50 Years of IKSV: Celebration of Arts in Istanbul

As I was born and raised in Istanbul, I take pride in my city. The Bosphorus seems as if it is at my feet when I look at the Anatolian side in Arnavutköy, Istiklal, and Pera which delight me with their respective sounds and scents. However, if there were a single thing that makes Istanbul truly special, it is the cultural vitality of the city. There is evidence of care for the arts in every corner of the city, ranging from school auditoriums to the galleries that we pass by without noticing.


The İstanbul Kültür Sanat Vakfı, İKSV in short, has played an important role in emphasizing the arts in Istanbul's system for 50 years now. It was founded as a non-profit and non-governmental organization to host international arts festivals in Istanbul by Dr. Nejat Eczacıbaşı and 17 businessmen who were also art enthusiasts. The primary purpose of the organization was to present the most distinguished examples of art at the time while establishing a platform for people to share and express Turkey’s artistic heritage on an international stage. I remember looking at the billboards on the Gezgin Salon Festival, which was held this year in Park Orman and seeing historical highlights of the organization. The first Istanbul Festival was held on the 50th anniversary of the republic in 1973. Although the festival mainly consisted of classical music at first, the range widened with film screenings, theater performances, jazz, ballet, and much more. The program started in Istanbul's historical sites, exposing the participant to an even greater cultural heritage.


The İstanbul International Film Festival, one of the more well-most known events of the IKSV, became a separate event with the name in 1989. This year, cinephiles were surprised by the appearance of Gaspar Noe for his movie Vortex. In 1994, another popular event of the organization Istanbul Jazz Festival became a separate event. With biennials and festivals, the IKSV had grown as a stakeholder in the artistic community in Istanbul. For the 30th anniversary of the organization, they aimed to make art even more accessible to the public and since then, their Lale Kart, a card that enables the owners to have privileges in IKSV events, has made art enthusiasts from all over Istanbul meet under one roof for these delightful events.



Almost every person in Istanbul has heard of the IKSV with posters being up around the city all year round. By spring, film screenings excite the cinephiles and by the next six months, there is the new biennial. This year, I had the great opportunity to see the Gezgin Salon Festival which was held during the celebrations of the festival. It became a popular event, particularly among the youth, as there were artists from different parts of Turkiye as well as the world. At the Tamino concert, I had the opportunity to see how he incorporated his Egyptian heritage into his music and performance. With Cigarettes After Sex, I was introduced to a different, softer genre of music, making it a very soothing experience. A week or so later I got to see the Zurich Ballet performance of Anna Karenina in the Zorlu Performing Arts Center with my friend. The performance was delicate and the stage highlighted the dancers more than the props in the back. This highlights how remarkable it is to see the range of activities offered by the IKSV.


For some time, I could find every art enthusiast I know attending the events from Jazz Festival or Gezgin Salon Festival. I often recall this June as a month of appreciation of art and cultural spirit, but fortunately, it does not end here. This year, the biennial held in Istanbul every two years will take place once again from the 17th of September to the 20th of November.


While it seems like the norm now, buying art and pursuing a career in art was an entirely different world for people prior to the IKSV. With the organization established, art has been more accessible and its events have truly become a currency of intellect.


On a personal level, I feel very privileged to have access to such impeccable forms of art and try to drop by galleries that I see every once in a while. In Istanbul, art is everywhere, from the Taksim metro to the drums played in taverns; it is, with that said, that one can truly appreciate the importance that the IKSV has for making art shine in the city.


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