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The Istanbul Biennial (IB) editions, as cultural events for the wider region and the Middle East, are examined in this article with regard to their relevance for art and artists and their interactions with their host city. Biennials of contemporary art, as main exhibition events of the present, and the urban transformations of Istanbul form the context of the research. Biennials, including the IB, often address controversial topics. Accordingly, the discrepancy between the critical stance of curators and artists, as well as the uses that a Biennial is subjected to by various interest groups, has to be taken under scrutiny.