18 March 2015, 14:34
131487 |

Launch of Armenian Pop-Up Gallery Sparks Conversations About Curation

When Anna Gargarian first had the idea for a pop-up art gallery in Yerevan, she was met with skepticism. Pop Up Galleries are a fairly recent trend in pop culture, and are known for their spontaneous and unconventional nature and as of yet, have no precedent in Armenia and beg the question: What is the future direction of contemporary gallery art and curation in Armenia?

Since arriving in Armenia this summer, the young art curator says one of her main goals has been to challenge certain misconceptions about art that exist in Armenia’s capital. Contemporary art in Armenia suffers from numerous obstacles, including a severe lack of gallery space, an absence of support structures for artists, and close-mindedness about the role of art in society and its potential for social change. While the country's street art scene appears to be gathering force, as one might notice in this article's cover photo (or check out this article, or this one), gallery art culture appears to be lagging significantly behind. Perhaps the most noticeable obstacle Gargarian identified was the notion that, aesthetically,  “more is more.”

“It’s not just about cramming a wall full of as many pieces as you can,” she told ImYerevan, “People don’t realize that when there’s too much information, you stop seeing. It’s like reading a document with no margins, paragraphs, or appropriate spacing--just straight text. Can you imagine how exhausting that would be?”

HAYP took place on an entire floor of an office building called Elite Plaza in Yerevan. HAYP took place on an entire floor of an office building called Elite Plaza in Yerevan.

Gargarian’s efforts to counter these misconceptions have taken the form of Armenia’s first pop-up gallery, HAYP. The debut exhibition in December, themed “Frame of Mind: Context and Perspective,” was an effort to bring a new perspective into Armenia’s art mix and made it quite clear that while future pop-ups may appear in unexpected places, we are by no means to expect they will be served to us unprepared.

Some pieces adhered more overtly to the theme of the exhibition than others, which asked artists to investigate the diversity of the perceptual “frames” we maintain in our daily lives. Aramazt Kalayjian, for example, submitted an installation piece that comprised of six suspended Soviet-era windows, each of which contained an excerpt from a poem by Iranian philosopher, Rumi.

A shot of Aramazt Kalayjian’s HAYP submission, which required every viewer to find their own specific view point, or perspective, at which the poem inscribed on the set of windows made sense to them. A shot of Aramazt Kalayjian’s HAYP submission, which required every viewer to find their own specific view point, or perspective, at which the poem inscribed on the set of windows made sense to them.

World renown photographer and Yerevan's own Karén Mirzoyan provided another example of distorted perception, where the viewer’s understanding of chronology in the artist’s method is the first aspect to be challenged. What initially looks like a photograph of an illustrated photograph is actually a picture taken of the doodles Mirzoyan had drawn directly onto windowpanes in various cities. In the work below, his sketches cleverly incorporate even the colors resulting from light reflections in the photographer’s hotel room in Istanbul. All of this, however, combines to form what Mirzoyan considers a historic photograph, stating matter-of-factly that, “If one day there is an intergalactic war, then I would have been the first to photograph it.”

An up-close picture of one of Karén Mirzoyan’s pieces from HAYP, called “Istanbul”An up-close picture of one of Karén Mirzoyan’s pieces from HAYP, called “Istanbul”. Photo credit: Karén Mirzoyan

Lebanese-Armenian graphic designer, Peno Mishoyan, submitted a controversial, new take on the Armenian alphabet. It was self-proclaimed “graphic experiment based on a cultural observation,” which humorously interpreted the Armenian identity based on two unique traits: physical appearance and its alphabet.

Perhaps HAYPS cheekiest piece on exhibit was Peno Mirzoyan’s modern reinterpretation of the Armenian alphabet. Perhaps HAYPS cheekiest piece on exhibit was Peno Mirzoyan’s modern reinterpretation of the Armenian alphabet.

Other artists included Scott Willis, a Scottish video artist and veteran of Pop Ups who was the only contributor with zero relationship to Armenia; husband-wife duo Ararat Minasyan, whose previous work has included hyper-realistic representations of Yerevan’s abandoned and everyday structures, paired with wife Lilit Umedyan; photographers David Galstyan and Sharis Garabedyan, and young, Yerevan-based painter Lilit Markosian, whose professional career was launched that evening alongside the HAYP project.

HAYP is an experiment, Gargarian emphasized, and it’s one that she hopes will test the waters for future efforts. She recalls, “Many people didn’t even realize HAYP’s works were for sale. While our main goal is not to sell art, supporting artists in the community definitely is,” she continued, “and you can’t ignore the commercial aspect, both for the artist and for HAYP as a sustainable business model.”

The next happening is expected in April, the theme of which is ANKAPital (a play off the word ankap, meaning “random” or "disconnected" in Armenian). Through the next exhibit, Gargarian intends to “highlight the dynamic, creative, and innovative buzz that is typical of large metropolis and that is the backdrop for united disunity.”

The main criticism of HAYP, so far, has been that there “weren’t enough works on the wall; there was too much empty space.” As it stands, in Armenia’s contemporary art scene, few realize the value of curation, but it’s Gargarian’s hope that as HAYP’s happenings become more frequent, it will be the start of a necessary and, at times, difficult, conversation about curation in our city. 

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