Art&Design in an Eclectic City: Istanbul

The place where continents meet, a gateway between Western and Eastern cultures – Istanbul has been a cosmopolitan city throughout the history and one of the biggest cultural hubs in the east of Europe. The vibrant metropolis straddling the Bosphorus straits boasts a flourishing contemporary art scene, with many art galleries, museums and events turning it into an exciting art centre in the region. We look at some of the most up-and-coming areas and art events in Istanbul.

Two exhilarating neighbourhoods located within the Beyoğlu district, Şişhane and Karaköy, are the places where contemporary Istanbul comes to life. Start exploring the area with The Empire Project. This art gallery reflects the melting pot of cultures in the city, as it showcases the works of contemporary artists coming from regions that have had an influence or have been influenced by what we call today Istanbul.

Empire Project, Istanbul, Turkey

Empire Project, Istanbul, Turkey

At another gallery in the district one can see what is new and how the contemporary art scene in Istanbul is evolving. Sanatorium gallery promotes not only established artists, but also emerging local and international names. For Sanatorium, artistic dialogue that enriches the art scene in the city is the objective.


In-between gallery visits, drop by Mavra Café and Design Store for a cup of coffee, a snack or a longer meal. Mavra is more than a café though – while you are there take a look at all the design gifts scattered around.



Around the corner from Mavra is Milk Gallery & Design Store. Milk is a space dedicated to urban art, with many vibrant exhibition openings that bring together the street art scene. Aside from the gallery, there is also a shop area showcasing design items.



Keeping in line with the design theme, IKSV Design Store houses jewellery, accessories and decorative items by local designers. The store is run by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts and it also has an online shop.


Go beyond Beyoğlu district to discover more about art and design in Istanbul. The city is ever evolving, and that can be seen at Vakko Fashion Center, an impressive piece of architecture. Put Kadıköy and Moda neighbourhoods on your list of places to see for urban art.


Apart from the galleries and dedicated stores, the Istanbul art scene is on full display several times around the year during special events. Taking place during autumn, the major events for contemporary art are Contemporary Istanbul, ArtInternational and The Istanbul Biennial, while as far as design goes look out for Istanbul Design Biennial and Istanbul Design Week.


Istanbul is an eclectic, vibrant city, with a lot to offer and still a lot of potential left for growing in the international art scene. With its unique mix of cultures, it has its special place on the map of art hubs in Eastern Europe.