Burhan Dogancay



Burhan Dogançay, is one of Turkey’s leading contemporary artists. He obtained his artistic training from his father, Adil, and Arif Kaptan, both well-known Turkish painters. Upon completion of his law studies in Ankara, he went to Paris where he attended art courses at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière and enrolled at the University of Paris from where he obtained a doctorate degree in economics. During his student years in Paris and in the years after his return to Ankara he held several solo exhibitions and participated in numerous group shows. Following a brief career in the diplomatic service, which brought him to New York City in 1962, Dogançay decided in 1964 to devote himself entirely to art and make New York his permanent home.
Dogançay is primarily known for a body of work that grew out of fascination with urban walls which have a special meaning to him. He sees them as witnesses to the passage of time – the barometers of our society – reflecting social, political, and economic changes, all the while withstanding the assaults of the elements and the graffiti and other markings left by people. In the mid-1970s, Dogançay embarked on what he saw then as a secondary project: photographing urban walls all over the globe. Over time, this project has gained in importance as well as in content and, after four decades, now encompasses more than one hundred countries. In 1982 this archive culminated in a one-man exhibition at the Georges Pompidou Center, Paris, entitled Les murs murmurent, ils crient, ils chantent… (“Walls that whisper, shout and sing…”).
His photographs of urban walls are an archive of our time and provide the seeds for Dogançay’s paintings, which in and by themselves document the era in which we live.
With posters and objects gathered from walls forming the main elements of his works, it is only natural that Dogançay’s preferred medium has been predominantly collage, and to some extent “fumage” (blackened effect achieved with a burning candle). Dogançay re-creates walls in different series, relating to doors, colors, graffiti-types or the objects that he incorporates in his pieces. In the 1970s and 1980s his interpretation of urban walls developed into his signature Ribbons series, the works, in contrast to his collaged billboard pieces, consisting of clean paper strips and their calligraphically shaped shadows. This series, which grew out of three-dimensional maquettes, later gave rise to alucobond and aluminum shadow sculptures.
Dogançay is the recipient of many awards. Most notable is the Lifetime Achievement Award, presented in 1995 by the president of the Republic of Turkey. His work appears in numerous publications and is represented in the collections of the world’s most prestigious museums, including The British Museum, London, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, MoMA, New York and the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.
A survey of Dogançay’s extensive body of work and artistic evolution is permanently on view at the Dogançay Museum, Turkey’s first contemporary art museum, which opened in the Beyoglu section of Istanbul in 2004.
Dogançay divides his time between New York and southern Turkey, where he maintains a second studio and lives with his wife, Angela.