Istanbul Modern, Türkiye’s first museum of modern and contemporary art, is open to visitors in a new building designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop.
The landmark building is situated at the museum’s original location on the Karaköy waterfront, one of Istanbul’s most historic districts where the Bosphorus and Golden Horn meet.
Across 10,500 square meters, the new Istanbul Modern provides a purpose-built space for a dynamic range of temporary exhibitions, interdisciplinary educational programs, film screenings, and an extensive, publicly accessible art collection. Spanning the period from 1945 to the present, the collection features works by international artists who reflect Türkiye’s artistic creativity and have played an active role in the global transformation of art.
The design of the building, Renzo Piano’s first project in Türkiye, was inspired by the glittering waters of the Bosphorus and its reflections of light. Echoing the history of a site that has been used as a harbor for millennia, the outline of the building evokes ships of different sizes traveling back and forth between Europe and Asia as well as a creature of the sea that has leapt from the Bosphorus on the shore. The façade is made by a sequence of 3-D-formed aluminum panels that play with the changing sunlight, creating a shimmering, iridescent envelope evocative of fish scales.
Upon arrival, the transparent ground floor offers views to the waterfront promenade and houses the museum library, education and event spaces, digital touchscreens, a café, and a museum shop featuring new collections of objects inspired by the museum’s exhibitions. Richard Wentworth’s “False Ceiling” (2005), one of the iconic permanent installations from the former building, welcomes back visitors. Along the course of the wide central staircase of Istanbul Modern three complex geometrical spheres by Olafur Eliasson seem to hover in space. Each of the three forms is slightly different from the previous one, with the works growing more complex as viewers progress from the ground floor to the top of the stairs. Upon closer inspection, the spheres reveal themselves to be illusions created by semicircular segments mounted to circular mirrors. Titled “Your unexpected journey,” (2021) the site-specific artwork commissioned by the museum actively enters into dialogue with the building, contrasting with the straight, orthogonal lines of Renzo Piano’s architecture.
The building’s first floor is home to the photography gallery, pop-up gallery, event spaces, education rooms, and staff offices. Istanbul Modern’s restaurant is also on this floor and offers spectacular views of the Bosphorus and Historical Peninsula from an outdoor terrace. The second floor houses the museum’s permanent collection gallery, which provides an unparalleled panorama of modern and contemporary art from Türkiye and beyond, as well as the main temporary exhibition gallery.
The museum also boasts a 156-seat auditorium for the museum’s celebrated film programs and interdisciplinary events. A one-of-a-kind viewing terrace at the top of the building hovers above a shallow reflection pool covering the entire roof, providing a 360-degree view of the Bosphorus and the city. The new building's transparent and accessible design reflects the ethos of the museum: a multifaceted experience offering visitors audience-oriented exhibitions and programs inspired by the artistic diversity of the present day.
Istanbul Modern’s new building was constructed with the joint support of the Eczacıbaşı Group, the Museum’s Founding Sponsor, and Doğuş Group-Bilgili Holding, its Main Sponsor.
Opening Exhibitions of Istanbul Modern’s New Building
Istanbul Modern will reopen its doors with five new exhibitions, each accompanied by a publication and educational resources:
“Floating Islands”: Spread across the expanded permanent and temporary exhibition galleries as well as other spaces throughout the building,the exhibition constitutes Istanbul Modern’s most comprehensive collection exhibition to date, showcasing more than 280 works by 110 artists and 2 artist duos. Most of the works in the selection will be displayed for the first time.
The exhibition’s first section in the permanent gallery focuses on art in Türkiye from 1945 to the 2000s following a chronological axis. Hosting the second section of the exhibition, the temporary exhibition gallery brings together thematic narratives from Türkiye and abroad.
Highlights from the collection exhibition include works by Türkiye’s foremost exponents of modern and contemporary art, such as Fahrelnissa Zeid, Sarkis, Ayşe Erkmen, Gülsün Karamustafa, Nil Yalter, and İnci Eviner, as well as by internationally renowned artists including Anselm Kiefer, Daniel Buren, Mark Bradford, Alicja Kwade, Haegue Yang, Laure Prouvost and others.
Visitors will also discover a newly commissioned installation by Refik Anadol. Titled “Infinity Room: Bosphorus”, the site-specific installation is informed by real-time environmental data from the Bosphorus.
“Always Here”: In line with the museum's commitment to support and advocate for contemporary women artists from Türkiye, the exhibition brings together 17 works by 11 women artists that have been added to the collection through the support of the Women Artists Fund established in 2016.
“In Another Place”: The museum’s dedicated Photography Gallery, the first of its kind in Türkiye, will present 22 never-before-seen portraits taken by Palme d’Or-winning filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan in countries east of Türkiye.
Located at the entrance of the museum’s free-of-charge library, “Genius Loci” offers a survey of Renzo Piano's compelling architectural language and examines in detail the design process and structural components of Istanbul Modern’s new building by Renzo Piano Building Workshop.
“Constructing Architecture” brings together new works by architectural photographer Cemal Emden that unravel the museum building's construction phases and reflect on the layered and long-running dialogue between architecture and photography.
The museum’s outdoor area plays host to major sculptures, including “The Most Beautiful of All Mothers (I)” by Adrian Villar Rojas, Richard Deacon’s “House Version”, Tony Cragg’s “Runner”, Anselm Reyle’s “Atop an Underworld” and “Dust Falling”, Yılmaz Zenger’s “Ayça, As I See Her”, and Selma Gürbüz’s “Europeans”.
Notes to Editors:
Oya Eczacıbaşı, Chair of Istanbul Modern, said:
“Since our doors opened in 2004, Istanbul Modern has played a pivotal role in the cultural and artistic life of Istanbul. Showcasing Turkey’s artistic heritage, creativity, and dynamism, the museum quickly became an important cultural destination for people across the city, and from around the world, staging major exhibitions of modern and contemporary art from Turkey and beyond, alongside a vibrant public program. With the momentum provided by this new, world-class building designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop, we aim to strengthen Istanbul Modern’s position among the global leading centers of art.
Like its predecessor, the new building is on the European bank of Istanbul in Karaköy where the Bosphorus meets the Golden Horn. Its seaside façade overlooks the Bosphorus and the Historical Peninsula. For thousands of years, the Golden Horn area served as an inlet harbor of the Bosphorus, and this natural port united Istanbul with other centers of commerce and culture around the world.
On the landside of the museum is Galataport Istanbul’s Clock Tower Square. In addition to Istanbul Modern, the square is surrounded by such landmarks as the Tophane Clock Tower, Mimar Sinan’s Kılıç Ali Paşa Complex, the Tophane Fountain, Nusretiye Mosque, and Tophane Pavilion, as well as the Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University Museum of Painting and Sculpture.
Photographs: Cemal Emden