His family moved from Sivas to Istanbul. His father Garabet Zabunyan was a butcher, and his mother Duru Zabunyan was a housewife. Sarkis studied at the St. Michel French High School and got his degree from Mimar Sinan University. He married an Ankara University philosophy student, Istanbul-born Işıl Akyüz, in the early 1960s. He decided to use his Christian name Sarkis in his professional artistic life, and moved to Paris, France in 1962 after winning the Paris Young Artists' Biennial Prize.
One of the leading conceptual artists, Sarkis has returned to his native Turkey many times since the 1980s to exhibit his work. He has participated in the Istanbul Biennial. He was the curator of the last ever Fureya Koral exhibition when ceramic artistKoral was still alive. A professor at Strasbourg Beaux Arts, Sarkis has trained young Turkish artists including Su Yucel and Serhat Kiraz. The last Sarkis show in Turkey was in May 2005, at the Akbank Art Gallery in Istanbul. The gallery devoted all of its six floors to the Sarkis, A Milestoneexhibition which was curated by Ali Akay. Apart from Turkey and France, Sarkis has exhibited his work in over three dozen countries, including theUSA, Germany, India, Australia, China, Japan,Mexico and Brazil. Sarkis's motto is "Anılarım Vatanımdır" (My Memories are My Country).