Every two years, Istanbul is the destination for one of September’s major contemporary art events.

This year it’s Elmgreen & Dragset, the Berlin-based Scandinavian artists, who were chosen to fill the curator’s shoes at the event, which opens to the public on 16 September and is on until 12 November.

Their own works are not among the Istanbul Biennial’s list of credits.

But we can assume that we will discover their spirit in this curatorship.

They’re best known for applying the idea of the ready made through familiar objects filled with innuendo.

An art consumed with the implied message, without a show of force.

It is a spirit particularly welcome in Turkey, a country tormented by violence and obstacles to democracy.

I caught up with them this summer in their studio in Berlin.

They told me how they conceived the very delicate fifteenth Istanbul Biennial, which they’ve baptised ‘A Good Neighbour’.



The exhibition spaces

‘We wanted to create a series of exhibitions clustered together and smaller. Small is beautiful. It comprises 58 artists across six sites which can be visited on foot over short distances’.


Collaborative approach with artists

‘Our project is collaborative. Our aim is for each artist to create his own little world.

Half of the installations have never been seen before. During the year and a half we spent travelling in search of artists, our idea about the concept of the show changed progressively.

It is not about a sort of ready-made box transported to Istanbul but a specific offer.

A Bauhaus-style villa has been transformed into a museum by an artist.

A hammam was refurbished to become a cultural space.

It’s a combination of young artists, old artists, and three are dead.

In the choice of artists there is, we believe, very little crossover with the summer’s big shows, which are Munster, Documenta and the Venice Biennnale‘.


The general public
‘We hope that the exhibitions will be intellectually accessible to people not familiar with contemporary art.

You know, among the visitors to the Istanbul Biennial there are 400,000 people from the city itself, so we wanted to offer things that are not too hermetic’.


The artists
‘It’s hard to look after other artists, because as a general rule artists are egomaniacs. We’re no exceptions. But it would have been horrible to show our work at an event where we’re the curators’.


‘We have received a lot of local encouragement.

At least 50% of the people care about international support. That’s why we have to show solidarity. The recent terrorist incidents in certain Western countries is comparable in number to those in Turkey.

Should people have avoided Fiac after the Paris bombings? Quite the opposite.

Terrorism plants the harmful seed of fear in our souls.

Today in Turkey the artists are working, the institutions are holding exhibitions, exchanges carry on’.


List of artists participating to the 15th Istanbul Biennal

Galata Greek Primary School

Heba Y. Amin

Born in Cairo, lives in Berlin


Mark Dion

Born in New Bedford, Massachusetts, lives in New York, NY


Jonah Freeman & Justin Lowe

Born in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Dayton, Ohio, both live in New York, NY


Kasia Fudakowski

Born in London, lives in Berlin


Pedro Gómez-Egaña

Born in Bucaramanga, lives between Bergen and Copenhagen


Lungiswa Gqunta

Born in Port Elizabeth, lives in Cape Town


Andrea Joyce Heimer

Born in Great Falls, Montana, lives in Ferndale, Washington


Morag Keil & Georgie Nettell

Born in Edinburgh and Bedford, both live in London


Olaf Metzel

Born in Berlin, lives in Munich


Mahmoud Obaidi

Born in Baghdad, lives in Burlington, Ontario


Henrik Olesen

Born in Esbjerg, lives in Berlin


Erkan Özgen

Born in Mardin, lives in Diyarbakır


Leander Schönweger

Born in Meran, lives in Vienna


Dan Stockholm

Born in Thisted, lives in Copenhagen


Ali Taptık

Born in Istanbul, lives in Istanbul


Bilal Yılmaz

Born in Manisa, lives in Istanbul


Istanbul Modern


Volkan Aslan

Born in Ankara, lives in Istanbul


Alper Aydın

Born in Ordu, lives between Ordu, Ankara, Konya, and Istanbul


Monica Bonvicini

Born in Venice, lives in Berlin


Louise Bourgeois

Born in Paris, died in New York, NY


Latifa Echakhch

Born in El Khnansa, lives in Martigny


Candeğer Furtun

Born in Istanbul, lives in Istanbul


Kim Heecheon

Born in Seoul, lives in Seoul


Mirak Jamal

Born in Tehran, lives in Berlin


Fernando Lanhas

Born in Porto, died in Porto


Victor Leguy

Born in Sao Paulo, lives in Sao Paulo


Klara Lidén

Born in Stockholm, lives in Berlin


Mahmoud Obaidi

Born in Baghdad, lives in Burlington, Ontario


Lydia Ourahmane

Born in Saida, lives in Oran and London


Rayyane Tabet

Born in Ashquot, lives in Beirut


Young-Jun Tak

Born in Seoul, lives in Berlin


Kaari Upson

Born in San Bernadino, California, lives in Los Angeles, California


Kemang Wa Lehulere

Born in Cape Town, lives in Cape Town



Born in Luanda, lives in Harare


Xiao Yu

Born in Inner Mongolia, lives in Beijing


ARK Kültür


Mahmoud Khaled

Born in Alexandria, lives in Trondheim


Pera Museum


Adel Abdessemed

Born in Constantine, lives in London


Njideka Akunyili Crosby

Born in Enugu, lives in Los Angeles, California

Alejandro Almanza Pereda

Born in Mexico City, lives in Guadalajara


Berlinde De Bruyckere

Born in Ghent, lives in Ghent


Vajiko Chachkhiani

Born in Tbilisi, lives in Berlin


Gözde İlkin

Born in Kütahya, lives in Istanbul


Liliana Maresca

Born in Buenos Aires, died in Buenos Aires


Lee Miller

Born in Poughkeepsie, New York, died in Chiddingly, East Sussex


Aude Pariset

Born in Versailles, lives in Berlin


Sim Chi Yin

Born in Singapore, lives in Beijing


Dayanita Singh

Born in New Delhi, lives in New Delhi


Tatiana Trouvé

Born in Cosenza, lives in Paris


Tsang Kinwah

Born in Shantou, lives in Hong Kong


Andra Ursuta

Born in Salonta, lives in New York, NY


Fred Wilson

Born in New York, NY, lives in New York, NY


Yoğunluk Atelier



Founded in Istanbul, live in Istanbul


Küçük Mustafa Paşa Hammam


Monica Bonvicini

Born in Venice, lives in Berlin


Stephen G. Rhodes

Born in Houston, Texas, lives in Berlin


Tuğçe Tuna

Born in Mons, lives in Istanbul


Outside all venues


Burçak Bingöl

Born in Giresun, lives in Istanbul


Lukas Wassmann

Born in Zurich, lives in Berlin

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