The International Istanbul Biennial is a contemporary art exhibition, held every two years in Istanbul, Turkey, since 1987. The Biennial is organised by the İstanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV). The Biennial aims to create a meeting point in İstanbul in the field of visual arts between artists from diverse cultures and the audience. The biennials İKSV has organised up to now have enabled the formation of an international cultural network between local and international art circles, artists, curators and art critics by bringing together new trends in contemporary art every two years.
Considered as one of the most prestigious biennials alongside Venice, São Paulo and Sydney, the International İstanbul Biennial prefers an exhibition model which enables a dialogue between artists and the audience through the work of the artists instead of a national representation model. The curator, appointed by an international advisory board, develops a conceptual framework according to which a variety of artists and projects are invited to the exhibition.
The most comprehensive international art exhibition organised both in Turkey and throughout the geographical sphere it is in, the İstanbul Biennial plays an important role in the promotion of contemporary artists not only from Turkey but from a number of different countries in the international arena.
The opportunity to follow developments and discussions in the art world, and therefore a complementary educational programme is provided both for students and viewers of art through the exhibitions and simultaneously translated panel discussions, conferences and workshops organised within the scope of the exhibitions. More recently, Istanbul’s 13th biennial in 2013 was also overtaken by political events; its theme was art in public spaces but was forced to retreat indoors after many of the scheduled venues filling with plumes of tear gas and water cannon as police and demonstrators clashed had been tuned into a battleground between demonstrators trying to protect the city’s Gezi Park.
After the first two biennials realised under the general coordination of Beral Madra in 1987 and 1989, İKSV decided to adapt a single curator system following the İstanbul Biennial directed by Vasif Kortun in 1992. As for the participating artists, the 2015 exhibition is to present new works by more than 50 visual artists as well as oceanographers and neuroscientists.
The 12th Istanbul Biennial was curated by Jens Hoffmann and Adriano Pedrosa, and ran from September 17 – November 13, 2011. The shows spanned two buildings at Istanbul's Antrepo.
The 2009 biennial took place at three venues on the European side of the city: Antrepo, or warehouse, No. 3 in Tophane; the Tobacco Warehouse, also in Tophane; and the Feriköy Greek School, in Şişli. All of the art selected for the 2011 edition was shown at one central location, in Warehouses No. 3 and 5 next to the Istanbul Modern museum.