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Turkish modern art's "bridge" Burhan Dogancay dies age 83

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Wed, 16 Jan 2013 14:50 GMT
Author: Reuters
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By Ayla Jean Yackley

ISTANBUL, Jan 16 (Reuters) - Painter Burhan Dogancay, whose celebrated career spanned the rise of modern Turkish art, died on Wednesday in Istanbul. He was 83.

Dogancay was best known for his prolific series of "urban walls," in which he travelled to 114 countries to record graffiti-splattered and poster-covered walls in some 500 cities that he would then reinterpret onto large canvases that were part painting, part collage.

"The whole human experience has been reflected on walls, beginning with cave drawings 20,000 years ago. It's in our genes," Dogancay told Reuters last year.

"I take the documentary and transform it into something abstract so that the real and unreal are side-by-side."

Dogancay's career began as Turkey's modern art movement took off, and he was at its leading edge for much of his life.

Until his death, he was Turkey's most expensive living artist after "Symphony in Blue," a modernist Turkish masterpiece, fetched ${esc.dollar}1.7 million at a 2009 auction.

His work also appears in the collections of New York's Museum of Modern Art, Brooklyn Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the National Gallery of Art in Washington; and the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg.

Born just six years after the founding of the modern Turkish Republic, Dogancay first learned to paint from his father, Adil Dogancay, a topographer and artist in the military who tried to dissuade his son from a career in art in a country where no galleries existed outside of state museums.

A semi-professional football player for the Ankara club Genclerbirligi, the younger Dogancay studied law and then earned a doctorate in economics in Paris where he took courses on art at Academie de la Grande Chaumiere.

He left Turkey for New York in the early 1960s amid the political upheaval following a military coup, working for the Turkish cultural agency but he soon quit to devote his life to his art.

Last year the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art held a retrospective of 50 years of Dogancay's work, drawing more than 215,000 visitors.

Dogancay was "something rare, a bridge between modern and contemporary," Levent Calikoglu, chief curator at the Modern, told Reuters before his death. "By birth he is modernist, and he continued that tradition, never 'updating' himself, and yet his work still feels incredibly fresh, like it was made today." (Editing by Paul Casciato)

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