Hey, I’m in Istanbul and this place rocks for street art! I was here in 2008 and there wasn’t nearly as much going on then, unless I was just completely oblivious…whatever, it appears to have taken off big style! According to some of the locals I’ve met, street art can be seen as a reaction against the reduction of civil liberties here and increasing censorship. People vented their frustrations and hopes for change during the famous 2013 Gezi Park summer protests, when citizens’ creativity was unleashed in surprising, imaginative and humorous ways. It seems to have unleashed a thirst for art that really suits the urban landscape here.
I started by search for street art in the Gezi heartland of Taksim, which still has the park and some of the remnants of the art. Interestingly, you can see where there was once graffiti or art but it has been erased by the municipality by all the blocks of grey/white paint covering what was there before. If you wander down into Beyoglu and boho neighbourhood Cihangir, you can find tons of street art, including a Pac-man, some ‘angry pandas’ and a murals of Turkish actors which have been there for more than a decade. The pandas are probably Istanbul’s most famous pieces of art and they are the work of Leo Lunatic, you can find them all over Beyoglu and down towards Tunel.
One of my favourite areas for street art here is Karakoy, near the Bosphorıs and down towards the Golden Horn. Its back streets are teeming with graffiti from creative locals and international artists such as MET, Esk Reyn, Wicx, Nuka and Demo. While you’re around this way be sure to get a ‘Balik ekmek’ (fish sandwich – grilled fresh while you wait) or head to Gulluoglu cafe for gorgeous baklava as a pit-stop on your street art tour. Download the Street Art Istanbul app (free) to navigate your way around the city and find some real gems. So far I’ve only seen the art on the European side but tomorrow I’m going to check out what the Asian side has to offer.