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 Turkish Gençlerbirliği soccer team. In 1950, he received a law degree from the University of Ankara. While enrolled at the University of Paris in 1953 from where he obtained a doctorate degree in economics, he attended from 1950 until 1955 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. 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. However, Dogançay also lived and worked in Istanbul and Turgutreis, Turkey. He died on 16 January 2013, in Istanbul.
Ab initio, Dogançay was 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 social, political and economic changes, frequently withstanding the assault of the elements and the markings left by people.
In the mid-1970s, Dogançay embarked on what he saw then as his secondary project: photographing urban walls all over the globe. Over time, this project gained importance as well as content and after four decades now encompasses over 100 countries. These photographs 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. 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 walls in different series.
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 Walls of Alexander consist of clean paper strips and their calligraphy|calligraphically-shaped shadows. This series later gave rise to aluminum composite material shadow sculptures and Aubusson Tapestries.
In November 2009, one of Dogançay's paintings, Mavi Senfoni (Blue Symphony), was sold to Murat Ülker for US$1,700,000 in an auction in Istanbul, Turkey. 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. The previous owner of the painting had bought it in 1995 for US$50,000 at an exhibition. 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.
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. Upon its opening the Doğançay Museum in Istanbul's Beyoğlu district has been considered to be Turkey's first contemporary art museum.
Doğançay's works is in the collection 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, The Israel Museum in Jerusalem and The State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg.
- 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
- 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