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Marine Martirosyan

56th Venice Biennale: Diaspora-Armenian Artists to be Featured at Armenian Pavilion

At the invitation of Armenia’s Ministry of Culture, Adelina von Fürstenberg (née Cüberyan) will curate the Armenia’s pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale, to take place from May 9 to November 22 of this year.

Armenia’s pavilion will be handed over to Armenian artists residing outside of Armenia, in a symbolic gesture to this year’s centennial of the 1915 Genocide. Adelina told Hetq that the post is a tremendous honor for her.

In 1993, for the 45th Biennale, she co-curated the Italian Pavilion and the Russian Pavilion. On this occasion, the international Jury of the Biennale awarded her a prize for her direction of Le Magasin - Centre National d'Art Contemporain and her work at the School of Curators.

Armenia’s pavilion this year will be located on the island of St. Lazzaro, home of the Mkhitarist Brotherhood.

“Over the past three centuries the Mkhitarist Brotherhood has contributed to preserving our unique cultural legacy which might otherwise have been lost. The role of the brotherhood in this regard is well known to Armenians in Armenia and the diaspora,” said the renowned curator.

St. Lazzaro, as an exhibition space, is well known to Adelina. In 1990 she curated an exhibition of the works of Istanbul Armenian conceptual artist Sarkis Zabunian.

Adelina, the granddaughter of the Armenian architect Dikran Kalfa Cüberyan was also born in Istanbul.

In 1996 she founded Art for The World, an NGO associate to the UN Department of Public Information for the diffusion and promotion of the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights through the organization of exhibitions and events around the world.

Adelina has curated with ART for The World, at the occasion of the Venice Biennale at the Armenian Monastery of San Lazzaro, solo shows of Robert Rauschenberg (1997), Jannis Kounellis (2003) and Joseph Kosuth (2007).

The works of sixteen Armenian artists, two of which work in pairs, will be featured at St. Lazzaro.

At the behest of the Ministry of Culture, one artist from each diaspora community has been selected:  Haig Ayvazian (Lebanon), Anna Boghigian (Egypt), Hera Buyuktashchian (Turkey),
Silvina Der-Meguerditchian (Germany/Argentina), Mkhitar Garabedian (Belgium), Egaderina Kekisuan (Greece), Aram Djipilian (USA), Nina Khachadourian (Finland/USA), Melik Ohanian (France), Mikayel Ohanjanyan (Armenia) and Hrair Sarkisian (Syria).

At the 4th Thessaloniki Biennale of Contemporary Art, Adelina began to get involved in the theme of the Armenian Genocide through her work with Nigol Bezjian (Lebanon) and Rosana Palazian (Brazil).

“They were the first two artists to be invited to participate in this year’s Armenian Pavilion (to bear the title “Arménité”-MM) at the Venice Biennale. For the other fourteen, I did extensive research and visited workshops. My selection was completed when I found artists that were more closely related to my experience in contemporary art and my belief that art is also a tool to inform. I believe that artists from different horizons, with their innovative and emotional works created through various expressive mediums, are able to convey the spirit of Armenianism to wide segments of the biennale who, for the most part, overlook our culture, language, letters and history,” says Adelina.

One of the featured artists, Sarkis Zabunian, will participate in the pavilions of Armenia and Turkey.

When I asked Adelina which country invited him first, the curator said she’s curated more than ten exhibitions of his works over the past thirty years.

“I respect and love Sarkis. When he said that he had also been selected for the Turkish Pavilion, I thought that from a symbolic viewpoint it would be a great challenge to be part of these two pavilions,” Adelina said.

The curator noted that as a participant in the Turkish Pavilion Sarkis would be representing conciliation, and as a participant in the Armenian Pavilion, along with the seventeen other artists, he’d be representing Armenianism.

Adelina explained to me that the project supersedes geographical borders and that her selection of artists is an example of a trans-national collection of remnants of a shattered identity.

The curator said that when the project went public at the end of January it elicited a great deal of interest and was covered in a variety of magazine including the Artforum (USA), Artribune (Italy), Art Magazine (Germany) and Artnews (Istanbul).

Adelina is convinced that the theme of «Arménité» at the Armenian Pavillion will be well received given that it has been professionally prepared and with a sense of dedication.

“Of course, it’s a personal selection of the curator. Someone else might have made a different selection. However, I have faith in the abilities of the selected artists; in their innovative works based on personal experience and knowledge, in their ability and huge talent to transform their thoughts, memories and ideas, based on the universal language of art, into something much more,” Adelina said.