YEREVAN and BOSTON — Armenia had its first international art fair, Armenia Art Fair, from May 11 to 14 at the Yerevan Expo Center. Coinciding with a historic period of peaceful revolution in Armenia, it represented a sea change in the Armenian art world. Although the art fair format, with its combination of exhibition and market place, is well known in the United States and Europe, it is something completely new for Armenia.
Armenia Art Fair showcased the works of over 20 solo artists and 19 galleries from Armenia, the Black Sea region, Europe and the Middle East. It is the first in a projected annual series, intending to connect Armenia and international art and artists, and make Yerevan a regional hub for the arts.
The international component of the fair included three artists from Art Residence Aley, a program providing Syrian refugee artists with space and materials for their work in Lebanon, Dutch mirror-artist Philippine Vinket, and Belarussian painter Oleg Kostyuchenko. The Discovery section included a Russian art collective called 7th Contemporary Art Fair. A “Millennial Spotlight” section highlighted artists under 25 years old. The lower area of the Expo building contained a series of art works curated by Eva Khachatryan. Called Open Space, they included photographs, videos and other installations.
A series of cultural events were organized during the fair. The opening night included a musical performance by Swiss performer Christian Zehnder. The next few days included a lecture-performance by “The Slavs and Tatars” art collective courtesy of the Goethe Institute; a fashion performance inaugurating an exhibit of the paintings of Narek Barseghyan organized by the HAYP Pop Up Gallery; and a panel discussion featuring Austrian art critic and curator Georg Schoelhammer, director of the Art and Cultural Studies Laboratory Susanna Gyulamiryan and Director of the Institute for Contemporary Art Nazareth Karoyan, with moderator Dr. Randall Rhodes from the American University of Armenia.
Approximately 700 guests and 2,000 visitors were in attendance, with 10 works sold to private buyers and 5 commissioned. Visitors including prominent cultural figures, actors, politicians and even the current president of the Republic of Armenia.
At the opening, fair cofounders Nina Festekjian and Zara Ouzounian-Halpin welcomed the guests. It was a trilingual affair, with Ouzounian-Halpin speaking in Russian and Festekjian in English, with translation into Armenian. United Nations Resident Coordinator and United Nations Development Program Resident Representative for the Republic of Armenia Shombi Sharp, speaking in English with an interpreter translating into Armenian, declared that the UN is interested in this event because art is an effective tool to address global challenges and transform the world. He congratulated “the Armenia Art Fair team for creating a breakthrough — something fresh, something dynamic here in Armenia.”