Ok, it’s not a place entirely overlooked by tourists, but given all the historic and much-touted sights that the Old Town has to offer, crossing over the bridge to Karaköy to spend an hour or two in the Istanbul Modern isn’t a priority on many people’s sightseeing lists.
A shame, because it’s pretty damn cool.
Istanbul Modern is 8,000 square metres of funked-up art madness. Located on the banks of the Bosphorus it is home to a permanent collection, various temporary exhibition galleries, a library, a minimalist hipster-lite cafe, a photography gallery, a cinema and a pretty cool gift shop.
The museum also offers interdisciplinary activities to engage young people and artists in the local community and is one of Turkey’s first private repositories. It features many of the country’s established and bourgeoning artists, as well as well-known personalities from around the world.
Case in point: while I was there there was an exhibition – part of the Istanbul Design Biennial – called Musibet that featured artists whose work focused on the “aestheticization of context and anti-context in design along the axis of the grand transformation.”
Not sure what that means? Don’t worry, I didn’t either, though I came to learn it was about urban transformation in Turkey and other countries around the world. Pretentious language aside (come on, it is a rather arty farty mouthful) there were many interesting and interactive pieces on display and I found my one hour of designated “museum time” easily turned into two and a half.
Though I’m no art historian by a long stretch, I enjoy the fact that a lot of contemporary photography and art serves as a mirror, asking us to reflect upon the societies in which we live. Through the conceptual visions that artists draw down we are invited to consider/question many of the things in our personal realities, be they profound or ridiculously rudimentary. At the end of the day touring galleries like Istanbul Modern is a nice way to disconnect from the ups and downs of our daily routines, gain some inspiration and connect with the world (and others ultimately) in a different way.
Especially on a soggy and grey afternoon.