The Istanbul Biennial and the reproduction of the urban public space

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Initiated by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts in 1987, the Istanbul Biennial is the product of a period in which many cities of the Global South started their own biennials. With the participating ‘star’ curators and artists, the Biennial gradually sparked attention from the international art world. Yet, it also received occasional negative responses from the local art world. Critics stressed the problematic relationship of the Biennial with one of the key players behind the urban regeneration
process in the city. Designed as a wide-reaching contemporary art event in a city of an enormous scale, a vast population and contested histories, the Biennial was set in a range of venues throughout Istanbul over the years. This not only led the Biennial to continuously reframe Istanbul through the selected new locations and unwittingly reproduce the urban public space but also to redefining the way in which the visitors relate to both the city and the event per se. This article discusses the re-organization of the public space by the Istanbul Biennial in the backdrop of contemporary art practices, the art historical discourse and the changing social and political context of the last 30 years in Turkey by drawing on the theories of Michel de Certeau, Chantal Mouffe and Sibel Yardimci among others.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-23
JournalArt and the Public Sphere
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2018


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