A Strategic Modernity on the Shores of the Bosphorus: Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

    • Presentation speakers
      • Lora Sariaslan, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands


    ‘If we can contribute to the EU accession the size of a rice grain, we will open the museum.’ This is how the founder and chair of the Board of Istanbul Museum of Modern Art (Istanbul Modern) Oya Eczacibasi was quoted in the Turkish newspapers. The first private Turkish museum with a collection that also organizes both Turkish and non-Turkish modern and contemporary art exhibitions, Istanbul Modern was opened to public in 2004. Originally planned to open to public in April 2005, through the desire of the then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Museum was opened on 11 December 2004, six days before the meeting that focused on the accession of Turkey into the EU. This paper will query how Istanbul Modern is a win-win collaboration between the private promoters of the museum and the political actors in the context of identity and image making, liberalization, urban planning, and the once-desired Turkish membership into the EU. Located in a converted warehouse on the shores of the Bosphorus, Istanbul Modern turned into the perfect example of Turkey embracing Europe through its existence, programming, architecture, and even its name. Istanbul Modern is a perfect example of how the economic and cultural agendas of the private sector and politics merged on a project through the medium of modern and contemporary art and how this institution became a part of the contemporary branding of Istanbul.