The Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV) has organized the Istanbul Biennial since 1987. The Istanbul Biennial prefers an exhibition model that enables a dialogue between artists and the audience through the work of the artists instead of a national representation model. The curator, appointed by an international advisory board, develops a conceptual framework according to which a variety of artists and projects are invited to the exhibition.
The most comprehensive international art exhibition organized both in Turkey and throughout the geographical sphere, the Biennial plays an important role in the promotion of contemporary artists not only from Turkey but also from a number of different countries in the international arena. A complementary educational program is provided both for students and viewers of art, while simultaneously translated panel discussions, conferences, and workshops are also organized within the scope of the exhibitions.
After the first two biennials realized under the general coordination of Beral Madra in 1987 and 1989, IKSV decided to adapt a single curator system following the Istanbul Biennial directed by Vasif Kortun in 1992. Since then, the Biennial was organized under the curatorship of René Block (1995), Rosa Martínez (1997), Paolo Colombo (1999), Yuko Hasegawa (2001), Dan Cameron (2003), Charles Esche and Vasif Kortun (2005) and Hou Hanru (2007), WHW—What, How & for Whom (2009), and Jens Hoffmann and Adriano Pedrosa (2011) Fulya Erdemci in 2013. Held in 2015, the 14th Istanbul Biennial was drafted by Carolyn-Christov Bakargiev. The biennial celebrated the 30th anniversary of its inauguration with the 15th edition curated by Elmgreen & Dragset in 2017.
In 2012, the İKSV launched the 1st Istanbul Design Biennial, which aims to explore a wide range of fields from urban studies to architecture, industrial design, graphic design, fashion, new media design, and all relevant creative disciplines. Over the course of the nine-week program, 115,000 viewers visited the Design Biennial exhibitions.