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Turkey’s graffiti artists: businessmen by day, rebels at night

Turkey’s graffiti artists have started taking their work not only to the museums and art galleries, but also to the corporate world.
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Getting an underground graffiti artist to talk on the record is not easy, even in the calm Aegean city of Izmir where police turn a blind eye to graffitists. After assurances to use only his “tag” and not to take any photos that show his face, Nconen agreed to meet at a cafe aptly called Duvar, Turkish for "wall."

“They know me here,” he told Al-Monitor, explaining that the three black-and-white murals on the walls are his. One of them is the portrait of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, done in a classical style that contrasts with the caricatural portraits or splashes of color seen in his street artwork. Nconen is a student at the Fine Arts Faculty of Dokuz Eylul University in the morning, professional graffiti artist drawing commissioned work in the afternoon and an underground graffitist at night. A year ago, at the height of the state of emergency in Turkey, he went on a painting spree in downtown Izmir with two Slovak colleagues from a group known as RCLS ("Rascals") who draw graffiti on trains and metro cars all over the world and film their work under the title "The Show Must Go On." Nconen said, “One of them was caught by the police and got deported. I managed to escape with the other one. I felt very alive then."

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