Renzo Piano’s Istanbul Modern Reflects Rich History of Location

Istanbul Modern, Türkiye’s first museum of modern and contemporary art opened to visitors in a new building designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop on May 4, 2023.

Istanbul Modern is situated at the museum’s original location on the Karaköy waterfront, one of Istanbul’s most historic districts where the Bosphorus and Golden Horn meet.

The design of the building, Renzo Piano’s first project in Türkiye, was inspired by the glittering waters of the Bosphorus and its reflections of light. Echoing the history of a site that has been used as a harbour for millennia, the outline of the building evokes ships of different sizes traveling back and forth between Europe and Asia as well as a creature of the sea that has leapt from the Bosphorus on the shore. The façade is made by a sequence of 3-D-formed aluminium panels that play with the changing sunlight, creating a shimmering, iridescent envelope evocative of fish scales.

Across 10,500 square meters, the new Istanbul Modern provides a purpose-built space for a dynamic range of temporary exhibitions, interdisciplinary educational programmes, film screenings, and an extensive, publicly accessible art collection. Spanning the period from 1945 to the present, the collection features work by international artists who reflect Türkiye’s artistic creativity and have played an active role in the global transformation of art.

Upon arrival, the transparent ground floor offers views to the waterfront promenade and houses the museum library, education and event spaces, digital touchscreens, a café, and a museum shop featuring new collections of objects inspired by the museum’s exhibitions. Richard Wentworth’s “False Ceiling” (2005), one of the iconic permanent installations from the former building, welcomes back visitors. A wide central stairway connecting the public areas of the museum features a three-part site-specific installation by Olafur Eliasson commissioned specifically for the new museum building by Istanbul Modern. Titled “Your unexpected journey” (2021), the installation appears to hang in the air, playing with light and the visitors’ sense of space.

Istanbul Modern’s restaurant is also on this floor and offers spectacular views of the Bosphorus and Historical Peninsula from an outdoor terrace. The second floor houses the museum’s permanent collection gallery, which provides an unparalleled panorama of modern and contemporary art from Türkiye and beyond, as well as the main temporary exhibition gallery.

The museum also boasts a 156-seat auditorium for the museum’s celebrated film programmes and interdisciplinary events. A one-of-a-kind viewing terrace at the top of the building hovers above a shallow reflection pool covering the entire roof, providing a 360-degree view of the Bosphorus and the city. The new building’s transparent and accessible design reflects the ethos of the museum: a multifaceted experience offering visitors audience-oriented exhibitions and programs inspired by the artistic diversity of the present day.

Istanbul Modern’s new building was constructed with the joint support of the Eczacıbaşı Group, the Museum’s Founding Sponsor, and Doğuş Group-Bilgili Holding, its Main Sponsor. The Museum opens with five new exhibitions, each accompanied by a publication and educational resources.

“Floating Islands”: Spread across the expanded permanent and temporary exhibition galleries as well as other spaces throughout the building, the exhibition constitutes Istanbul Modern’s most comprehensive collection exhibition to date, showcasing more than 280 works by 110 artists and 2 artist duos. Most of the works in the selection will be displayed for the first time.

The exhibition’s first section in the permanent gallery focuses on art in Türkiye from 1945 to the 2000s following a chronological axis. Hosting the second section of the exhibition, the temporary exhibition gallery brings together thematic narratives from Türkiye and abroad.

Highlights from the collection exhibition include works by Türkiye’s foremost exponents of modern and contemporary art, such as Fahrelnissa Zeid, Sarkis, Ayşe Erkmen, Gülsün Karamustafa, Nil Yalter, and İnci Eviner, as well as by internationally renowned artists including Anselm Kiefer, Daniel Buren, Mark Bradford, Alicja Kwade, Haegue Yang, Laure Prouvost and others.


2016 – 2023

Istanbul Modern

Istanbul, Türkiye


Istanbul Museum of Modern Art


Renzo Piano Building Workshop, architects

in collaboration with Arup (Istanbul)

Design Team

E.Baglietto, F.Giacobello (partner and associate in charge), R.Dunphy with M.Cecchetto, E.Doyduk, M.Tokarnia, R.Wong and M.Yildirim; B.Pignatti, A.Pizzolato, C.Zaccaria (CGI); M.Abidos, F.Cappellini, D.Lange, F.Terranova (models)


Arup (structure, MEP, lighting); R.Uysalkan (consulting interior architect), JML (water feature) 

All Images Courtesy Istanbul Museum of Modern Art