Burhan Doğançay

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Burhan Dogancay
Burhan Dogancay.jpg
Burhan Dogancay at the Dogancay Museum
Born11 September 1929 (1929-09-11)
Died16 January 2013 (2013-01-17) (aged 83)
NationalityTurkish, American
EducationUniversity of Ankara, University of Paris, Académie de la Grande Chaumière
Known forPainting, Photography, Collage and Printmaking
Notable work
Billboard (1964), Symphony in Blue (1987), Stonewall (2009)
MovementStreet Art, Pop Art, Photorealism, Conceptual Art
Spouse(s)Angela Hausmann (1978–2013; his death)
AwardsTurkish National Medal for the Arts for Lifetime Achievement

Burhan C. Doğançay (11 September 1929 – 16 January 2013) was a Turkish-American artist.[1] Doğançay is best known for tracking walls in various cities across the world for half a century, integrating them in his artistic work.


Born in Istanbul, Turkey, Burhan Dogançay obtained his artistic training from his father Adil Doğançay, and Arif Kaptan, both well-known Turkish painters. In his youth, Dogançay played on the Gençlerbirliği soccer team.[2] In 1950, he received a law degree from the University of Ankara. While enrolled at the University of Paris between 1950–1955 from where he obtained a doctorate degree in economics, he attended art courses at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. During this period he continued to paint regularly and to show his works in several group exhibitions. Soon after his return to Turkey, he participated in many exhibitions, including joint exhibitions with his father at the Ankara Art Lovers Club.[3]

Following a brief career with the government (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, he starts searching the streets of New York for inspiration and raw materials for his collage and assemblages. Despite working hard, it seems impossible to make a reasonable living. Thomas M. Messer, director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum for 27 years, significantly influences Dogançay's career, urging him to stay in New York and face the city's challenges. In the 1970s, he starts traveling for his "Walls of the World" photographic documentary project and meets his future wife, Angela, at the Hungarian Ball at the Hotel Pierre, New York. In 2006, a painting by Dogancay titled "Trojan Horse" was gifted by the Turkish government to the OECD in Paris. Dogançay worked and divided the last eight years of his life between his studios in New York and Turgutreis, Turkey, until his death at the age of 83 in January 2013.[4]

Artistic contribution[edit]

Since the early 1960s, Dogançay had been fascinated by urban walls and chose them as his subject, he saw them as the barometer of our society and a testament to the passage of time, reflecting the emotions of the city, frequently withstanding the assault of the elements and the markings left by people.[5] It began, Dogancay said, when something caught his eye during a walk stroll down 86th street in New York:

It was the most beautiful abstract painting I had ever seen. There were the remains of a poster, and a texture to the wall with little bits of shadows coming from within its surface; the color was mostly orange, with a little blue and green and brown. Then, there were the marks made by rain and mud[6]

As a city traveler, for half a century he has been mapping walls in various cities worldwide. In this context, urban walls serve as documents of the respective climate and zeitgeist, as ciphers of social, political and economic change.[7] Part of the intrinsic spirit of his work is to suggest that nothing is ever what it seems. Dogançay's art is wall art, and thus his sources of subjects are real. Therefore, he can hardly be labeled as an abstract artist, and yet at first acquaintance much of his work appears to be abstract. In Dogancay's approach, the serial nature of investigation and the elevation of characteristic elements to form ornamental patterns are essential. Within this, he formulates a consistent continuation of decollagist strategies – effectively the re-contextualised deconstruction of positions related to the nouveau réalistes. Dogançay may have started out as a simple observer and recorder of walls, but he fast made a transition to points where he could express a range of ideas, feelings, and emotions in his work, his vision has continued to broaden, driven both by content and technique.[8][9]

Walls of the World[edit]

In the mid-1970s, Dogançay embarked on what he saw then as his secondary project: photographing urban walls all over the globe; these photographs – which Dogançay called "Walls of the World" – are an archive of our time and the seeds for his paintings, which in and by themselves are also documentary of the era in which we live. The focus of his "encyclopedic" approach was exclusively directed towards the structures, signs, symbols and images humans leave on walls; this was not due to lack of originality, but because it is here where he found the entire range of the human condition in a single motif, without any cultural, racial, political, geographical, or stylistic, limitations. Dogançay himself got to the heart of his exploration by stating:

Walls are the mirror of society[10]

Dogancay's consequential execution, his radical thematic self-limitation and obsession with capturing what interested him most is comparable to other "documentarians" like August Sander (portraits) and Karl Blossfeldt (plants), his pictures are not snapshots but elaborate segmentations of surfaces, subtle studies of materials, colors, structures and light, sometimes resembling monochromies in their radical reductionism. Over time, this project gained importance as well as content and after four decades now encompasses about 30'000 images from over 100 countries across five continents. In 1982, images from the archive were exhibited as a one-man exhibition at the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, that later traveled to the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, and the Musée d'Art Contemporain, Montreal.[11]

Painting and collage[edit]

With posters and objects gathered from walls forming the main ingredient for his work, it is only logical that Dogançay's preferred medium has been predominantly 'collage' and to some extent 'fumage'. Dogançay re-creates the look of urban billboards, graffiti-covered wall surfaces, as well as broken or neglected entrances such as windows and doors in different series;[12] the only masters with whom he compares himself are those from the last heroic period of art that he experienced and in which he was an active participant, notably Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns. Dogancay, however, has always preferred to reproduce fragments of wall surface in their mutual relations just as he found them, and with minimal adjustment of color or position, rather than up-end them or combine them casually in the Rauschenberg manner.

In large measure his practice has been one of simulation in the spirit of record-keeping, carried out with the collector's rather than the scavenger's eye. In many cases, his paintings evoke the decay and destruction of the city, the alienated feeling that urban life is in ruins and out of control, and that we cannot put the pieces together again.[13] Pictorial fragments are often detached from their original context and rearranged in new, sometimes inscrutable combinations. So the diversifications of his complex and uniformly experimental painterly oeuvre will always range from photographic realism to abstraction, from pop art to material image/montage/collage. In the 1970s and 1980s he gained fame with his interpretation of urban walls in his signature ribbons series, which in contrast to his collaged billboard works such as the Cones Series, Doors Series or Alexander's Walls consist of clean paper strips and their calligraphically-shaped shadows; these brightly intense curvilinear forms seem to burst forth from flat, solid-colored backgrounds. The graceful ribbonlike shapes take on a three-dimensional quality, especially as suggested by the implied shadows;[14] this series later gave rise to alucobond–aluminum composite shadow sculptures and Aubusson Tapestries.[15]

Tamarind lithography[edit]

In 1969, Henry Geldzahler, then head of 20th Century Art Department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art secured for Dogancay a fellowship at the Tamarind Lithography Workshop in Los Angeles; the workshop, founded by June Wayne, was a ten-year project, attended by approximately seventy artists – among them were Ed Ruscha, Jim Dine, Josef Albers and Louise Nevelson – between 1960 and 1970, conceived to promote lithography in the USA. Dogancay created sixteen lithographs, including a suite of eleven impressions titled "Walls V"; these marked a turning point in his career as they essentially are a dialogue with flatness.[16] At the workshop, in part because of the exigencies of the medium, he was obliged to relinquish his casual approach, inspired by his raw subject matter, in favor of organizing his work graphically; this imposed discipline helped him to create arresting new effects that led to more defined flat areas and brighter colors within the images. This reassessment enabled Dogancay to resolve any conflict he might have had between subject and method, and was a profound influence on his future evolution as an artist. A canon of high-colored tonality and visual impact has remained for him the essence of urban contradiction that he has wanted the viewers of his works to share.

Aubusson tapestry[edit]

In Paris, Dogancay is introduced to Jean-François Picaud, owner of L'Atelier Raymond Picaud in Aubusson, France. Fascinated by Dogançay's Ribbons series as ideal tapestry subjects, he instantly invites Dogançay to submit several tapestry cartoons. In the words of Jean-François Picaud "the art of tapestry has found its leader for the 21st century in Burhan Dogançay";[4] the first three Dogançay tapestries woven in 1984 are an immediate critical success.

Art market[edit]

In November 2009, one of Dogançay's paintings, Mavi Senfoni (Symphony in Blue), was sold in auction to Murat Ülker for US$1,700,000; this collage relates to an impressive cycle of works within the Dogançay oeuvre, called Cones series, that evolved as a deliberative of his iconic Breakthrough and Ribbon series and as an exhilarant exploration of the urban space. Together with its two sister works, Magnificent Era (collection of Istanbul Modern) and Mimar Sinan (private collection), Symphony in Blue is one of the largest and most expressive works in which Dogançay enters into a dialogue with the history of Turkey, it was executed in 1987 for the first International Istanbul Biennial.[17] Istanbul Modern commissioned composer Kamran Ince to set Mavi Senfoni to music; the solo piano play was premiered by Huseyin Sermet on 26 June 2012.[18] In May 2015, Dogancay's painting Mavi Güzel (Blue Beauty) from the Ribbon Series sold for TL 1,050,000 at Antik AS in Istanbul[19]

Doğançay Museum[edit]

Being exclusively dedicated to the work of Burhan Doğançay, and to a minor extent also to the art of his father, Adil, the Doğançay Museum provides a retrospective survey of the artist's various creative phases from his student days up until the present, with about 100 works on display. Established in 2004, the Doğançay Museum in Istanbul's Beyoğlu district is being considered to be Turkey's first contemporary art museum.[13]

Doğançay's works are in the collections of many museums around the world including New York's MoMA, Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum as well as National Gallery of Art in Washington, MUMOK in Vienna, Musée National d'Art Moderne in Paris, Istanbul Modern in Istanbul,[20] The Israel Museum in Jerusalem and The State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg.

Works in public collections (selection)[edit]

  • 1964: Billboard, New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
  • 1964: Yankees and Beatles, London, Tate Modern
  • 1965: Eddie, Vienna, Albertina
  • 1966: Peace of Mind, Mannheim, Kunsthalle
  • 1966: Diner's Window, Dallas, Dallas Museum of Art
  • 1966: J. Payn Window, Minneapolis, Walker Art Center
  • 1969: New York Puzzle, Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie
  • 1969: untitled, Washington, National Gallery of Art
  • 1969: Walls V, New York, MoMA
  • 1969: untitled, Cambridge/MA, Harvard Art Museums
  • 1974: Red and Black Composition No. 5, New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
  • 1975: White Cone & Shadow, Basel, Kunstmuseum
  • 1977: Heart No. 26, Saint-Paul de Vence, Fondation Maeght
  • 1979: Lofty Ribbons, London, British Museum
  • 1980s: Whispering Wall III, London, V&A Museum
  • 1980s: #150, Vienna, MAK
  • 1980: Long Lost Ribbons, Vienna, mumok stiftung ludwig
  • 1980: untitled, Bruxelles, Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium
  • 1982: Ribbon Mania, New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • 1987: Magnificent Era, Istanbul, Istanbul Modern
  • 1987: Symphony in Blue, Istanbul, Yildiz Holding (Murat Ülker)
  • 1989: Kinder, Hannover, Sprengel Museum
  • 1989: Neruda, Stockholm, Moderna Museet
  • 1989: Versace Man, Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum
  • 1992: I Am Really Old, Salzburg, Museum oder Moderne
  • 1995: Tit Steaks, Ann Arbor/MI, University of Michigan Museum of Art
  • 1997: Garden of Eden, Munich, Pinakothek der Moderne
  • 1997: Push Love, Saint Louis, Saint Louis Art Museum
  • 1998: Two Fine Red Lines, Vienna, Albertina
  • 2002: Red Ada, Geneva, Musée d'art et d'histoire (MAH)
  • 2002: Throw FD, Pittsburgh, Carnegie Museum of Art
  • 2008: Peace Partners, Cleveland, Cleveland Museum of Art
  • 2009: Rising Star, Boston, Museum of Fine Arts Boston
  • 2011: The Days of the Fez, Vienna, Albertina


  • 2005 – Contribution to the Arts Award given by the International Contemporary Art Exposition, İstanbul
  • 2005 – Art Honor Award given by the Art Forum Plastic Arts Fair, Ankara
  • 2004 – Honorary doctorate from Hacettepe University, Ankara
  • 2004 – Painter of the Year Award given by Sanat Kurumu, Ankara
  • 1995 – National Medal for the Arts for Lifetime Achievement & Cultural Contribution given by the President of the Republic of Turkey
  • 1992 – Medal of Appreciation given by the Ministry of Culture of Russia
  • 1984 – Enka Arts & Science Award, İstanbul
  • 1969 – Tamarind Lithography Workshop Fellowship, Los Angeles
  • 1964 – Certificate of Appreciation by the City of New York


Solo exhibitions (selection)[edit]

  • 1976: Istanbul: Gallery Baraz. Burhan Dogançay
  • 1977: Zurich: Kunstsalon Wolfsberg. Acrylmalereien und Gouachen 1966–1976
  • 1982: Paris: Centre Georges Pompidou. Les murs murmurent, ils crient, ils chantent ...
  • 1983: Montreal, Musée d'Art Contemporain
  • 1983: Antwerp, International Cultural Center
  • 1989: Tokyo: The Seibu Museum of Art–Yurakucho Art Forum. Dogançay
  • 1992: St. Petersburg: The State Russian Museum. Walls and Doors 1990–91
  • 1993: Istanbul: Atatürk Cultural Center. Walls 1990–93
  • 2000: New York: The Brooklyn Historical Society. Bridge of Dreams.
  • 2001: Istanbul: Dolmabahçe Cultural Center. Dogançay: A Retrospective (Organized by Dr. Nejat F. Eczacıbaşı Foundation)
  • 2001: Athens, Ohio: Kennedy Museum of Art–Ohio University. Dogançay–Wall Paintings from the Museum Collection
  • 2003: Siegen: Siegerlandmuseum. Walls of the World
  • 2012: Istanbul: Istanbul Museum of Modern Art. Fifty Years of Urban Walls: A Burhan Dogancay Retrospective
  • 2014: Istanbul: Dogançay Museum. Picture the World: Burhan Dogançay as Photographer
  • 2016: Ankara: CER Modern. Picture the World: Burhan Dogançay as Photographer
  • 2016: Essen: Museum Folkwang. New to the collection: Burhan Dogancay
  • 2016: Taipei: Taiwan National History Museum. Picture the World: Burhan Dogançay as Photographer
  • 2017: Vienna: Albertina. Burhan Dogançay (works on paper)
  • 2018: Leverkusen: Museum Morsbroich. Zeichen an der Wand

Group exhibitions (selection)[edit]

  • 1972: New York: Pace Gallery. Printmakers at Pace
  • 1977: New York: The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. From the American Collection
  • 1983: Washington: The National Museum of Natural History Smithsonian Institution
  • 1987: Istanbul: 1st International Istanbul Biennial
  • 1999: New York: The Museum of the City of New York, The New York Century: World Capital, Home Town, 1900–2000
  • 2006: Fredonia, N.Y.: Rockefeller Arts Center Art Gallery. Connoisseurship
  • 2009: Salzburg: Museum der Moderne. SPOTLIGHT
  • 2009: Biel/Bienne: CentrePasquArt. Collage–Décollage: Dogançay–Villeglé
  • 2009: Berlin: Martin-Gropius-Bau. Istanbul Next Wave
  • 2010: London: British Museum. Modern Turkish Art at the British Museum
  • 2010: Minneapolis, MN: Walker Art Center, Perlman Gallery. 50/50: Audience and Experts Curate the Paper Collection
  • 2012: Vienna: Belvedere, Orangerie. Kokoschka sucht einen Rahmen
  • 2012: Maastricht: Bonnefantenmuseum. Different Impressions, Changing Traditions
  • 2013: Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Uncontainable Portraits
  • 2013: Doha: Bahrain National Museum. Istanbul Modern-Bahrain
  • 2013: Grenoble: Musée de Grenoble-Bibliothèque Teisseire-Malherbe. Les Mots dans l'Art
  • 2013: Zurich: Museum Haus Konstruktiv. Hotspot Istanbul
  • 2013: Minneapolis: Weisman Art Museum. Reviewing The Real
  • 2013: New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Fifty Years of Collecting Islamic Art
  • 2014: Boston: Museum of Fine Arts. National Pride (and Prejudice)
  • 2015: Stockholm: Moderna Museet. A Larger World
  • 2015: Leverkusen: Museum Morsbroich. Eddie Murphy und die Milk-Brothers
  • 2016: Los Angeles: LACMA. Islamic Art Now, Part 2
  • 2016: Istanbul: Elgiz Museum. Faces & Masks
  • 2016: Purchase/NY: Neuberger Museum of Art. Post No Bills: Public Walls as Studio and Source
  • 2017: Minneapolis: Weisman Art Museum. Prince from Minneapolis
  • 2017: Wolfsburg: Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg. Im Käfig der Freiheit
  • 2017: Saint-Paul-de-Vence: Fondation Maeght. Is this how men live?
  • 2018: Ankara: Evliyagil Museum. Icons of Thinking: Images and Texts
  • 2019: Vienna: Albertina. Warhol to Richter
  • 2019: Istanbul: Istanbul Modern. The Event of a Thread: Global Narratives in Textiles
  • 2019: Wolfsburg: Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg. Now is the Time
  • 2019: Geneva: MAMCO Musée d'art moderne et contemporain: Collection(s)


  1. ^ "Ressam Burhan Doğançay vefat etti" (in Turkish). Bloomberg HT. 16 January 2013. Retrieved 16 January 2013.
  2. ^ Burhanettin Doğançay (Gençlerbirliği), Mackolik, retrieved 12 July 2018
  3. ^ British Museum Artist Bio, retrieved 1 June 2015
  4. ^ a b Artnet: Chronology on Burhan Dogancay, retrieved 30 April 2015
  5. ^ Metropolitan Museum Collection, retrieved 1 June 2015
  6. ^ E. Flomenhaft (ed.), "Doors and Walls", Tenth Avenue Editions, New York, 1994, p.243.
  7. ^ New York Times Obituary, retrieved 1 June 2015
  8. ^ Guggenheim Artist Bio Archived 7 July 2015 at the Wayback Machine, retrieved 1 June 2015
  9. ^ Sotheby's WHISPERING WALL II, retrieved 10 January 2016
  10. ^ Fifty Years of Urban Walls at Istanbul Modern, retrieved 24 April 2015
  11. ^ Les Murs Murment, Centre Pompidou, retrieved 11 September 2015
  12. ^ Istanbul Modern, retrieved 1 June 2015
  13. ^ a b Dogancay Museum, retrieved 1 June 2015
  14. ^ LACMA Collections, retrieved 7 December 2016
  15. ^ MAK, Vienna, retrieved 9 June 2015
  16. ^ Tamarind Institute, Los Angeles, retrieved 30 April 2015
  17. ^ Istanbul Modern: A Selection from the Collection, retrieved 13 April 2019
  18. ^ Symphony in Blue, retrieved 11 May 2015
  19. ^ Memleket, Mavi Güzel, retrieved 11 May 2015
  20. ^ Stonewall, Today's Zaman, retrieved 9 June 2015
  • Emslander, Fritz, Dogramaci, Burcu, "Burhan Doğançay Zeichen an der Wand", Wien, VfmK, 2018, ISBN 978-3903228726
  • Schröder, Klaus-Albrecht, Lahner, Elsy, "Burhan Dogancay", Wien, Hirmer Verlag, 2017, 978-3777428871
  • Köb, Eldelbert, Zuckriegel, Margit, Kushner, Marilyn, et al., "Picture the World – Burhan Dogancay As Photographer", Istanbul, Dogancay Museum Publications, 2014, 978-6056504303
  • Calikogu, Levent, Giboire, Clive, Taylor, Brandon, Vine, Richard, Fifty Years of Urban Walls: A Burhan Dogançay Retrospective, Munich, Prestel, 2012, ISBN 978-3-7913-5219-0.
  • Piguet, Philippe, Denaro, Dolores, Collage-Décollage:Dogancay-Villeglé, Nürnberg, Verlag für Moderne Kunst, 2009, ISBN 978-3-941185-57-9.
  • Taylor, Brandon, Urban Walls – A Generation of Collage in Europe and America, New York, Hudson Hills Press, 2008, ISBN 978-1-55595-288-4.
  • Blanchebarbe, Ursula, Walls of the World, Bielefeld, Kerber Verlag, 2003, ISBN 978-3-936646-07-8
  • Budak, Emel, Burhan Dogancay: A Retrospective, Istanbul, Duran Editions, 2001, ISBN 978-975-97427-2-0
  • Vine, Richard, Burhan Dogançay: Works on Paper 1950 -2000, New York: Hudson Hills Press, 2003, ISBN 978-1-55595-226-6
  • Lopate, Phillip, Bridge of Dreams, New York, Hudson Hills Press, 1999, ISBN 978-1-55595-173-3
  • Moyer, Roy, Rigaud, Jacques, Messer, Thomas M., Dogançay, New York, Hudson Hills Press, 1986, ISBN 978-0-933920-61-3

External links[edit]