Istanbul is currently one of the cultural hot spots of Europe. Often seen as a gateway between Western and Eastern culture, the galleries in this city feature the work of some of the most exciting artists from Turkey and beyond. With the 13th Istanbul Biennial being held in 2013, we look at the top ten contemporary art galleries in Istanbul and some of their most exciting past exhibitions.
A Brief History of Art in Istanbul
Istanbul is one of the largest cities in the world with a rich and vast history. Previously known as Constantinople, the city has been a cultural hub throughout the ages. However in 1923, when Ankara officially replaced Constantinople as the capital of Turkey, culture and artistic activity somewhat stagnated in this great metropolis. The government of the Turkish Republic shifted their focus to the new capital and hoped for it to overtake Istanbul’s cultural significance. Although damaging to its growth, the aura around Istanbul could not be shadowed, and in the 1980s the city once again grew back into its international status of cultural significance. Since this revival, many artists have moved to Istanbul, resulting in numerous galleries, festivals and museums to emerge. One of the most notable festivals is the Istanbul Biennial.
Started in 1987, the Istanbul Biennial aims to unite artists from different cultures and backgrounds. It is now renowned as being one of the most prestigious biennials in the world. Operating in an exhibition model, the event allows for dialogues to emerge between artists and the audience, and is an important forum for contemporary art.
Apel Gallery represents emerging contemporary artists, both international and Turkish. The gallery was opened in 1998 and is notable for its thematic exhibitions that unite the work of various practitioners. Set in a stunning space of rustic brick, wood and metal surfaces, Apel feels both modern and historic. The founder and owner of the gallery, Nuran Terzioglu, was the former gallery director of Ankara Tanbay and Urart Art Galleries. She has been an influential figure in Istanbul’s modern art scene, being one of the founding members of Sanart and also the artistic activities coordinator of the Fine Arts, Design and Architecture Faculty at the Bilkent University.
Opened in 2002, Dirimart displays the work of emerging and established Turkish artists, as well renowned international names. With its participation in many art fairs and collaboration with artists and collectors, Dirimart has become one of the leading galleries in Istanbul. The gallery publishes the contemporary art magazine RES World Art/Art World. Published in English, this magazine features material written by leading critics, curators, and artists, and aims to stimulate discussion about the local and international art scenes.
Focusing solely on photography, Elipsis is set in the same building as the fine art printing company Atelier Elipsis. Dedicated to emphasising the importance of photography in the art world today, the gallery prides itself on acquainting collectors with different styles, periods and processes. Elipsis represents internationally established artists as well as emerging Turkish photographers.
Galeri NON was founded by Derya Demir and Barış Berker Karakoç in 2009. The gallery focuses on embracing non-disciplinary art practices with an aim to create new languages and artistic experiences. The gallery showcases the works of emerging artists, participates in international art fairs and welcomes new perspectives. Galeri NON used to be situated in Istanbul’s Tophane district, but can now be found at Tom tom Mah. Nur-i Ziya Sok. No:16 Beyoglu, 34433 İstanbul.
Since its opening in 2001, Galerist has acted as a gateway between Turkish artists and the wider international art world. Hosting a range of exhibition in its two locations in Istanbul, Galerist showcases the best of contemporary art in both Eastern and Western culture. The gallery has participated in several international art fairs and has established a strong presence in the international art scene. They aim to establish a programme to reach young artists and to provide an intimate exhibition space for the global art community.
Founded in 1998, Pi-artworks focuses on the meeting of perspectives of the art market through its mixture of Turkish and International exhibitions. It is widely recognised as one of the leading contemporary art galleries in Istanbul. Since its beginnings, the gallery has grown under the direction of Yesim Turanli, who was also one of the founding members of Istanbul Art Museum Foundation. It has been involved in many art fairs, including Contemporary Istanbul, Moving Image London and Art Frank Frankfurt.
Rampa Gallery is dedicated to both displaying cutting-edge artwork of multiple mediums and to supporting scholarly research about the artists it represents. Located in one of the renovated Akaretler Row houses, it is one of the largest galleries in Istanbul and focuses on exceptional Turkish artists. Through building ongoing collaborations with cultural institutions and placing the works of its artists in leading private and public collections, Rampa aims to create a dialogue between Turkey and the international art world.
Rodeo Gallery was found in 2007 by Sylvia Kouvali and originally only represented artists from Turkey, Greece and Cyprus. Over the years, the gallery’s reputation has increased greatly and it now puts on exciting exhibitions from all around the world. Focusing on the avant-garde, the work displayed at this innovative gallery ranges from sculptures, installations, photographs, painting and even performance art.
Focusing on the future, X-ist prides itself on taking risks and dedicates its space to young and innovative artists. Their philosophy does not revolve around attracting art lovers to buy artworks, but instead seeks to guide and inform visitors through the creation of works of art. With its fresh and innovative space, X-ist aims to become a reference point for the future of contemporary Turkish art.
Yapi Kredi Cultural Activities
Although owned by a bank, Yapi Kredi Cultural Activities, Arts and Publishing is a culturally rich centre that has played a major role in the cultural life of Turkey. The centre has expanded greatly since its origins back in 1944. Hosting over 200 artistic and cultural events a year, this organisation not only displays exciting contemporary art, but also a number exhibitions of literature, music, theatre and more. Its aim is to enrich the culture and art life of the country and to make varied forms of contemporary and high quality art available to all.
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