Founded in 2004 in a converted warehouse in Tophane, this privately owned, non-profit museum (known as Istanbul Modern for short) is the first of its kind in Istanbul to exhibit contemporary art.
The museum’s permanent exhibition contains a selection of paintings from the Eczacıbaşı family’s private collection as well as items from other private collections. In the past, temporary exhibitions have included solo artists and groups (for example, Armenian Architects of Istanbul) as well as conceptually-themed exhibitions.
The grounds include a small sculpture garden and a little gallery for children. Even the staircase is a work of art in this museum—it is a piece by Italian artist Monica Bonvicini called “Stairway to Hell” hung with chains and a shattered glass pane that looks like the aftermath of a murderous attack.
The Cinema Center within the museum provides audiences with an alternative film screening platform, focusing on world cinema history and new talents in Turkish cinema. (Screenings at the Istanbul Modern Cinema Center are free with museum admission.)
The museum also houses Istanbul Modern Cafe, a restaurant overlooking the Bosphorus that offers selections from Turkish and international cuisines.
Istanbul Modern has been an important catalyst for putting Turkish modern art on the map and has showcased the works of contemporary artists like Kutluğ Ataman, Gülsün Karamustafa, Hale Tenger, Sarkis, Taner Ceylan, Hussein Chalayan, Leyla Gediz, Hüsamettin Koçan, Mithat Şen, and İpek Duben. In addition, there have been exhibits by artists from earlier periods whose work puts Turkish art in an interesting perspective in relation to the general art scene of the 20th century, e.g. Abdülmecid Efendi (1868 – 1944), the son of Sultan Abdülaziz who ended his life in exile in Paris, and Fausto Zonara, the court painter to the sultans from 1854 – 1929.