene, making it an exciting destination for art lovers. Whether you are a seasoned art aficionado or simply looking for a unique way to experience the city, Istanbul’s contemporary art museums are a must-see attraction.
FAQs about Istanbul’s Modern Art Museums
Absolutely! Many museums offer interactive exhibits and dedicated spaces for children, making it a family-friendly experience. That being said some of the Artwork might not be suitable for children.
While most museums focus on showcasing art, some have affiliated shops where you can purchase prints and artistic merchandise. You can find Galleries, which are selling art pieces on the spot.
Yes, most museums offer guided tours, providing insightful commentary on the exhibits and the artists behind them.
Photography policies vary, but generally, museums permit photography without flash. However, it’s advisable to check specific rules upon entry.
Follow the official websites and social media accounts of the museums for the latest updates on exhibits, events, and special programs.
Most modern art museums are centrally located and well-connected, ensuring easy access for tourists.