Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art/ Turkish


Burhan Dogancay
signed and dated 1985
acrylic on canvas
142.9 by 193cm.; 56 1/4 by 76in.
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Private Collection, New York (acquired directly from the artist circa 1985)


Roy Moyer, Ed., Dogancay, New York 1986,  pp. 162-163, illustrated in colour

Catalogue Note

Whispering Wall II is an exceptionally rare work by Burhan Dogancay, one of the most highly reclaimed artists of our time.

Travelling around Anatolia with his father, Adil Dogancay, who was a cartographer and an artist, Burhan Dogancay practiced drawing in the fields along with him, experimenting with light, shadow and perspective. After completing his law degree in Turkey, he then travelled to Paris for his doctorate in economics where he took the opportunity to study the Great Masters from the canon of art history. Dogancay's move to New York in 1962 as a Turkish diplomat was a life-changing moment for his future artistic career. He quit his position soon after and dedicated himself solely to art.

In the early 1960s, at a time when the world was going through drastic political and social changes, Dogancay turned his attention to the urban walls which bore witness to the emotions and opinions of the people. Written in graffiti on torn posters, they created a live platform for discussion. It was a freedom of speech at its best and the liveliness of the walls would become the centrepiece of Dogancay's artistic life, spanning more than seventy years. Dogancay would say in 1983, "I doubt I ever would have become so obsessed with walls if I hadn't come to New York." (The artist cited in: Roy Moser, Ed. Dogancay, New York 1986, p. 39).

His Walls Series was followed by the Doors, Ribbons, Conies, Double Realism, Grego's Walls and others; however, Ribbons held an extremely unique position among all of his series as it marked a change in the source of his subject matter. In his earlier works, Dogancay aspired to express an outer message created by anonymous writers on walls, documenting the histories of other cultures. With Ribbons, he started to look in himself and draw ideas from his own cultural roots, most importantly the calligraphic art forms. His Eastern background and Western life would come together to create this striking new series.

"Dogancay comes from a culture where writing on the wall of the mosque was traditionally a revelation of the existence of God. Writing from the Qu'ran, spread upon the walls, proclaimed eternal truth..." (Roy Moser, Ed. Dogancay, New York 1986, p. 56).  The ribbons painted in bright colours recall these traditional calligraphic forms that shaped Islamic art. Stylised and graphic strips of bands reminiscent of the letters of the Arabic alphabet are painted without context or meaning, solely as abstract visual images. The traditions of the East where calligraphers used script to depict images of animals, plants and objects are employed by the artist in the present work, telling a story of the past and the presence on a whispering wall...

First working with white and black backgrounds for his Ribbons Series, Dogancay started to experiment with other colours on which the shadows could be illustrated more dramatically and stand out more strongly. The vibrant, rich blue background of Whispering Wall II, which the artist used on a limited number of works, is in a beautiful contrast with the bright red, orange and yellow ribbons which were always painted white on the other side. Masterfully illustrated, the artist creates an illusion with light to depict the shadows creeping in from the left hand side of the painting.

Light, colour, shadow and depth, concepts which troubled artists throughout history were mastered by Dogancay whose compositions were striking, powerful and mesmerizing. Dr. Necmi Sonmez would emphasize the significance of this series as; "Ribbons should be considered as an important artistic stage Dogancay has reached after lifelong research and practice." (Exhibition Catalogue, Istanbul, Burhan Dogancay Retrospektif, 2001, p. 93) Hence, It comes as no surprise that his paintings are in the collections of leading art museums around the world including the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum in New York and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

This incredibly rare work by Dogancay has been in the same American collection since 1985. It is arguably one of the most important works by this artist to come to public auction, and is undeniably of museum quality.

Contemporary Art/ Turkish