Following the public interest shown in 1st International Istanbul Contemporary Art Exhibitions organized by Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts in 1987, known today as the Istanbul Biennial, Dr. Nejat F. Eczacıbaşı and Oya Eczacıbaşı embarked on a project to endow Istanbul with a permanent museum of modern and contemporary art.
After a long quest, the Feshane, a former 19th century textile manufacturing plant on the Golden Horn, was converted into a space for a museum of contemporary art. Although the building housed the 3rd Istanbul Biennial in 1992, the project never reached its long-term goal. The project, led by Oya Eczacıbaşı after the death of Dr. Nejat F. Eczacıbaşı in 1993, was revived when a customs warehouse on the Galata pier served as the main venue for the 8th Istanbul Biennial in 2003. When President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, then Prime Minister, gave his approval for the museum to be located in Antrepo No. 4, the museum project was realized.
Antrepo No. 4, Istanbul Modern’s original building, was constructed as a dry cargo warehouse for the Turkish Maritime Organization under the direction of renowned architect Sedad Hakkı Eldem during the redevelopment of Tophane Square in 1957 and 1958. The 8,000 square meter building was turned over to Istanbul Modern in early 2004 and quickly transformed by Tabanlıoğlu Architects into a modern museum building with all corresponding functions.
After spending 14 years in this building as Turkey’s first museum of modern and contemporary art, Istanbul Modern moved to a temporary space in Beyoğlu in 18 March 2023, where it welcomed visitors for the next three years while its new building was being constructed. Hosting its visitors here between 2018 and 2022, Istanbul Modern returned to Karaköy in 2023.
History of the site
For thousands of years, the Golden Horn area served as an inlet port of the Bosphorus, and this natural port united Istanbul with other centers of commerce and culture around the world.
In the 13th century, various Italian trading colonies in Istanbul began to build harbors in the area. One of these was the Genoese port in Galata, which includes the Tophane district. By the 17th century, the Karaköy-Tophane waterfront had become the main arrival point for ships coming from Europe.
At first, each shipping company had its own floating dock/specific anchorage location where it positioned its vessels, and provided a separate rowing team to bring goods and passengers ashore. With the increase in maritime traffic and corresponding rise in the number of passengers, this system became inadequate. In 1879, the construction of piers all along the shore began.
In 1910, warehouses were built on the piers. With the founding of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, the piers were turned over to the Maritime Lines and Docks Administration, which became the Turkish Maritime Administration in 1984. The pier, which started to host cruise ships along with cargo ships from the 1980s onwards, was used as the main port of Istanbul until 1990.
In 1990, plans for a new passanger port on the coastline between Karaköy and Salıpazarı were developed. Following the transfer agreement with the Turkish Maritime Administration, the port area was renamed Galataport Istanbul Port Management and Investments Inc. in February 2018.