Renzo Piano's Istanbul Modern opens in Istanbul

The Golden Horn Shimmers in Silver

Ulf Meyer
3. May 2023
Photo © Cemal Emden

The Istanbul Modern provides spaces for temporary exhibitions, educational rooms, film screenings, and a collection of art spanning from 1945 to today. The previous building fronting the Bosphorus was knocked down when the waterfront was rebuilt to serve as a cruise ship port.

The design of RPBW’s first building in Turkey was inspired by the Bosphorus and its reflections of light. The museum “evokes ships traveling between Europe and Asia,” according to Piano, who is a known admirer of the maritime design of boats and ships. The facades are made by a sequence of 3D-formed aluminum panels that reflect the sunlight to create a shimmering, iridescent exterior that looks like fish scales.


Photo © Cemal Emden

The ground floor has views to the corniche and houses the library, education and event spaces, a café, and gift shop. The stairway features a three-part installation by Olafur Eliasson that appears to hang in the air, playing with light and people’s sense of space; it leads to the first floor, home to the photography gallery, a pop-up gallery, offices, and a restaurant with a terrace that offers views of the Bosphorus. The permanent collection, the main temporary-exhibition gallery, and auditorium are on the second floor. A viewing terrace at the top hovers above a pool covering the roof, providing views of the city.

Photo © Cemal Emden

The building's transparent and accessible design reflects the ethos of the museum, according to a statement: “ a multifaceted experience offering visitors audience-oriented exhibitions and programs inspired by the artistic diversity of the present day.” Istanbul Modern reopens with five new exhibitions. The main one, Floating Islands, showcases 280 artworks; its first section focuses on art in Turkey, while the second section shows art from around the world. 

A survey of Renzo Piano's architecture, Genius Loci, is on display in the free-of-charge library. Genius Loci “examines in detail the design process and structural components of Istanbul Modern’s new building,” while Constructing Architecture brings together new works by architectural photographer Cemal Emden that “unravel the museum building's construction phases.” The outdoor area feature several sculptures by the likes of Tony Cragg and Anselm Reyle.

Photo © Cemal Emden

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