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Plan your visit for the 14th Istanbul Biennial

Media conference:  2 September 2015 at 10am at Özel İtalyan Lisesi (The Italian High School). Professional preview: 3 - 4 September 2015.

The 14th Istanbul Biennial takes at least three days to visit fully. Works by over 80 participants from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, the Middle East, Latin America and North America, are displayed in over thirty venues on the European and Asian sides of the Bosphorus. SALTWATER takes place in museums as well as temporary spaces of habitation on land and on sea such as boats, hotels, former banks, garages, gardens, schools, shops and private homes.

See HOW TO NAVIGATE THE SALTWATER below for suggested itineraries.

Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev states, “Salt water is one of the most ubiquitous materials in the world. Sodium in our bodies makes our neurological system, and thus our vital systems, work; it literally keeps us alive. At the same time, salt water is the most corrosive material threat to the digital age: if you drop your smart phone in fresh water, you can dry it and it will probably work again. If it falls into salt water, chemical molecular changes in the materials of your phone will break it. When you visit the 14th Istanbul Biennial, you will spend quite a bit of time on salt water. There is a slowing down of the experience of art due to the travel between venues, especially on ferries. That is very healthy: salt water helps to heal respiration problems and many other illnesses, as well as calming the nerves.

This sprawling exhibition spans from Rumelifeneri on the Black Sea, where Jason and the Argonauts passed searching for the Golden Fleece, through the winding and narrow Bosphorus, a seismic fault line which opened as a water channel some 8500 years ago, and down to the Princes’ Islands in the Sea of Marmara towards the Mediterranean, where ancient Byzantine emperors exiled their enemies and where Leon Trotsky lived for four years from 1929 to 1933. It presents over 1500 artworks, some very tiny, including over fifty commissions by artists as well as other visible and invisible manifestations such as materials from the history of oceanography, environmental studies, marine archaeology, Art Nouveau, neuroscience, physics, mathematics and theosophy. Works range historically from an 1870 painting of waves by Santiago Ramón y Cajal, who received a Nobel prize in 1906 for discovering the neuron, to the ground-breaking abstract Thought Forms of Annie Besant and Charles Leadbeater (1901-1905), up to a new installation by Aslı Çavuşoğlu which reflects on an ancient and lost Armenian technique for extracting red dye from an insect, and a new multichannel installation by William Kentridge inspired by Trostky’s passage through Turkey.”

The 14th Istanbul Biennial is drafted by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev. Interlocutors and alliances include Anna Boghiguian, Aslı Çavuşoğlu, Cevdet Erek, Pierre Huyghe, Emre Hüner, William Kentridge, Marcos Lutyens, Chus Martínez, Füsun Onur, Emin Özsoy, Griselda Pollock, Michael Rakowitz, Vilayanur S. Ramachandran, Arlette Quynh-Anh Tran, and Elvan Zabunyan.

Novelist Orhan Pamuk is the Honorary Chairman of the International Council of Friends and Patrons of the 14th Istanbul Biennial.

The Istanbul Biennial advisory board members include Adriano Pedrosa, Başak Şenova, İnci Eviner, Iwona Blazwick, and Ute Meta Bauer.

The 14th Istanbul Biennial is organised by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV) and made possible thanks to the sponsorship of Koç Holding. Admission to the 14th Istanbul Biennial is free of charge in all venues except the Museum of Innocence. The Istanbul Biennial receives further patronage from a number of other supporters, international funders, and funding bodies. These include, amongst others to be announced,  DAI Dilijan Art Initiative - IDeA Foundation, SAHA - Supporting Contemporary Art from Turkey, Australia Council for the Arts, Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art (Qatar Museums), Acción Cultural Española (AC/E), Mondriaan Fund, Canada Council, British Council, The Henry Moore Foundation, Culture.pl, Italian Institute of Culture in Istanbul, Institut français, Office for Contemporary Art Norway (OCA), Arts Council Norway, Fondazione Sandretto re Rebaudengo, Schering Stiftung, Fiorucci Art Trust, Schwarz Foundation, Dena Foundation for Contemporary Art, Outset Contemporary Art Fund, Kadist Art Foundation.


The 14th Istanbul Biennial takes at least three days to visit fully.

There are venues where the visitors will encounter a group exhibition, such as Istanbul Modern, ARTER, the Italian High School, and the Galata Greek Primary School, but most locations host the work of a single artist or artist collective.

Biennial visitors may take various paths and some of the possible itineraries might be the following.

Day One:
Beyoğlu on foot or by public transport

Visitors can start from Bankalar Street, visit the former headquarters of the Ottoman Bank which was designed by French Levantine architect Alexandre Vallauri at the end of the 19th century, and has been functioning as SALT Galata after its renovation in 2011; and then the newly opened Vault Karaköy the House Hotel, which was the historical Sümerbank headquarters built in 1863 by Istanbul-born Italian architect Antoine Tedeschi in Neo-Renaissance style.

As you continue to walk down towards the water, you will find on the left the Kasa Galeri in Minerva Han, which is a landmark historical building that was built in 1913 by architect Vasileios Kouremenos, and today owned by Sabancı University; and as you walk along on Kemeraltı Street, you can visit the Galata Greek Primary School with its neo-classic architectural style formerly serving for the education of Greek children in Istanbul.

The next stop could be Istanbul Modern, a former cargo warehouse built by the eminent architect Sedad Hakkı Eldem in the scope of an urban renewal project between 1957 and 1958. Transformed into the foremost museum of contemporary art in Turkey in 2003 and opened in 2004, Istanbul Modern hosts a group exhibition as well as some of the historical positions of the biennial. The non-profit exhibition space DEPO is another biennial venue, a four storey building used as a tobacco warehouse until the 1950s.

Several biennial venues are located on Boğazkesen Street in the Tophane district, such as a garage and a store. These also include a small red building originally constructed in 1897, three years after the earthquake of 1894, which was acquired by novelist Orhan Pamuk in 1999 and transformed into the Museum of Innocence.

The next stop on this walk could be Özel İtalyan Lisesi (the Italian High School) which was established in 1861 and moved to its current location on Tom Tom Kaptan Street in 1919. Here visitors will find new works by five artists on the ground floor, in the gymnasium and in the attic. The French Orphanage, known as the Palace of St. Eugène built in 1869, is one of three fictional venues of the biennial that has no legal public access, to be imagined only.

In nearby Galatasaray, a hotel room in a building originally commissioned and built by the Zenovitch family in the 1890s, which was transformed into the House Hotel Galatasaray in 2010, is used as a biennial venue. Across from the hotel, on Bostanbaşı Street, a house hosts work of an artist and another nearby building from 1901, Cezayir, hosts the public programme throughout the biennial, as well as one artist’s project.

As the visitors walk up to İstiklal Avenue towards the tunnel, they will see Casa Garibaldi, which belongs to the Società Operaia - an association founded by Italian workers in 1863 and named after Giuseppe Garibaldi who lived in Constantinople for a number of years in the 19th century. Casa Garibaldi is currently being restored, and functions as a fictional venue of the biennial with no public access.

The ARTER building, constructed by architect Petraki Meymaridis in the 1910s on İstiklal Avenue as Meymaret Han, was converted to a non-profit art space by the Vehbi Koç Foundation in 2010 and hosts the biennial throughout its three floors. FLO, once the Anatolian Passage built at the end of the 19th century and now a shoe store, is converted into a venue for an artist’s work on its fourth floor.

There are two more biennial venues in the Pera district of Beyoğlu: the Pera Museum, founded in 2005 and located in the former Bristol Hotel designed in 1893 by architect Achille Manoussos, which was later renovated preserving its historical façade, hosts the biennial on its third floor. Finally, a room in the Adahan Hotel, a building commissioned by Camondo family and built in the 19th century and restored in 2007, and the Adahan Cistern, which dates back centuries are also venues.

Day 2: Kabataş-Kadıköy-Büyükada-Kabataş
circle by ferry boat or hydrofoil (İDO seabus)

Visitors can take a ferry boat or hydrofoil from Kabataş dock to Kadıköy and Büyükada, one of the Princes’ Islands on the Asian side of the city.

A small, street-level artist studio in Yeldeğirmeni will be the 14th Istanbul Biennial’s venue in Kadıköy.

On Büyükada, Kaptan Paşa Seabus that has been used for the purpose of transportation since 1997, will welcome biennial visitors at the docks as one of its venues, as well as Büyükada Public Library, which will function as a greeting point. Five rooms and the courtyard of the Hotel Splendid Palas, built between 1908~1911 in an Art Nouveau style by Kaludi Laskaris, will also host the biennial exhibition and part of its public programmes.

The other venues on Büyükada are the Rizzo Palace, built in the 19th century and used as a residential house until 1961 and which was acquired by Balıklı Greek Hospital Foundation to serve as a social housing pension until 2010; Mizzi Mansion, built in the second half of the 19th century and renovated by prominent Italian architect Raimondo D’Aronco after the earthquake; Çankaya 57, a twin house built by an Armenian tradesman for his daughters in 1907~1908 where Leon Trotsky is said to have lived  briefly when he was exile on the island, and which was more recently used as a location for a Turkish soap opera; and the Trotsky House or Yanaros Mansion, built in 1850s by Nikola Demades, where Trotsky lived between 1932 and 1933.

Day 3: Şişli, the Old City and the Northern Bosphorus
by ferry boat, public transport or taxi

The 14th Istanbul Biennial is using two venues in Şişli district: the new headquarters of Hrant Dink Foundation and Agos, former Hığutyun Armenian Primary School from 1903 up to 2004, as well as Hrant Dink Foundation and Agos – Centre for Parrhesia, at the former location of the foundation and of the newspaper Agos, an Armenian weekly published in Istanbul in both Turkish and Armenian languages. The chief editor of Agos and a pivotal figure in the human rights and reconciliation movements in Turkey, Hrant Dink, was assassinated in January 2007 outside this building.

Visitors can take the bus 55T from Taksim to get to the Küçük Mustafa Paşa Hammam in the Old City of Istanbul, formerly called Constantinople. One of the oldest buildings of the Islamic period in the city, Küçük Mustafa Paşa Hammam was built in 1477 during the reign of Fatih Sultan Mehmet and 24 years after the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottomans. Covering an area of 1900 square metres, it ceased being used as a bathhouse in the 1990s. Located between Sultanahmet and the Byzantine walls, it is a short walk from the south coast of the Golden Horn. The women’s and men’s areas of the hammam, accessible from separate entrances on Şerefiye and Küçük Mustafa Paşa Streets, will be used for exhibiting two artists’ works.

The two other venues of the 14th Istanbul Biennial are located in the Northern Bosphorus and can be reached by bus 150 from Hacıosman Metro Station or by ferry to Sarıyer and bus 150. Located in Sarıyer intercity district, Rumelifeneri, a coastal village near the north-western end of the Bosphorus Strait where you can see the construction of Istanbul’s third bridge, will host an artist’s work on the lighthouse. On the Asian side, where the remains of a rusted, cold-war radar antenna lie, Riva Beach, is one of the biennial’s venues with no public access.

The itineraries suggested above can be reconfigured in many ways, depending on the availability and interests of visitors. Information on guided tours will be available at 14b.iksv.org

Finally, a provisional biennial venue will be Kastellorizo, a Greek island two kilometres away from the Turkish coast. The weeklong project in collaboration with the Fiorucci Art Trust titled “The violent No! of the sun burns the forehead of hills. Sand fleas arrive from salt lake and most of the theatres close” will take place there from 7 to 13 September 2015.