Art Museums in Istanbul, Turkey

In recent years a surprising number of high-quality art museums have opened in Istanbul.

Islamic law prohibited the portrayal of humans and animals in painting and sculpture under the Ottoman Empire, but since the collapse of the empire and the creation of the Turkish Republic (1923), these arts have flourished.

Turkey’s modern, post-moderncontemporary and performance art scenes have produced many accomplished artists in the past half century. Now they have fine venues for the collection and exhibition of their work.

Istanbul has also gained status as a worthy place to host important traveling exhibits of artworks from the world’s other great cities, including works of the Old Masters through masters of our own times.

Istanbul Modern

The Istanbul Museum of Modern Art, on the European shore of the Bosphorus down the hill from Beyoğlu, made the first big splash, is easily accessible, and is still among the leading venues. More…

Pera Museum

Offering a variety of exhibits both modern and older, this excellent small museum in the former 19th-century Hotel Bristol, near the Pera Palace Hotel in Tepebaşı, is easily accessible and always a treat. More…

Santralistanbul

Following the example of London’s Tate Modern, Istanbul’s largest art museum is in the former santral (electricity- generating plant) in the Silahtar district at the northern end of the Golden Horn.

Having generated most of Istanbul’s electricity for the better part of a century (1911-1983), the huge Santralistanbul building now houses a Museum of Energy complete with massive generators, and a Main Gallery with plenty of room for large art exhibits, a theater, dining facilities, and parking for 600 vehicles. More…

Sakip Sabancı Museum

Named for the head of one of Turkey’s wealthiest industrialist families and located on the campus of Sakip Sabancı University, this modern museum at Sakıp Sabancı Caddesi 42 in Emirgan on the Bosphorus organizes exhibits of masterworks from the world’s top museums as well as from its own superb collections. More…

Elgiz Museum of Contemporary Art

With the full name of Proje 4L | Elgiz Museum of Contemporary Art, this private collection of modern art next to the Beybi Giz skyscraper in the Maslak district of Istanbul (Metro: Maslak) 11 km (7 miles) north of Taksim Square, is not as easily accessible as others, but also never crowded. More…

—by Tom Brosnahan


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