Art History and Visual Culture in Istanbul (Not Constantinople!)

Istanbul, the Republic of Turkey: a time worn metropolis once trounced about by the likes of Emperors Constantine and Justinian I — where East meets and co-mingles wonderfully with West.

The city has so much to offer the curious tourist with an insatiable eye for visual delicacies. Arresting aquamarine views of the Bosphorus Strait; Byzantine ruins resigned to crumble nobly; spontaneous clarinet jam sessions in alleyways; billowing peach-and-watermelon-scented shisha clouds; sprawling gilded complexes once inhabited by sultans and concubines garbed in flowing silk kaftans; politically-charged and spray-painted street art; humming bazaars which astound with their cornucopia-like displays of toothsome Turkish Delight, sun-catching copper tea sets, thinly glazed ceramic bowls, Pashmina scarves woven in buttery pastel cashmere, and tinkling, suspended rainbows comprised of dainty stained-glass Ottoman lanterns.

Shopaholics won’t be the only ones pleased the heaps of veritable eye candy proffered by the exotic urban centre. Institutions like Istanbul Modern and SALT (a not-for-profit, bank-funded institution which hosts exhibitions, conferences and public programs while carrying out interdisciplinary research projects) ensure that visitors to and natives of the “City of the World’s Desire” all get their fill of critically-debated and cutting-edge contemporary art.

Check out the images below of Istanbul — gritty and whimsical, ancient and alive — and perhaps plan your own adventure to this constantly-stirring cosmopolitan locale, which proves to be much more than a far-flung destination for top-notch lamb kebab.

The Blue Mosque

Sultan Ahmed Mosque, familiarly known as the Blue Mosque

Vaulted ceilings inside the Blue Mosque

Vaulted ceilings inside the Blue Mosque

Istanbul, View from the Bosphorus

View from a Bosphorus Strait sightseeing cruise

Patient anglers hanging around on Galata Bridge

Patient anglers hanging around on Galata Bridge

Galata Tower

Galata Tower

Balcony view inside the Hagia Sophia

Balcony view inside the Hagia Sophia

The outer gardens of Topkapi Palace, home of the Ottoman Sultans

The outer gardens of Topkapi Palace, home of the Ottoman Sultans

The Harem at Topkapi Palace

The Harem at Topkapi Palace

A small bazaar in the Sultanahmet District

A small bazaar in the Sultanahmet District

Succulent Turkish Delight for sale

Succulent Turkish Delight for sale

One of many local hotspots for a lamb dürüm wrap

One of many local hotspots for a lamb dürüm wrap

A vendor of fragrant teas in the Arasta Bazaar

A vendor of fragrant teas in the Arasta Bazaar

A lantern shop lights up the Grand Bazaar

A lantern shop lights up the Grand Bazaar

All roads lead to Istanbul

All roads lead to Istanbul

Street art in the Şişhane neighbourhood

Street art in the Şişhane neighbourhood

Inside the Basilica Cistern

Inside the Basilica Cistern

Ancient Roman column featuring Medusa, relocated to the Basilica Cistern and flipped upside down during Ottoman times

Ancient Roman column featuring Medusa, relocated to the Basilica Cistern and flipped upside down during Ottoman times

Fancy dress souvenir photographs from the Basilica Cistern

Fancy dress souvenir photographs from the Basilica Cistern

Fanciful street art and bunting

Fanciful street art and bunting

Lively musicians attracting a crowd near Taksim Square

Lively musicians attracting a crowd near Taksim Square

Stray kittens lolling about outside the Blue Mosque

Stray kittens lolling about outside the Blue Mosque

Reflective light panels form part of the architecture at SALT, a not-for-profit institution opened in April 2011, which hosts exhibitions, conferences and public programs, and engages in interdisciplinary research projects

Reflective light panels form part of the architecture at SALT, a not-for-profit institution opened in April 2011, which hosts exhibitions, conferences and public programs, and engages in interdisciplinary research projects

Rabih Mroué, Double Shooting, 2012, SALT

Rabih Mroué, Double Shooting, 2012, exhibited at SALT

Istanbul Modern, the major contemporary art museum

Istanbul Modern, the city’s major contemporary art museum

Istanbul Modern Library

Istanbul Modern Library

Inside Istanbul Modern

Inside Istanbul Modern

Inside Istanbul Modern

Tomas Saraceno, 80SW/Flying Garden/Air-Port-City, 2007, Istanbul Modern

Olafur Eliasson,Red Emotional Globe, 2010, Istanbul Modern

Olafur Eliasson,Red Emotional Globe, 2010, Istanbul Modern

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Photographs by Julia Kim and Tifanee McCullough

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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