On 22 July 1972, Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts launched the Istanbul Festival with an inaugural press conference. In 1973, the 1st Istanbul Festival was organised. In 1978, the Istanbul Festival became a member of the International Festivals Association.
In 1982, a film week was organised, which would later take the name of “Cinema Days”. In 1984, İKSV moved from the Gümüşsuyu district of Beyoğlu to its new headquarters at the Yıldız Palace. In 1987, the 1st edition of the Contemporary Art Exhibitions, antecedent of the International Istanbul Biennial, was held. In 1989, the 1st Istanbul Theatre Festival was organised. ‘Cinema Days’ was named ‘Istanbul Film Festival’.
In 1992, İKSV organised the first stadium concert of Istanbul with Bryan Adams on stage. The same year, UNESCO awarded İKSV with the International Culture and Art Prize. In 1993, Melih Fereli became the next general manager after Aydın Gün. Founder of İKSV, Nejat Eczacıbaşı passed away, leaving his seat to the new chairman, Şakir Eczacıbaşı. In 1994, İKSV moved to the Louvre Apartment on the Istiklal Street, and the first Istanbul Jazz Festival was organised. In 1997, İKSV began organising symposia with ‘Culture of Democracy and Globalisation’ held in collaboration with the Culture Initiative, and intercultural programmes with ‘Berlin in Istanbul’. In 1998, İKSV was awarded the Culture and Art Grand Prize by the Presidency of the Republic of Turkey.
In 2001, Ersin Onay became the new general manager. In 2002, the Tulip Card membership programme was initiated, Görgün Taner became the new general manager and autumn film week “Filmekimi” was launched. In 2003, a coproduction by Tanztheater Wuppertal-Pina Bausch and İKSV, Nefés was staged for the first time. The first edition of the ‘Minifest’, a children’s festival to continue for the six years to follow, was organised. İKSV became the first institution to receive the European Culture Forum’s European Culture Award from outside of the EU. In 2004, the international projects of İKSV, supported by the Ministry of External Affairs of Turkey, commence with ‘Şimdi Now’ (Berlin) and Bozar Turkey Festival. In 2005, ‘Turks: A Journey of a Thousand Years, 600 - 1600’, an exhibition introducing key aspects of Turkish culture, was organised by London Royal Art Academy, in collaboration with İKSV. In 2006, İKSV undertook the organisation of the Leyla Gencer Voice Competition. In 2007, İKSV assumed the organisation of the Pavilion of Turkey at the International Art Exhibition, la Biennale di Venezia. In 2009, acitivities under the ‘Culture Season of Turkey in France’ was carried out by İKSV in collaboration with Culturesfrance. As a result, an artist studio was rented at Cité des Arts, Paris, to accommodate artists from the Turkey for the next 20 years. İKSV moved to Deniz Palas, the Foundation’s current residency know today as the Nejat Eczacıbaşı Building.
In 2010, Şakir Eczacıbaşı, Chairman of İKSV, passed away, leaving his post to Bülent Eczacıbaşı. Salon İKSV opened its doors in the Nejat Eczacıbaşı Building. In 2011, the first report of İKSV within the scope of its cultural policy studies, ‘Art in Public Space: Proposed Models & Recommendations for Istanbul’, was published. In 2012, Istanbul Design Biennial was launched. Aydın Gün Encouragement Award was presented for the first time. i-ka-se-ve, a new book accounting for the history of İKSV with first-hand testimonies by 370 people, was published on the Foundation’s 40th anniversary. In 2013, Istanbul Biennial was held with no admission fee for the first time. In 2014, İKSV, with the support of 21 contributors, provided a permanent venue for the Pavilion of Turkey at la Biennale di Venezia, facilitating the inaugural participation of Turkey at the International Architecture Exhibition, la Biennale di Venezia, with a national pavilion. In 2015, Talât Sait Halman Translation Award was launched. In 2018, the Gülriz Sururi-Engin Cezzar Theatre Encouragement Award was launched. In 2019, İKSV Alt Kat: Learning and Interaction Space was founded by İKSV with the aim of improving access to and participation in art and culture events.
In 2022, İKSV celebrates its 50th anniversary with its festivals, the Istanbul Biennial, and special events.