Yücel Dönmez
Skip Navigation Links
New Projects
Project Archive

Yücel Dönmez Biography                 

Yücel Dönmez’s place in Turkish and American Art History:
Yücel Dönmez has been continuing his artistic work in Chicago since 1980. He has staged many exhibitions both in Turkey and in the States and was accepted into one of the most influential art encyclopaedias to shape American art history, ‘Who is Who in American Art’ in 2000. His inclusion in the ‘Biographical Encyclopaedia of American Painters, Sculptors and Engravers of the U.S.’ in 2002, followed by the ‘Devonport’s Art Reference’ encyclopaedia, Dönmez has secured a permanent place in American art history. Yücel Dönmez also appears among the 63 artists from Chicago to have entered the renowned art reference book, ‘Art Diary International’, published every year by the famous ‘Flash Art’ magazine in Italy.
2003 ‘Who is Who in American Art’ prize plaquette
Dönmez has been recognised by American art critics (Alan Artner, Chicago Tribune, 1989) as an artist who has shed new light upon the art of painting with his self-developed painting techniques. He obtained ‘The National Medal of Art’ one of the most important awards in the United States in 1995, for his 11-year-long dedication to bringing art to education working with Urban Gateways.
Other awards Yücel Dönmez has been given include the following:
1983 ‘Urban Gateways Award for Painting’. 11 of Dönmez’ paintings were given prizes and added to the art collection of 11 schools who have been working with the Organisation for over 25 years. 
1993 ‘Outdoor Art Award’. Dönmez was given the ‘Outdoor Art Award’ for his ‘snow painting’ project in today’s Millennium Park in Chicago, sponsored by five different organisations.
1987 ‘Chicago’s Very Own’. Dönmez appeared four times on the main news of one of America’s national television channels, WGN. He received the prestigious ‘Chicago’s Very Own’ status in 1987 (other winners of the award in later years included Michael Jordan).
1987 The Art Institute of Chicago. During the 1987 Sultan Süleyman exhibition, Dönmez was awarded the chance to display his artwork at the ‘Junior Museum’, sponsored by the Art Institute of Chicago, one of the three biggest museums in the US. He was awarded this by the assessment committee of the museum.
1984 Illinois State Ethnic Heritage Commission Award was given to Dönmez as the representative of Turkish painting.
Corporate Work
Yücel Dönmez’ 12 square metre-large acrylic painting on metal on show in the Taksim-Kabataş funicular station, is the first work of a transportable contemporary art to be placed in a public space in Turkey.  Also in the station is a 7 square metre contemporary painting under glass, which Dönmez produced using his own unique techniques, known as the biggest under-glass painting in the world.
The artist has also painted a winch measuring 4.5 metres in diameter and forming the pulley system for the funicular wagon in Taksim. Encased in a special glass box, this giant cog is the first time a functioning motor has been turned into a piece of conceptual art.
Again in the Taksim-Kabataş station, Dönmez has placed a digital interpretation of Istanbul above the entrance of the funicular wagon, measuring five square metres.
Yücel Dönmez also has 3 pieces of artwork on permanent display in the Golden Hall at the Palace of the Federation of Northern Iraq. Dönmez’ unique paintings for the palace, designed by a Turkish firm, were selected by a committee of art experts.
One of Dönmez’ paintings is also displayed at the Chicago Foreign Media Bureau lounge.
Some of Yücel Dönmez’ most important exhibitions:
1974 - Chicago Art Fair (Navy Pier) individual exhibition
1975 - Chicago Main Public Library art gallery, individual statue exhibition
1975 - Galeri Veb, Istanbul, individual exhibition
1981 - Chiago State University Gallery, individual exhibition
1981 - Truman College, individual exhibition.
1987 - The Art Institute of Chicago, individual museum exhibition
1987 - New York Turkish House Gallery, individual exhibition
1987 - Mediterranean Art Festival, U.S -Miami and Bocoraton individual exhibitions (Dönmez was sent to the Mediterranean Art Festival by the Turkish Ministry of Culture as a representative of Contemporary Turkish Art)
1988 - Illinois State Fair- Senior Cente, individual exhibition
1989 - Chicago Triangle Gallery, individual exhibition
1990 - Chicago Montana Moon Gallery, individual exhibition
1990 - Dadyados Gallery, Istanbul, individual exhibition
1990 - Istanbul Art Fair, Dadyados Gallery, two individual exhibitions
1990 - Topkapı Palace Gallery, individual exhibition (This exhibition was named the first exhibition of contemporary art in the museum, making headlines across the press including in Hürriyet Newspaper.
2001 - Berlin International Electronics Fair, digital installation exhibition (sponsored by Vestel; the digital installations were shown on a plasma screen throughout the fair)
1992 - Gallery2000Chicago, individual exhibition
1993 - Gallery2000Chicago, installation exhibition
1994 - Gallery2000Chicago- painting and metal statue exhibition
1998 - Antik Art Gallery, Istanbul, individual exhibition
1999 - Chicago University – Digital art exhibition
2000 - Ohio-US Art Festival, individual exhibition
2000 - Tüyap Art Fair, Istanbul - Gallery2000Chicago exhibition
2001 - Gallery2000Chicago, alternative Gallery, individual exhibition
2001 - Zerdüşt Gallery, Ankara, individual canvas and digital art exhibition
2002 - Art Istanbul, Gallery2000Chicago exhibition
2003 - Gallery2000Chicago, Alternative Gallery Exhibition
2005 - Antik Art Gallery, Istanbul
Collections including Dönmez paintings
  • Former American Secretary of State, Alexander Haig Collection
  • Former CBS network ‘Good Morning America’ presenter, Bill Kurtis, producer on PBS television
  • James Irwin, Apollo 15 Astronaut, Third American Astronaut to walk on the moon
  • Former Illinois Governor Jim Thompson
  • Former Illinois Governor Jim Edgar
  • Former Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yılmaz
  • Fuji Film Istanbul       
  • Bahçeşehir University, Istanbul
  • Vestel Electronics- Manisa
  • Chicago City Council
Individual Artistic Endeavours
1975 - Yücel Dönmez performed an art installation of 11 rock sculptures in the Altıparmak Mountains Guartad Valley (this work was reported by Milliyet Newspaper Journalist Zeynep Oral, and is the first artistic endeavour to fit under the title of installation art). Dönmez exhibited 11 rock sculptures in harmony in the Guartad Valley,  and revealed that he had created an art installation. In this way, it could be said that installation art found its origins in Turkey. However, as a result of lack of interest in art at the time, Dönmez’ innovative style was overlooked, and it was in the 1990s that installation art came to be known as a Western invention.
1975 – Yücel Dönmez’ snow painting in the Turkish mountain Uludağ in Bursa was a winter version of installation art. They were reported and broadcast on Neslihan Gence’s television programme, ‘Sanat Çevresi’ (Art Circle) on Turkish state television channel, TRT.
1976 – Snow painting in the Hınıs Gorges of Erzurum’s Palandöken Mountains, Turkey.
1987 – Dönmez was invited to come to Turkey by the Ministry of Culture and realized another snow painting in Ulud Mountain. The televised report in English by the TRT television network was sold to Eurovision, enabling it to be broadcast across many television channels across Europe. During the same period, the Ministry of Culture acquainted foreign groups with Dönmez’ work through the broadcasting of television interviews with Dönmez made in the US, showing Turkey’s contribution to contemporary art.
1993 – The snow painting in Chicago Grand Park (today’s Millennium Park) with the involvement of American CBS was broadcast by the Associated Press.
1996 – Sponsored by Fuji Film Istanbul, Dönmez realised a 15 thousand square metre snow painting near the summit of Uludağ mountain in Turkey.
2000 – A 45 square metre painting with primary school children in Middletown city in the US state of Ohio. This endeavour was recognised as the world’s biggest painting to be created by children aged 9-11 at the Ohio Art Festival.
Dönmez in the media
Various newspapers including the Denver Post, Minnesota Pioner Press, Chicago Tribune, The News Sun, Chicago’s Monthly Consumer Bulletin, and the Times have published extensive reviews of Yücel Dönmez work. Dönmez’ various artistic endeavours have also appeared on the television channels, CNN, CBS,WGN, NBC and ABC.
In addition to this, catalogues of Dönmez’ work have been published.
Comments on Dönmez’ painting:
American critics describe Dönmez, with his unique painting technique incorporating traditional Turkish arts such as marbling, Ottoman calligraphy and ornamentation, as “Someone who has developed a contemporary painting style from his own culture, and made the contemporary art world accept and cherish this novel style”.
Dönmez’ latest artistic endeavours have amazed Turkish art critics as well as their American counterparts. Art critic Alan Artner of the Chicago Tribune has said of Dönmez art, “Just as I cannot see resemblance to another master artist’s style when I look at Kandinsky and Klee’s work, I cannot see another’s work or any western influence when I look at Yücel Dönmez’s paintings. What he has created blending his own culture with the West’s contemporary synthesis is an innovative addition to the world of contemporary fine art.”
Margaret Sheridan described Dönmez’ style in a report in the Chicago Tribune as, “An incredible painting style”, also mentioning the installation art he performed in the 1970s. 
A first in under-glass paintings
Yücel Dönmez’ original under-glass painting technique, developed from traditional under-glass paintings, is accepted worldwide as a first with its unique style. Putting across a completely contemporary style of painting, Dönmez’ under-glass paintings have, in earning their place in important art collections in the US, enabled yet another form of Turkish art to be exported overseas.
Further information
Yücel Dönmez is continuing his artistic work between his studios in Chicago and Istanbul. Set on spending at least six months of the year in Turkey, Dönmez states that he will also be taking part in projects throughout Europe with his work.