Best exhibitions to see in Istanbul now

Best exhibitions to see in Istanbul now

Joshua Bruce Allen
February 17, 2017

Istanbul is a city of many layers, drawing together seemingly disparate eras, cultures, languages, and ways of living into a richly patterned whole. The art scene reflects this variety, with traditional and contemporary rubbing shoulders in the city’s galleries.

Jake and Dinos Chapman exhibition, photo by Murat Germen


The Chapman brothers made waves in the British art scene as part of the YBA (Young British Artists) group in the 1990s. Their work takes over-saturated symbols, such as McDonalds characters and Nazi soldiers, and challenges viewers to reevaluate their reactions. The ARTER show includes the largest collection from the Chapmans’ Hell series in a single exhibition, as well as tapestries, sculpture, and the cardboard works that make up Shitrospective. Until May 7.

Mersad Berber, Pera Museum

Pera Museum

Mersad Berber is a Bosnian painter of international renown, with work in the Tate Gallery collection in London. His work draws heavily on Bosnia’s multicultural history, from Byzantine influences to Sephardic Jewish heritage and the Ottoman legacy. He makes a strikingly new aesthetic from these sources, combining portraiture with newspaper cuttings and icon-like textures. Until May 7.

!f Istanbul Film Festival, Alt Bomonti

Alt Bomonti

The !f Istanbul Film Festival combines cinema, art, and technology in its virtual reality installations at Alt Bomonti. Using Samsung Gear VR technology, artists and filmmakers will throw us into solitary confinement, the Easter Rising of 1916, the eyes of four woodland creatures, and the Istanbul pogrom of 1955. From February 17-26.

Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Dirimart

Dirimart Nişantaşı

Award-winning Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan is known for using his own father, Mehmet Emin Ceylan, as an actor in several of his films. This exhibition at Dirimart Nişantaşı collects Ceylan’s atmospheric portrait photographs of his father, giving a tender perspective on the filmmaker’s own art. Until March 5.

The Ottoman Catholic Yusuf Franko, Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations

Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations

The Ottoman Catholic Yusuf Franko was one of the empire’s most trusted diplomats, overseeing Ottoman Lebanon and attending the Hague Convention of 1899. Franko was also a gifted caricaturist, depicting the political and artistic celebrities of Istanbul with imaginative wit. Franko’s collected caricatures are presented to the public for the first time at RCAC, shining a light on late-Ottoman society. Until June 1.