Istanbul is a wonderfully artistic city. Walk along any street and you will see people dressed not only in the latest fashion, but also in the fashion of the future. You will see street art, you will see architecture that is positively inspiring, and of course you will see literally thousands of years of some of the greatest works of art the world has ever produced in the city's historic buildings.
This artistic nature carries over to the present day, with some truly impressive contemporary art galleries. Exhibitions are held regularly, so you will want to pay attention to what is happening all over the city (including in galleries that may not be on this list!). The most important names in the art world have recently been placed in local galleries, but perhaps more exciting are the up-and-coming artists on display, including some incredibly talented Turkish artists just emerging on the world stage.
But even the permanent collections are more than enough to visit the city just for the sake of art, so let's dig!
Modern art museum
Istanbul Modern is perhaps the most famous of all art galleries. This is a relocation process, so its current location is a beautiful historical building in the heart of Beyoglu, before it moves to its new modern location in nearby Karakey.
The Museum originally opened in 2004 and focuses on being the center of all forms of contemporary art, including various types of exhibitions, installations, photography, film, and more. Its location in Karakoy is magnificent, right on the Bosphorus, where both the building and the views from it are breathtaking.
As in modern Istanbul, the Pera Museum hosts wonderful exhibitions all year round. But the permanent collection is special, and unlike most other museums you'll find outside of Turkey. Oriental paintings, ceramics, tiles, and miniatures all speak to the Istanbul of the past, as does the exceptional hall of Anatolian weights and measures. Each section and exhibition is accompanied by an interactive section for children and film screenings describing the works of art inside, making it a wonderful gallery for the whole family.
SALT has two buildings, one in Galata and one in Beyoglu (as well as one in Ankara). SALT Beyoğlu is located in the heart of Istanbul, with perhaps the best exhibition space in The entire city. The SALT Galata hotel is set in a stunning 19th-century building that was once a Victorian Bank and now also features a world-class banking Museum and restaurant.
Arter is best known for its exhibitions. It is also located in Beyoglu, in a tastefully restored mansion right along Istiklal, The city's busiest street. This space is specifically designed to showcase up-and-coming artists and in many cases acts more like a Studio than a gallery. It has a sister gallery in Berlin and contains many international exhibitions and artists, as well as Turkish ones.
Istanbul Biennial And Contemporary Istanbul
The Istanbul Biennale is only held every two years, but it is widely considered one of the most prestigious biennales in the world, bringing together artists from different backgrounds and cultures. It is located in different buildings throughout the city and allows for a dialogue between artists and the audience, with contemporary artists coming from all over the city.
Modern Istanbul is an annual art fair held in galleries throughout the city, where works by hundreds of artists from dozens of countries are displayed. Every year there is a theme for the fair that delves into the future of art and what it can become.