Art & Design

September 18, 2017

Where to Catch Art in Istanbul Right Now

The Biennial, a new museum and an Ai Weiwei show mean there's never been a better time

  • Written by Shirine Saad

Istanbul Biennial

For the 15th Istanbul Biennial, the Danish-born, Berlin-based artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset have chosen 55 artists from 33 countries to reflect on the theme of “a good neighbour.” Scattered between six locations, the installations, sculptures, paintings and specially-commissioned video works are provocative reactions to themes of migration, domestic violence, intolerance and political oppression. A parallel program of exhibitions, panels, screenings and performances will expand the scope of the event to other local institutions. Don’t miss Tuğçe Tuna’s dance performance, Body Drops, at an ancient hammam.


Dustin Yellin, Group Sisyphus, 2017. Glass, Collage, Acrylic. 40.64 x 40.64 x 21.59 cm

Ai Weiwei

At the Sakip Sabanci Museum, the artist explores the many parallels between Chinese and Turkish cultures, with new works themed around the refugee crisis and political oppression. A wallpaper design reminiscent of Egyptian hieroglyphs printed with tents, mass movements and boats covers an entire gallery, filled with giant porcelain that features similar scenes. Older works from his archive make this a comprehensive survey of the renegade artist and activist’s career.


Ai Weiwei

Contemporary Istanbul

Coinciding with the opening of the Biennial, the 12th edition of Contemporary Istanbul has brought over 70 local and international galleries to the city’s riverside forum, where established institutions such as Victoria Miro and Marlborough mingle with up-and-coming spaces from Istanbul, Bucharest and Tehran. The selection of works on sale will thrill adventurous collectors – for example, Serbian video artist Nemanja Nicolic at Gallerie Dix9 and Ukrainian-born Elektra KB at Gaia – as well as more established buyers seeking big names such as Shirin Neshat or Yayoi Kusama.


Borusan Contemporary

Borusan Contemporary

This new museum opened by the Borusan family focuses on video art. The inaugural show presents five video installations, poetical reflections on climate change, animal rights and natural phenomena by Los Angeles based artist Diana Thater. Visitors will also have access to a selection from the museum’s 700-work-rich collection, which ranges from Doug Aitken to emerging Turkish artists such as Burak Arıkan, Evrim Kavcar, Serkan Taycan, Lale Delibaş and Erdal İnci.


Philip Pocock, As above as below, east 5th st., New York, Cibachrome photo. 17×24 cm. 1979


Istanbul is packed with alternative and independent art spaces, and the pioneer initiative Mixer’s new venue in Karakoy launches next week with o+oma+a, a group show focusing on the body and technology. 17 Turkish artists, including winners of the new bang. Innovation art prix will explore the Automata theory, looking at the interaction of man and machine.  


Main image: Emre Yusufi, The boxer, 2017. Synthetic marble and fantachrome gold. 135 × 100 × 170 cm.



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