Best exhibitions to see in Istanbul now

Best exhibitions to see in Istanbul now

Joshua Bruce Allen
February 17, 2017

Even though the Istanbul Biennial is far off in September, the city is already excited for this influx of art appreciators from around the world. In the meantime we have hyperrealist painting, industrial video art, the jewelry from the Grand Bazaar, an Iranian installation, and ancient-surrealist sculpture to enjoy this month.

Elgiz Museum

The Elgiz Museum presents a new selection from its permanent collection, running until May 12, with works by Gilbert & George, Fabian Marcaccio, Erwin Wurm, Sean Henry, Kemal Önsoy, Mahmut Aydın, Peter Halley, and Stephan Dean, alongside the first showing of Rosa Morant’s Medium Tree sculpture and Haşim Nur Gürel’s Erard piano installation.

Rezan Has Museum

The Grand Bazaar is one of the largest covered markets in the world and also Europe’s most-visited tourist attraction. But behind this commercial face is a group of craftsmen who continue 500-year-old techniques with modern innovations. The Gem and Craft: in Pursuit of the Artisans at the Grand Bazaar exhibition, which runs until April 30, is the product of extensive research by Kadir Has University academics, bringing amazing pieces of jewelry from the Grand Bazaar masters to the public for the first time.

Demirtaş, Resurrection

Gaia Gallery

Artist Sinan Demirtaş’s exhibition Homo Ludens, running until April 23, shows that photorealist and hyperrealist painting can carry as much emotional weight as abstract or expressive art. Homo ludens is Latin for “man who plays”, and in these paintings the play is between adulthood and childhood, body image, and the fantasies we project to the world through our appearance. The artist’s use of his own daughters adds an extra layer of intimacy.

Genco Gülan, Livia

Galeri KHAS

Turkish multidisciplinary artist Genco Gülan’s work is in the collections of several European museums. He adds a surrealist sensibility to the traditions of classical sculpture in his exhibition Antique Future, opening April 13. While ancient Greek sculpture tries to approach a physical ideal of humanity, Gülan questions that ideal by morphing these sculptures into repeated and reflected limbs and faces.

Kazma, Galeri Nev

Galeri Nev

Internationally respected video artist Ali Kazma studied the Paşabahçe Glass Factory, which produces 3,000 tea glasses a day. His video work Tea Time, running until April 29, is shown on three screens, each one focusing on a certain number of revolutions per minute in the machinery. Through Kazma’s lens, the hypnotic dance of fire, steel, and glass turns into an organic process.


Pi Artworks

Iran-born artist Parastou Forouhar’s installation Written Room, which runs until May 10, is both beautiful and deceptive. As an Iranian artist living in Germany, Forouhar is critical of both her native country’s sociopolitical environment and the orientalist assumptions of the west. While the patterns on the wall look like Persian calligraphy, they are in fact illegible and meaningless for those who can read Persian. Calligraphic ping-pong balls on the floor also undermine the spiritual or exotic connotations of the Perso-Arabic script.

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 ShitrospectiveUntil 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.