I didn’t think I was going to find street art in Istanbul – Turkey is a country that I associate more with awe-inspiring historic architecture like the Hagia Sophia and amazing Turkish culinary delights, so when a friend invited me to check out her favourite neighbourhood of Kadikoy, I was pleasantly surprised to see so many murals all over the walls of this district. I spent the afternoon exploring and put together this little guide to street art in Kadikoy.
Where is Kadikoy?
Kadikoy is located on the Asian side of Istanbul, an easy ferry ride away from Sultanahmet where I was based. Kadikoy has a more residential and indie sort of vibe compared to Sultanahmet and Beyoglu. It’s also pretty popular for its produce markets and little restaurants and cafes. I had a lovely lunch and walk around here with my friend before I went street art hunting on my own.
Handy Google Map for you below. You’ll notice it maps out some of the newer works from the Mural-Ist festival that I haven’t seen for myself yet.
Street Art Festivals in Istanbul
Mural Istanbul is a street art festival organised with the support of the Kadikoy municipality that has been running 2012 – the works I found were mostly from 2013 (very strong influences of the Gezi Park protests which happened around the same time as the festival) and 2015.
I missed the 2016 and 2017 works so I have to go back again to find them someday – here are the locations of the 2016 and 2017 works respectively. You can also see some great pix and insights on the 2012-2014 artworks on the Mural Istanbul pages in Google Arts & Culture.
I love this work by Jaz because it’s so striking – it has me imagining what the faces of these Turkish calvary men / horsemen are like, strategically positioned to be blocked by the strip of windows running down the middle. The wall overlooks a park and playground where you can sit down and admire this work. It reminds me a little of memorial statues that you might see in a park cast out of bronze.
60 Iskele Sokak, entrance of Ali Ismail Korkmaz Park
Brazilian artist Claudio Ethos has a rather surreal balloon taking off. The faces are a little bit creepy. Something about it rising from the pile of junk in front of it that adds to the surrealism. You can’t see it so well here, but the balloon is tied to a bed.
63 Karakolhane Caddesi, between Macit Erbudak Sokak and Iskele Sokak
Inti‘s works are quite unique – these white faces are a trademark of his characters. This artwork looks deceptively straightforward, but if you look closely, the emblems imprinted all over are a bit of a call back to this Chilean’s South American roots – they remind me of Incan icons. Resistancia translates into resistance, endurance and strength, an idea that runs through his work, and also quite fitting given that this was painted around the time of the Gezi Park protests in Istanbul in summer 2013.
32 Tasli Bayir Sokak, junction with Macit Erbudak Sokak
Ricky Lee Gordon aka Freddy Sam is a South African artist from Cape Town who is very much into promoting activism through his artwork.
This work titled In Dreams does seem a little dreamlike – an elephant wandering around at night in the middle of a city. The elephant is apparently a symbol for resistance in Africa, a nod to the 2013 protests that happened the same week as the festival.
53 Karakolhane Caddesi, junction with Macit Erbudak Sokak
This is a collab by 3 Turkish artists – Cins, Canavar and Rad. Isimsizler translates into Anonymous, and this work is a reaction to the 2013 protests. You will see Cins’ distinct colourful monsters appear in another artwork in this post, Canavar‘s work seems to lean towards the black figure, which leaves Rad as the one who did the graffiti style green and white piece? See some work in progress shots.
102 Karakolhane Caddesi, junction with Muhendis Sari Ali Sokak
This work by American artists Levi Ponce and Kristy Sandoval is pretty eye catching and you might notice that the portrait is inspired by the Mother and Child artwork found in the Hagia Sophia. Levi specialises in portraits and created the Mural Mile of Pacoima in San Fernando Valley in a bid to improve his home town with art. The crows on Kristy’s end are meant to symbolise the wisdom of Elders. This work is around the corner from the Turkish piece
102 Karakolhane Caddesi, junction with Muhendis Sari Ali Sokak
I’m guessing Occupy Antarctica is some sort of social commentary on global warming and Turkey’s involvement in that given that giant fez coming down upon the poor penguins? B.Shanti is from the same German crew Captain Borderline as Dabtar whose work is right next to his. His Turkish man named Sufi is quite surreal and colourful, and apparently made up of lots of symbols around the 2013 protests.
Junction of Muhendis Sari Ali Sokak with Kir Kahvesi Sokak
This area of Kadikoy is more central and closer to the piers. According to my research, many of the 2014, 2016 and 2017 works can be found here – the ones I spotted were from the 2012 edition of Mural-Ist. I can’t believe I missed so many great works!
I had this feeling that I’d seen Dome’s work before – something about the black and white and the people with the skinny limbs. I did a little bit of checking and it turns out I was right – I first spotted Dome back in Lagos, Portugal back in 2014. This particular work Ark Istanbul has so much detail in it, especially when you stare at it a little more. – I’ve also seen it named as ‘Noah’, so it’s probably some sort of call back to Noah’s Ark. Kinda love how surreal and beautiful it is, overlooking a tiny carpark.
15 Misaki Milli Sokak, at junction with Teyyaraseci Sami Sokak, side of Otel Aktas
Amose is a French street artist whose characters are inspired by tribal art. I love the colourful nature of his works juxtaposed with the clean shapes of his characters, who tend to have very mask-like faces.
27 Misaki Milli Sokak, at junction with Kirmizi Kusak Sokak, side of Ayyildizlar Hotel
I loved PixelPancho‘s work when I first saw it in Lisbon – the way he melds humans with these mechanical limbs is very distinct and striking. This particular work called Bambino (child in Italian) looks to me like quite a pointed commentary on child armies and terrorism. He did another work called Sultans in another location but I didn’t see it…
Nuzhet Efendi Sokak, from junction with Resit Efendi Sokak
Check out the Google Map to see all the other nearby works as well that I missed.
Cins did several collabs in 2013, but returned in 2015 to paint his own art piece. I like the contrast of day and night happening here.
30 Sarraf Ali Sokak
Another one of my favourites Aryz from Spain (saw him in Lisbon and Lagos and even Bangkok) came here to paint in 2015. His work looks like the cross section of a machine and its pipes – his work usually shows the inner workings of humans, so seeing the insides of a machine is a little different. There’s also something about his overall colour palette that is quite distinctive – love!
21 Sarraf Ali Sokak, at junction with Sivastopal Sokak
This was a long wall stretch somewhere along Moda Caddesi that has several graffiti works on it, including that of Canavar.
This lovely surreal piece by Rustam Qbic with his surreal flower headed people which are a depiction of what’s actually in their heads. This particular artwork is a representation of his pregnant wife.
33 Agabey Sokak, near junction with Sair Nefi Sokak
This particular piece isn’t for the Mural Istanbul festival, but I just thought it was a lovely portrait by local artist Highero of the Pakistani activist for female education Malala Yousafzai. The quote in her hijab translates into “A child, a teacher, a book and a pen can change the world”.
Junction of Moda Caddesi and Cem Sokak
Have you spotted any other cool street artworks in Kadikoy? Or let me know about other cool neighbourhoods to check out street art in – I found some in Beyoglu as well but definitely not as many as in Kadikoy.
Also, check out these other street art spots that I have visited in Asia, Europe and all around the world.