Renowned Turkish artist Burhan Doğançay leaves legacy, touched the world

Burhan Doğançay (Photo: Today's Zaman, Turgut Engin)

January 16, 2013, Wednesday/ 09:23:00

Acclaimed Turkish contemporary abstract artist Burhan Doğançay, whose works were exhibited at over 70 museums around the world, passed away at the age of 84 on Wednesday morning at İstanbul's American Hospital, where he was receiving treatment, the İstanbul-based Doğançay Museum has announced.

The prolific artist will be laid to rest after a funeral ceremony, which is planned to take place in the Aegean coastal city of Bodrum on Saturday, in accordance with his will.

Following the announcement of Doğançay's death, Culture and Tourism Minister Ertuğrul Günay issued a written statement about the artist, whom he knew personally, the Anatolia news agency reported. The minister expressed his deep sadness over Doğançay's death, calling him “among Turkey's most important representatives of art, who promoted the country abroad, all through his life.” Günay also offered his condolences to the artist's family and the Turkish art community.

President Abdullah Gül, EU Affairs Minister and chief negotiator Egemen Bağış, Democratic Left Party (DSP) leader Masum Türker, author and dubbing artist Yekta Kopan, literary critic and writer Doğan Hızlan and prominent painter Bedri Baykam were among the other names who voiced their grief at the loss.

Born in İstanbul in 1929, Doğançay showed an interest in painting with the encouragement of his father, Adil Doğançay, who was an artist and army officer. Before embarking on a career in diplomatic service, the artist studied law at Ankara University and then economics at a Parisian university. After spending some time in New York, during the time he was studying economics, Doğançay decided that he should devote himself to art and remain in New York. From the 1960s until his death, the artist frequently returned to Turkey and held several exhibitions, some of which were opened in joint efforts with his father.

The artist's fascination with the walls of various cities around the world, which roughly began around the year 1964, inspired him to create his famous wall series, consisting of paintings, graphics, photographs and sculptures. Also, as an urban traveler, Doğançay tracked the walls of many cities for a period spanning almost 50 years. The artist was said to have a massive archive of more than 30,000 images of walls from all the 114 countries he had previously visited. The urban walls are a reflection of the changes in society, serving as a testament to the passage of time, and one can “explain the political, sociological and other aspects of that society” by looking at its walls, according to the artist.

Another series by the artist, titled “Ribbon,” which consists of clean paper strips and their calligraphy-shaped shadows that grow out of three-dimensional masquettes, added to Doğançay's fame in the '70s and '80s. Later, the artist produced alucobond-aluminum shadow sculptures. There is also the “cone” series by the artist, which gives the impression of paper peeling off the walls and curling up, thus creating a 3D effect.

In 2004, the Doğançay Museum, which features many works produced by the artist throughout his career spanning over 50 years along with works by Adil Doğançay, was officially opened in İstanbul's Beyoğlu district. The museum, which is housed in a historic building, aims to highlight Doğançay's artistic development with the exhibition of his works, ranging from his early figurative paintings to photographs belonging to his wall series.

The National Medal for the Arts for Lifetime Achievement and Cultural Contribution, awarded by the president of the Turkish Republic, and the Medal of Appreciation, given by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, were among the awards the artists received in his lifetime.

Many works of the artist have been exhibited at over 70 museums around the world and he became the first-ever Turkish artist to have a piece in the permanent collection of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. Doğançay's photos of the Brooklyn Bridge were displayed at JFK International Airport for two years on the occasion of New York's 100th anniversary. Another work by the artist, titled “Hat Sanatına Saygı” (Tribute to Calligraphy), was displayed in the building of the European Parliament in Brussels in 2003.

Doğançay produced some 4,000 paintings throughout his career and in November 2009, the artist's painting “Mavi Senfoni” (Blue Symphony) sold for TL 2.2 million ($1.46 million) on auction, breaking the record for the highest price for a painting by a living Turkish artist. Most recently, the artist's “Big Spider Web” painting became the top seller in the Beyaz Müzayede auction house's first sale of the season.

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