The Art Scene in Istanbul

During my visit to Istanbul, I visited several galleries and the reviews are in!

I thoroughly enjoyed the exhibitions at Caddebostan Cultural Centre (CKM) in Kadikoy and at Pera Museum in Taksim.

Caddebostan Cultural Center (CKM)

CKM houses a cinema, a theatre, and several exhibition spaces on various floors as well as numerous offices, shops, and cafes. In a mixed-use building like CKM, it is difficult to create the appropriate atmosphere for a gallery; the exhibitions (there were three at the time I visited) on display are scattered on different floors wherever space is available. This diffusion reduces the experience of visiting an exhibition to shopping for rich-and-sophisticated looking home decoration. Art pieces are either placed around like insignificant background colours or propped on temporary structures with wheels. The lack of proper presentation and bad lighting make even the most unique piece of art look like an amateurish piece made during an evening art class.

Nevertheless, the exhibition on the fourth floor, one that didn’t even have a name, is exceptional. The (unknown) artist overlay photographs of cityscapes on top of nature or object photos to create abstracted compositions. The combination of semi-transparent images forms unexpectedly interesting results due to astute pairings. I thoroughly enjoyed viewing the spatially unique conditions the fused images devise.

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Pera Museum

Pera Museum is a contemporary art gallery at the heart of Istanbul, it is free to visit for students on Wednesdays, otherwise, a day pass is 10 TL (about £2). I will be reviewing two exhibitions that were on display during my visit.

Look at Me! is an exhibition of portraits by international artists including some big names like Cindy Sherman and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Overall, the exhibition spanning two floors explores the art of depicting a person, a character with all their quirks.

The exhibition is split into several sections according to either the media or the intended message of the pieces. There are photographs, paintings, three-dimensional pieces, as well as video installations.

The exhibition starts strong with a room-size photography piece representing varying emotions of a movie character, a clown. The blurred photos, when displayed as a sequence or a collection, evoke a sense of movement, they display the changing facial expressions in a moving image. The piece represents the everchanging emotional state of the character, his fickle, unstable nature.



My favourite part of the exhibition consists of photographic pieces. Especially the photo below by Rineke Dijkstra, called Vondelpark, Amsterdam, May 12, 2006, is one I saw myself in. The juxtaposition between the comforting, natural environment with the anguished facial expression of the teenager in the centre creates a composition rich in meaning. The unease, the discomfort visible in the teenager’s gaze and his seemingly relaxed pose almost haunt the viewer, locking their attention onto the image. One simple gesture, the lack of facial expression, embodies this rather simple image of a boy in the forest with a tragic story. Considering that the character is dressed up nicely in clean clothes, his tragedy is not one related to basic human needs but one concerning his personal life and mental health. Although the photo could be interpreted otherwise, I thought of the teenager’s blank yet sorrowful gaze as an indicator of his search for a place in this world. As a boy unable to find mental comfort in his casual clothes and in the arms of nature, he seems to be an alienated character unable to fit in. Hence, the image depicts the feeling of emptiness due to the inability to determine your place in society: the confusion of being at that weird age when you are not a child anymore but you are not an adolescent who can take responsibility for yourself either.

As an adolescent searching for her own place, her own future in this world, this image gained my affinity.




Re/Framing Louis Khan is, unfortunately, a disappointing exhibition on the world-renowned architect Louis Khan’s work. On display on the third floor of the Pera Museum, the exhibition is quite a small one consisting of videos, photography, and architectural drawings.

The floor plans of buildings displayed are of low quality, the architectural photos seem unrelated, and the reproductions of Louis Khan’s drawings are quite ambiguous in terms of their relevance to the theme of the exhibition. The explanatory captions are not sufficient in tying together the works displayed under the notion of ‘re-framing’.

Although the part of the exhibition about Khan’s work is weak and unfulfilling, the foremost section of the exhibition establishes a strong correlation between Louis Khan’s life and Turkey. On several screens lined up along the wall are videos of interviews with Turkish architects and instructors who were thought by Khan in the United States. It is interesting to hear about their personal impressions of Khan and listen to their stories about his lectures. Apart from this initial section that provides unprecedented insight into Khan’s personality and his architectural education philosophy, the exhibition fails to ‘reframe’ Khan’s architecture.

However, it is important to note that to a visitor unassociated with architecture, the exhibition may provide an inspiring introduction to Khan’s work. As an architecture student, my judgement of the limited range of photos and drawings on display is perhaps not an unbiased one. So from an educated visitor’s perspective, the exhibition does not live up to expectation.


As a final note, Pera Museum is on the European side whereas CKM is on the Anatolian side and the distinction between these galleries demonstrates that most of the internationally recognized art is displayed on the European side.

Some other galleries I would recommend on the European side are:

Sabanci Museum

Istanbul Modern

SALT Galata

Comment below your own favourite galleries and your experiences in Istanbul if you have been there!


Relevant Links:

Pera Museum –

CKM Event Calender –

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