Arts & Culture special pullout section - Armenian Reporter

Arts & Culture special pullout section - Armenian Reporter

November 14, 2009



the armenian



Gerard L. Cafesjian, president of the Cafesjian Family Foundation, and his wife Cleo cut a ribbon to mark the opening of the Cafesjian Center for the Arts. With them are Megan Doyle (applauding), a member of

the board of the foundation, and Michael De Marsche, executive director of the center. Yerevan, November 8, 2009. Photo: Mkhitar Khachatryan.

Cafesjian Center for the Arts

opens in Yerevan

A history of the Cascade

The building is now the Cafesjian

Center for the Arts has been

a prominent landmark in the

city of Yerevan for many years.

Knowns as “The Cascade,” the

complex was originally conceived

by the architect Alexander

Tamanyan (1878–1936), who

drew up the master plan for the

city. Tamanyan desired to connect

the northern and central

parts of Yerevan – the historic

residential and cultural centers

of the city – with a vast green

area of waterfalls and gardens,

cascading down one of the city’s

highest promontories. Unfortunately,

the plan remained largely

forgotten until the late 1970s,

when Yerevan’s Chief Architect

Jim Torosyan revived the plan.

Torosyan’s conception of the

Cascade included Tamanyan’s

original plan but incorporated

new ideas that included a monumental

exterior stairway, a long

indoor shaft containing a series

of escalators, and an intricate

network of halls, courtyards,

and outdoor gardens embellished

with numerous works of

sculpture bearing references to

Armenia’s rich history and cultural


Construction of Torosyan’s design

of the Cascade was launched

by the Soviets in the 1980s but

was abandoned after the Armenian

earthquake of 1988 and the

breakup of the Soviet Union in

1991. With independent rule

and the transition to democracy,

Armenia entered a period

of severe economic hardship,

and the Cascade remained a neglected

relic of the Soviet era for

more than a decade. Gerard L.

Cafesjian, working with the City

of Yerevan and the government

of the Republic of Armenia, initiated

its recent revitalization

in 2002. The project took over

seven years to complete. During

that time virtually every aspect

of the monument was renovated

and much of it completely

reconstituted into a center for

the arts, bearing the name of its

principal benefactor. f

A panoramic view

of Yerevan and

Mount Ararat

from the top of

the Cafesjian

Center of the

Arts. Below

the Cascade is

the Cafesjian

Sculpture Garden

at Tamanyan

Park, and beyond

that is the Opera.

Photo: Mkhitar


Swarovski Gallery

Special Events Auditorium

Eagle Hall

Eagle Garden Hall

Sasuntsi Davit Hall

Sasuntsi Davit Garden Hall

Khanjyan Hall

Visitor Center

Gallery One

The Cafesjian Center for the Arts. The formal gardens appear on every level. Photo: Mkhitar Khachatryan.


C2 Armenian Reporter Arts & Culture | November 14, 2009

Cafesjian Center for the Arts opens in Yerevan

A world-class

museum in the heart

of Yerevan

“Homeland and

diaspora can

accomplish anything


by Vincent Lima

with Armine Amiryan

YEREVAN – In the heart of

Armenia’s capital city, on the

park leading to the towering

Cascade Complex, and behind

the Cascade’s mask of white

travertine, a new and wondrous

world has been created.

On Saturday and Sunday, November

7 and 8, this world was

unveiled in the presence of the

benefactor who gave it to Armenia,

Gerard L. Cafesjian,

and his wife Cleo.

The new world is the Cafesjian

Center for the Arts. Attending

the Grand Opening were

President Serge Sargsyan, the

Catholicos of All Armenians,

Karekin II, and tens of thousands

of Yerevan residents and

their guests.

“For all these years we have

heard of Arshile Gorky, and

for the first time we have the

chance to see his work and

come into contact with it,” a

resident of the neighborhood

said. On display in the Eagle

gallery are 16 drawings and 7

paintings by Gorky, a monumental

presence in American

twentieth-century art.

On Sunday morning, in conjunction

with the inauguration

of the Libenský Brychtová exhibition

“For Armenia,” Yaroslava

Brychtová signed posters

and copies of a book dedicated

to the innovative glass work

she has done over the decades

in collaboration with her late

husband Stanislav Libenský.

The exhibition is housed in the

Sasuntsi Davit Hall.

“Raised our standards”

In the hall, scores of art lovers

– schoolchildren and art critics

alike – spoke to Ms. Brychtová

about the process of creating

their glass art, the nature of her

collaboration with her husband,

their relationship with Armenia,

and meanings to be found in

their abstract work.

“This center has raised our

standards and our expectations,”

Karen Aghamyan, the

president of the Artists Union

of Armenia, said. He added that

Armenians will no longer settle

for anything less. “We have a

new center that is contemporary

and meets international

standards. It is a great gift for


Cynthia Lennon and Pattie

Boyd, former wives of

the Beatles John Lennon and

George Harrison, met for

the first time in decades and

shared a stage for the first

time ever. They spoke about

their husbands’ extraordinary

lives and music. On the

stage of the Special Events

Auditorium, Dr. Michael De

Marsche, executive director

of the center, interviewed the

celebrities. After the interview,

Ms. Lennon signed copies

of her book, John, and Ms.

Boyd – who was also married

to blues and rock legend Eric

Clapton – signed copies of her

book Wonderful Today.

In the Sasuntsi Davit Garden

Hall, an exhibit of Ms. Boyd’s

photographs, “Pattie Boyd: Yesterday

and Today,” is on display

through the end of January.

The exhibition lends an

intimate view into the lives of

George Harrison, Eric Clapton,

the Beatles, and Ms. Boyd herself.

This unique body of photographs,

representing 40 years

of work, has garnered attention

from art critics internationally,

and much of it has toured two


Vivid colors

“Very interesting works are on

display,” 21-year-old Goharik

Harutyunan said. “This is no

ordinary cultural center. It is a

new look, a new style. Our cultural

life needed a change, and

that has come true.”

In Khanjyan Hall, President

Serge Sargsyan and Catholicos

Karekin II unveiled Grigor

Khanjyans’ restored triptych

mural. Also present was the late


Serge Sargsyan,

center, arrives

at the Cafesjian

Center for the

Arts, along

with Catholicos

Karekin II. He

is greeted

by Gerard L.

Cafesjian. On

the left, behind

the president,

is Diaspora





November 8,

2009. Photos:



artist’s daughter Seda Khanjyan.

The triptych tells the story

of Armenia through independence

in vivid colors. Familiar

faces from Armenian history

populate the panels.

Gor Muradyan, 35, said,

“The works of various masters

broaden our horizons. We must

maintain the cleanliness of the

Cascade, its beauty, like a sacred

site. People who come here

take something valuable away

with them, something that will

stay with them forever.”

In the same hall on Sunday,

Michael Kimmelman, the

chief art critic of the New York

Times, delivered a lecture on

his Pulitzer Prize–nominated

book The Accidental Masterpiece:

On the Art of Life and Vice

Versa. He suggested that art

is created not just by the artist,

but also by the spectator,

who helps define and create it

through his or her own perception,

experience, sensitivity,

and imagination.

A great achievement

Hranush Hakobyan, the diaspora

minister, was very pleased

with what she saw. “I am happy

that this museum is opening

in Yerevan, where it can greatly

help the development of our

country’s tourism industry. It

is the best example of Armeniadiaspora


A long line had formed outside

the Eagle Garden Hall,

where “In the Mind of the Collector”

was on display. On view

is an eclectic collection ranging

from a 28-foot model of a

ship upon which Mr. Cafesjian

served in the Pacific during

World War II, to a rare 1906

Model N Ford Runabout, and

a working model of a Wabash

steam locomotive.

“This is a great achievement

for Mr. Cafesjian and for all

those who have worked on this

project,” said Joseph Pennington,

the deputy chief of

mission at the U.S. Embassy in

Yerevan. “A great deal of work

has gone into this great world

of art, which can be a source of

pride. I saw names here that I

have only seen in the leading

museums of the world. The Cafesjian

Center for the Arts is going

to be one of Yerevan’s greatest


At the top level of the Cascade,

next to a room dedicated to

Swarovski Light Socks – mesh

socks filled with hundreds of

crystals with a light buried

among them – is the Special

Events Auditorium. Here, on

Saturday night, President Sargsyan,

the Catholicos, Mr. Cafesjian,

and guests listened to jazz

as they enjoyed a spectacular

view of the Cafesjian Sculpture

Garden at Tamanyan Park and

nighttime Yerevan.

In remarks delivered on

his behalf, Mr. Cafesjian said

“the museum represents his

commitment to homeland,

his faith in Armenia’s future

as a beacon and haven for all

Armenians, his vision that

Yerevan can and should present

itself to the world as a center of

excellence in all facets of human

endeavor – including the arts

– and his belief that homeland

and diaspora can accomplish

anything together.” f.

Just outside and below the Special Events Auditorium, sculptures of three divers grace a pool.

The relatively small Eagle Garden Hall holds a popular exhibition.

Armenian Reporter Arts & Culture | November 14, 2009


When glass has a mind of its own

The art of Libenský

Brychtová in


by Maria Titizian and

Gregory Lima

YEREVAN – Jaroslava Brychtová,

a Czech glass artist and

sculptor, was in Yerevan this

week to take part in the opening

of the Cafesjian Center for

the Arts. Ms. Brychtová and her

late husband Stanislav Libenský

emerged in the middle of

the last century as leaders in

the world of contemporary glass

art. The innovative couple elevated

glass to the level of major

architectural sculptures and

influenced generations of glass

makers around the world.

Libenský Brychtová began experimenting

with the glass process

early in their career. They

developed new approaches that

eventually turned the world of

glass art on its head.

Jean Paul Sartre is said to

have remarked that the achievement

of Calder was to no longer

merely suggest movement but

to capture it. The achievement

of Libenský Brychtová, it has

been noted, is to no longer suggest

light but to capture it. By

capturing light, the pair freed

its expressive capabilities.

Their work was in tune with

contemporary explorations in

art, particularly in what has

been called “the liberating gesture

of nonfigurative art,” as

they brought glass into the

mainstream of art.

Libenský Brychtová For


The current exhibit at the Cafesjian

Center for the Arts

showcases only a fraction of Gerard

L. Cafesjian’s collection of

Libenský Brychtová. When this

particular exhibit was being designed,

Ms. Brychtová requested

that a stone pedestal be constructed

on the east wall to hold

an ancient Armenian khachkar,

or stone cross, Otto Theuer,

curator of the Cafesjian Collection,

explained. She wanted

people to understand the spiritual

connection between their

art and the monumental quality

of the khachkar. She noted that

the khachkar is a form of sculpting

that has deep meaning and

roots to which most Armenians

could relate.

There is no khachkar in the

exhibit hall at present, but

the artist hopes that eventually

an appropriate one will be

exhibited in conjunction with

her work.

Of the more than 100 pieces

by the couple in the Cafesjian

Collection, only eight are on display

today at the center. In the

future, other shows will exhibit

the larger pieces that are in the

collection. For example, there is

a sculpture called, Flower, from

the 1980s, which is almost nine

feet tall and is a monumental

piece of art made of double layers

of colorless glass.

Libenský was an influential

teacher. Asked whether his

students were represented at

the center, Ms. Brychtová said,

“There are good sculptures there,

from [the American artist Dale]

Chihuly.” The work of one of

Libenský’s students, “Table for

the Resting,” and the work of

three other students are also

part of the collection. “My husband

taught his whole life. He

came from a school back home

that taught techniques of casting

large works and melting

them into a mold,” the sculptor


Light that not only

illuminates but


“The light in Yerevan is not normal,”

Ms. Brychtová exclaimed.

Mr. Theuer interjected that

when Ms. Brychtová saw her

glass artwork for the first time

on display in Yerevan in the

exhibition hall of the Cafesjian

Center for the Arts, there

was something different about

it. “The light in Yerevan has

changed the color of the glass.

She has seen the exhibit three

or four times already and each

time the light has been different,”

Mr. Theuer said. “It must

be the height; this city is like

a crescent; depending on what

the atmosphere is, the quality

of light is changing. Today, for

example, it was a very soft light

because there was some haze

over the city that affected how

the light penetrated through

the frosted glass and then into

the sculpture itself.”

Particularly, Green Eye of the

Pyramid and Horizon seemed

to be aglow in this newfound

light of Yerevan. “The Horizon

sculpture especially had a really

rich red glow, which we’ve never

seen before,” he explained. “So,

you can see it again and again

and again and each time it will

look different.”

There is something that is

thrilling about glass sculptures,

especially because their interior

spaces change constantly with

the quality of light. “A solid

three-dimensional sculpture

changes the space that you perceive,

but a glass sculpture creates

inner spaces that are not

there but that you perceive to

be there,” the curator told us.

Inner and outer space

The concave and the convex

can be joined by transparency,

creating an active relationship

between inner and outer space.

Continued on page C5 m

Left: Jaroslava


with Gerard

L. Cafesjian.

Photo: Mkhitar


Top right:

Horizon. Right:

Vacant Throne

and Burning

Throne. Bottom:

Space T and

Horizon in the


Photos: Grigor




C4 Armenian Reporter Arts & Culture | November 14, 2009

When glass has a mind of its own

n Continued from page C4

Moreover, glass sculpture, as

was noted, can create an inner

space that does not exist outside

of its capture and modulation

of light. The creative play

between outer form and inner

space is one of the innovative

features of their art.

One of the more popular

Libenský Brychtová sculptures,

the 3V column, showcases the

prismatic effect of glass and the

quality of light crystal. You can

see yourself in this sculpture.

Depending on where you are

standing, you might only see

slants, but if you move around

to the right side, you will see

the V for victory. It plays with

the optical qualities of glass.

The couple began creating the

3V sculpture in 1989, as a celebration

for the Czech Republic’s

newfound freedom. It was

completed in 1997. The works

by Libenský Brychtová typically

have two dates – the first

date is when the design was

executed and the second date

is when the sculpture itself was


Their work has many powerful

themes, including political

radicalism they had always

supported. For example,

Open Window and Horizon

symbolized independence

and freedom. In 1989, with

the long-awaited velvet revolution

in Czechoslovakia, the

couple produced more weighty

symbols on different themes,

including Vacant Thrones

(1989/2005) and Burning

Thrones (1989/2005), both on

display in Yerevan; these pieces

reflected the oppressive reality

of despotic power and the

collective longing for political

change in their country.

When the site for the Cafesjian

Center for the Arts was dedicated

by Catholicos Karekin II,

the sculpture Open Window

was displayed outside on the

grounds. It was May, and during

the day it was sunny and

warm. The glass would warm

up and glow. At night, as the

temperatures dropped, it got

very cool; so Jaroslav Libenský,

the couple’s son, would

come out with blankets and

wrap the sculpture so that it

would cool down slowly and

not break. “If there are severe

weather changes, the work cannot

be displayed outdoors,” Ms.

Brychtová explained.

An innovative process

When the sculptures are being

fabricated, chunks of glass are

placed in a kiln and the temperature

is cranked up to 840

degrees centigrade. “You have

to raise the temperature of the

glass so it melts into a mold

and then they must very slowly

Libensky Brychtova, For Armenia, at the Cafesjian Center for the Arts. Photos: Grigor Hakobyan/Armenian Reporter.

Green Eye of the Pyramid.

cool the glass,” Mr. Theuer explained.

“For a sculpture the

size of Horizon, it can take up

to a whole month to cool down

the glass.”

“It can take up to six months

to cool the glass,” Ms. Brychtová


In the collaboration of the

pair, Libenský’s primary role

was that of two-dimensional

designer, with Ms. Brytchova

taking it to the third dimension,

working the design into a three

dimensional clay model.

The process is complicated

and sometimes the result includes

surprises. “Glass has a

mind of its own and whatever

comes out of that kiln, whatever

happened in there, you

can’t always control,” Otto said.

“You never know what you’ll get

when you take the mold off.”

A labor of love

And then there’s the element

or illusion of color. Their pieces

are made of a single color of

glass, but as she explained there

are many colors and hues in

each sculpture. As she creates

the piece, the thickness varies

and it is the light itself coming

through the various thicknesses

of the sculpture that give it its

multiple hues.

Creating a beautiful piece

of art through glass is a process

that requires innovation,

vision, time, patience,

and love. For their Green Eye

of the Pyramid, it took them

weeks to polish the one side

of it to allow light to penetrate

the sculpture in the way they

wanted. A great deal of precision

is required to polish and

create such pieces while working

with brittle crystal.

Part of the charm and allure

of the Cafesjian Center for the

Arts will undoubtedly be this

unprecedented collection of

glass works by Libenský Brychtová.

It is a gift not only to the

cultural and artistic community

of Armenia, but a gift to future

generations of young Armenian

artists and art lovers. It will be

an exhibition that will inspire

imaginations and illuminate the

beauty from within. f

3V Column.

Armenian Reporter Arts & Culture | November 14, 2009


Arshile Gorky, Composition, c.1946, oil on canvas. Gerard L. Cafesjian Collection.

Arshile Gorky: Selections from the Private

Collection of Gerard L. Cafesjian

Eagle Hall

An Armenian immigrant who

arrived in the United States in

1920 at the age of 15, Arshile

Gorky was once called a “hero

of Abstract Expressionism.” Unlike

his contemporaries, Gorky

possessed a demanding, methodical

approach to the earliest

stages of a work’s formation.

The many preliminary drawings

and oil sketches in this exhibition

– all from the Gerard L.

Cafesjian Collection – provide

unparalleled insight into this

neglected area of Gorky’s working

method. Emphasizing the

preparatory stages of a work’s

evolution, he resisted the subconscious

flow of ideas and subscribed

to a more traditional and

disciplined regimen. Executing

a large number of sketches that

were continuously reworked

and rearranged, Gorky rendered

complex, large-scale compositions

of cohesive design and

universal theme that continue

to be viewed as some of the finest

examples of American art at



Gohar Sarkisian, center, wife of Armenia’s prime minister, at the Arshile Gorky exhibit. Photos: Mkhitar Khachatryan.

Study for Aviation Murals (Newark Airport, South Wall), circa 1935–1936, graphite

on paper, 43 x 55 cm, Gerard L. Cafesjian Collection.

Michael De


discusses the

Arshile Gorky

exhibit with

visitors. He is

the executive

director of the

Cafesjian Center

for the Arts.

C6 Armenian Reporter Arts & Culture | November 14, 2009

Cynthia, Pattie, and the Beatles

Former wives of

John Lennon and

George Harrison in


by Maria Titizian

John Lennon and George Harrison

were two of the four Beatles,

one of the most iconic rock

groups in history. Their former

wives, Cynthia Lennon and Pattie

Boyd, were in Yerevan for the

grand opening of the Cafesjian

Center for the Arts last week.

They took part in a live interview

with Michael De Marsche,

the museum’s executive director,

in the brand-new and beautifully

appointed Special Events

Auditorium, located at the top

floor of the complex.

The first-time-ever joint appearance

of Cynthia Lennon

and Pattie Boyd, took place in

Yerevan. Arranging for that to

happen was no small feat, according

to De Marsche, who

recounted the many telephone

calls and arrangements that

the museum made to ensure

their participation at the opening.

Watching the interaction of

these two phenomenal women

on stage was like taking a trip

down memory lane.

Those in attendance at the

live interview at the Cafesjian

Center for the Arts cut across a

large swath of Armenian society,

including Armenia’s deputy

foreign minister Arman Kirakossian

who was there with his

family. Their nostalgia for the

Beatles has a deeper meaning.

The music of the Beatles was

repressed during the Soviet era

but an underground culture was

able to smuggle in and disseminate

their music in innovative

ways. Their influence was immense;

some like the last Soviet

leader Mikhail Gorbachev, would

say that the cultural, social, and

musical revolution they inspired

manifested itself years down the

road. “More than any ideology,

more than any religion, more

than Vietnam or any war or nuclear

bomb, the single most important

reason for the diffusion

of the Cold War was the Beatles,”

Mr. Gorbachev has said.

For over an hour, Cynthia

and Pattie disclosed intimate

moments they shared with

their husbands and each other,

from fame to drug abuse, to

alcoholism, and eventually to

break-ups both marital and

musical. Those turbulent early

years when the Beatles were on

the road to becoming one of the

most legendary music groups

of all times, the wives were

along for the ride. However, as

they recounted, the ride wasn’t

always smooth. Pattie Boyd

was very honest when recalling

that tumultuous time of her

life, “With a lot of help from a

psychotherapist I have learned

and am a much stronger person

now. I am thankful to be free.”

“We have survived,” Cynthia

Lennon said. “We have lost so

many people along the way.” Indeed,

Paul McCartney and Ringo

Starr are the sole surviving

members of the Beatles. John

Lennon was shot and killed in

front of his apartment building

on December 8, 1980, by Mark

David Chapman. George Harrison

died of lung cancer in his

Hollywood Hills mansion on

November 29, 2001.

Cynthia Lennon, nee Powell,

met John Lennon at the Liverpool

Art College in 1957. “We

were young and very much in

love,” she recalled. The two

married in 1962, after Cynthia

became pregnant with their

son, Julian. Lennon left her

shortly after their return from

India in 1968 to be with Yoko

Ono. In 1978, Cynthia wrote A

Twist of Lennon, which included

her own illustrations and poetry,

and a later biography on

the famous Beatle titled simply,

John in 2005.

Pattie Boyd was a model and

photographer. In the 60s she

modeled in London, New York,

and Paris and appeared on the

UK and Italian covers of Vogue.

She met George Harrison in 1964

when she was cast in The Beatles

film “A Hard Day’s Night.” She

said at the time that Harrison

was “the most beautiful man I

had ever seen.” They were married

in 1966; Paul McCartney

was the best man. They divorced

in 1974, after which Boyd married

Eric Clapton. One of the audience

members asked her how

she came to be with Clapton.

“Eric kept coming over [to the

house she shared with Harrison]

and began declaring his love

and passion for me,” she said.

“Because I was being ignored by

my husband and being young,

I found it irresistible. Maybe if

we weren’t so young, maybe we

could have made it work.”

Boyd’s book, Wonderful Today:

George Harrison, Eric Clapton

and Me, which came out

in 2007, was on the New York

Times bestseller list.

For both Cynthia and Pattie,

their fondest memories go back

to the time they were all in India

in 1968, after the Beatles

renounced drugs and became

followers of Indian mystic Maharishi

Mahesh Yogi. “It was an

idyllic, positive situation at the

foothills of the Himalayas,” said

Ms. Boyd. “I loved it there.”

“The holidays, the times we

went away together” is what

Cynthia Lennon remembers as

the best times.

“When George, John, Cynthia,

Armenian Reporter Arts & Culture | November 14, 2009

Pattie Boyd and Cynthia Lennon during their live interview at the Special Events Auditorium. Photo: German Avagyan.

and I went to Tahiti and sailed

on a boat” is what Pattie Boyd

said was her fondest memory.

They were hard-pressed to

reveal which Beatle song they

liked most. “They’re all so different.

It’s here, there, and everywhere,”

said Cynthia. “But I

think that Sergeant Pepper was

the most unbelievable album.”

Pressed to say which Beatles

song she liked most, Boyd –

who is known to be the inspiration

for some of George Harrison’s

songs – said, “It’s difficult

to say which one is my favorite,

but ‘All You Need is Love,’ is so

strong and profound.”

Someone from the audience

wanted to know if there were

any hidden messages in the

Beatles’ songs. “No, people

wanted there to be messages,

but there weren’t any,” Cynthia

assured the audience.

Questions were asked about

what Cynthia’s son, Julian Lennon,

was doing musically. Cynthia

explained that he completed

an album about a year ago,

but is still trying to get the best

deal, “hopefully by next year.”

Following the live interview,

the two women were available

for book signings and Pattie’s

exhibition of photographs was

opened to the public. Ms. Boyd

Flowers of appreciation. Photo: Mkhitar Khachatryan.

spent a few minutes speaking

with the Armenian Reporter, in

between signing her books.

She said that this was her

first visit to Armenia and to the

region in general. “After this

book signing, I can’t wait to go

out and explore the city,” she

smiled. “I want to go to Vernissage

and the museum at Republic


About the Cafesjian Center

for the Arts, she said: “I am so

blown away; I think this is the

most exciting building I have

ever seen architecturally; it is

so wonderful. I want to bring

Cleo Cafesjian

shared a few

words with Pattie

Boyd during

Boyd’s photo

exhibition and

book signing.

Photo: German


my friends from London here

next year.” She went on to explain

that the design of the

museum, the different installations

on each floor and the gardens

were “absolutely beautiful.

It’s so beautifully done and the

attention to detail is exquisite.”

Cynthia Lennon and Pattie

Boyd both seem to have have

found peace and happiness. “I

am very, very happy,” Cynthia

explained. “The one person

who has given me strength and

hope is my son and my new husband....

It’s important to still

have a sense of humor.” f


The exhibit, “In the Mind of the Collector,” includes a variety of objects not all of which fit the usual definitions of contemporary art. Photo: Mkhitar Khachatryan.

In the Mind of the Collector

Eagle Garden Hall

Throughout his life, Gerard L.

Cafesjian has indulged a passion

for collecting that encompasses

areas lying outside the

arena of contemporary art. His

varied interests are on continuous

display in an exhibition titled,

In the Mind of the Collector.

Although the objects on view

are not always strictly definable

as art, they are, without exception,

aesthetically engaging,

sometimes curious, and often

amusing, lending insight into

the man who collected them.

On view is an eclectic collection

ranging from a 28-foot model

of a ship on which Mr. Cafesjian

served in the Pacific during

World War II, to a rare 1906

Model N Ford Runabout, and

a working model of a Wabash

steam locomotive. f

A 28-foot model of a ship on which Gerard L. Cafesjian served in the Pacific during World War II. Photo: Mkhitar Khachatryan.

A 1906 Model N Ford Runabout. Photo: Mkhitar Khachatryan.

A Wabash steam locomotive. Photo: German Avagyan.

C8 Armenian Reporter Arts & Culture | November 14, 2009

The art of glass keeps the viewer guessing about light, color, and more. Photos: Mkhitar Khachatryan.

Dale Chihuly’s Persian installation. The Museum Store at the Cafesjian Center for the Arts. Some of the more eclectic pieces in the collection.

Gallery One


Karekin II with

Bagrat Sargsyan,

president of CS

Media, at Gallery

One, Nov. 7.

Armenian Reporter Arts & Culture | November 14, 2009

Selected works

from the Private

Collection of Gerard

L. Cafesjian

Highlighted in this gallery is a

large number of glass works by

many of the best-known artists

of contemporary art. Particularly

noteworthy is the Persian installation

by Dale Chihuly, one of the

most influential artists working in

the medium today. Also on exhibition

are works by an international

array of glass artists, including the

noted Czech artist Jaromir Rybak,

the Japanese Tadashi Sumi,

and the Swedish artist Bertil Vallien.

The main floor of the gallery

presents a rare opportunity to see

many of the best-known figures in

contemporary sculpture. f


Members of the late Grigor Khanjyan’s family view his restored mural, The Creation of the Armenian Alphabet; The Battle of Vardanank; and The Rebirth of Armenia. Photo: German Avagyan.

Mural by Grigor Khanjyan and Selected Works

from the Private Collection of Gerard L. Cafesjian

Khanjyan Hall

Located in Khanjyan Hall is the

monumental mural executed

by the well-known Armenian

painter Grigor Khanjyan (1926–

2000). Commissioned for the

original Soviet monument but

left unfinished at the time of

Khanjyan’s death, the three primary

scenes of the mural illustrate

important events in Armenia’s

history: The Creation of the

Armenian Alphabet; The Battle of

Vardanank; and The Rebirth of Armenia.

Khanjyan hall was completely

renovated in 2009, and

its austere, unadorned interior

embodies the reverence many

Armenians feel toward one of

their country’s artistic treasures.

Selections of glass from the Gerard

L. Cafesjian Collection are

on continuous exhibition on the

east wall of the hall. f

Bagrat Sargsyan, left, President Serge Sargsyan, and Karekin II. Mkhitar Khachatryan.

Prior to the unveiling of Grigor Khanjyan’s restored mural. Mkhitar Khachatryan.

C10 Armenian Reporter Arts & Culture | November 14, 2009

Cafesjian Sculpture Garden

Tamanyan Park

The Cafesjian Sculpture Garden

is located at the base of the Cascade,

and presents one of the

finest collections of monumental

sculpture found anywhere in

the world. The garden’s unobstructed

walkways, long vistas,

and formal plantings have been

specially designed to provide a

modern setting for large-scale

sculpture by such internationally

recognized figures as Fernando

Botero, Lynn Chadwick, Jaume

Plensa, and Barry Flanagan. f

Prancing horse by Martin Lowe. Photo: Eric Stepanian.

Jaume Plensa’s Alphabet Man. Photo: Eric Stepanian.

Barry Flanagan’s Hare on Bell. Photo: Eric Stepanian.

Fernando Botero’s Cat. Photo: Eric Stepanian.

The Cafesjian Sculpture Garden. Photo: Grigor Hakobyan/Armenian Reporter.

Armenian Reporter Arts & Culture | November 14, 2009


“Madison Avenue” on an escalator

by Gregory Lima

YEREVAN – When Yerevan’s

new Cafesjian Center for the

Arts was still more a diagram

than a reality, and taking one

escalator after another, moving

level by level to the high point

over the city while wondering

what Gerard Cafesjian was

attempting to achieve here, it

seemed what he sought was a

Madison Avenue on an escalator,

a traffic-busy, elegant avenue of

top-notch art galleries.

The galleries are now open,

and with them much more. A

popular, open space has been

re-created to become attractive

as a center to an unusually wide

public. It now invites active participation

in an expanding variety

of the arts at no, or little cost,

and at various levels of interest,

including just strolling by in the

fragrance of the flowers and the

sound of the splashing water.

The gallery spaces may also

serve as lecture halls, becoming,

as in the opening days,

available for discourse on fresh

approaches to the arts, or introductions

to cross-cultural

celebrities. They also may serve

as concert salons and film discussion

theaters, while each of

the many levels of the Cascade

structure offers continued opportunities

to grow the size of

the sculpture park.

When one thinks of creative

further use for the many related

outdoor spaces, they lend

themselves to competition to

create winning designs among

artists and artisans for bold,

experimental, organic compositions

with local materials in

each level’s own garden, and if

there is a need to create further

excitement, they can serve as

multiple stages for new concepts

in performance art.

With the opening days came

the first of promised formal

discourses on art in our times.

Michael Kimmelman, the chief

art critic of the New York Times,

holder of one of the most influential

and prestigious jobs in

the art world, was to give a talk

in English. Tickets were quickly

sold out and he would talk before

a full house.

A graceful writer deeply

grounded in his chosen subject

and with persuasive eloquence

at the podium, he talked of

meaningful art and its relationship

to culture. At the packed

Khanjyan Hall, the acoustics

needed more tweaking, and

comprehension was very difficult

for an eager audience mainly

of young people with English

as a second or third language.

Kimmelman bemoaned the

fact that he went to Yerevan’s

National Art Gallery for two

days running and was the only

visitor, even though it was the

weekend. Yerevantsis, the New

York Times chief art critic concluded,

are not gallery goers.

They were at the new center in

the tens of thousands, however.

And yet, because of the language

and the acoustics, even

with so many people present,

he was alone again, or almost.

It would be a shame to have

missed the originality of his

perspective. It can be found in

his bestselling book, The Accidental

Masterpiece: On the Art of

Life and Vice Versa.

Kimmelman in the Khanjyan

Gallery started his discourse on

his approach to the art of our

times with a photographer’s

approach to an unremarkable

event as he walks a city. The

photographer notices something

that makes him stop to

look more closely. From what

he sees, he creates what may be

called “an accidental masterpiece,”

although this photographer

was predisposed to creating


With the photograph projected

for us to see, he explains that

the photographer has noticed a

bare wall from which posters

have been stripped. The residue

of the glue has left smudges and

traces on the otherwise blank

wall. Before the wall a young

child plays with a ball. When

the child tosses the ball in the

air, the child waits with a happy

face, alive with expectation of

catching the ball as it descends.

He takes the picture when

the ball is out of the frame. We

see only the wall and the child.

The result is an undisputed


A beautiful child is looking

skyward with great, engaging

expectation against a confusing

background of abstract shapes

that suggests whatever we wish

to read into it. It is virtually impossible

to see this without a

personal reaction, creating your

own interpretation of where

the child is and what the child

is seeing that is making it so

happy. The photograph is by

Henri Cartier-Bresson and is a

treasured classic.

Kimmelmann is suggesting

that art is where you find it,

and you as spectator become

participant, helping to define

and create it. He suggests art

calls for your participation inside

the frame of the visible, to

which you must engage with

your own experience, sensitivity,

and imagination. Of necessity

it involves “the art of

seeing well” both to make art

and to enjoy art, and if the skill

does not come naturally to you,

“fortunately it can be learned.”

With a photograph of an

earthquake in a small town in

Italy, he went on to describe

how art belongs to a whole

Michael Kimmelman, author of The Accidental Masterpiece, speaking at Khanjyan Hall. Photos: Mkhitar Khachatryan.

people and it may be surprising

what they value most. This

is a town that boasted a genuine

Giotto. But with the earthquake,

the town flocked with

far deeper immediate concern

for the work of a local artist

with whom their identity was

far more intimately expressed

and defined.

He showed a painting in

strong colors with Chagall-like

floating figures of a wedded

pair above a tree of life. It was

done by gypsies, Roma, in Hungary.

He found this painting

and a similar group of work not

only original in its expression

of social values but also culturally

significant. The Roma have

a difficult time all over Europe.

They are regarded as outsiders

who may not be trusted. They

have learned that the way to

warmer acceptance, even inclusion,

is to show that they have

a vivid, well-developed culture

that is on a highly civilized level.

A people define themselves

in the way they live their art

and how they bring the values

they cherish into their lives.

As he went on with his discourse,

although he didn’t say

so, it emerged that it can help

if you have someone to talk to,

especially someone with whom

you can make connections,

sharing and exploring your reactions

and thoughts.

This came to mind when

Kimmelman brought up the

reclusive artist Michael Heizer,

showing a photograph of what

seemed an unremarkable and

basically uninteresting trench

in a desert landscape. Here,

Father Dennis Deese, r., president of St Thomas University and a member of the

Cafesjian Family Foundation, in the audience for Michael Kimmelman’s talk.

imagination is everything, and

you need one the size of the

whole American southwest.

Heizer, he stated, created a

sensation with a new kind of

sculpture, a kind of sculpture

of absence. The artist called it

“negative sculpture,” – the space

left behind after digging.

The space left after digging a

trench or a foxhole may offer

artistic possibilities in the way

it captures and shapes light,

but at this point we may be the

grave-diggers of art itself.

Upstairs, four levels higher

on the escalators, the challenging

notion of space and light is

brilliantly handled with audacious

and technically difficult

solutions in the exquisite art of

Libenský Brychtová.

Using glass as their artistic

medium, this husband-andwife

team captured light in

space in ways that have fundamentally

enriched modern

sculpture. They have contrived

to add to surface definition

of form a fresh, luminous

inner space. Unlike an

empty hole and a ton of hype,

or a mere transparency, they

have created something entirely

new in the art of sculpture.

They have found a way

to begin to express the soul

within darkness, ephemeral,

space within space, filled with

spectrally expressive forms,

responsive to the moment

and the season.

Returning attention to Kimmelman,

he tells us that Michael

Heizer, as might be expected,

rather rapidly left the

empty holes to others. He began

spending the next 30 years of

his life in a survivalist mode in

a remote section of Nevada on a

Continued on page C13 m

C12 Armenian Reporter Arts & Culture | November 14, 2009

Opening ceremonies of the Cafesjian Center for the Arts in the Special Events Auditorium. From left, Cleo Cafesjian, Karekin II, President Serge Sargsyan, Gerard L. Cafesjian, the interpreter (Artashes Emin),

and Bagrat Sargsyan. Photo: Mkhitar Khachatryan.

Special Events Auditorium

Located at the top level of the

Cascade, the Special Events

Auditorium offers a spectacular

panorama of Yerevan and

Mount Ararat beyond. This stunning

space, designed with the

audiophile in mind, offers the

city’s premier venue for listening

to the best in classical, jazz,

and pop music. In addition, the

Auditorium hosts the Center’s

First Thursday Wine Tastings

as well as lectures and film festivals.

Every Sunday afternoon,

you can view rare classic films at

the Auditorium including present-day

blockbusters, documentaries,

biographical and art-inspired


Every Friday and Saturday,

the Special Events Auditorium

will be featuring live classical,

jazz, rock, and pop music. f

Composer and

jazzman Stepan

Shakaryan will

be performing

at the Special



during the

month of

November at the

Cafesjian Center

for the Arts.,

Photo: German


“Madison Avenue” on an escalator

n Continued from page C12

vast, private acreage he bought

for a pittance, building a monumental

earth work with shoveled

earth reaching high up from

the ground, untold, gargantuan

tons of it. It is, at the time of

the illustration, an unfinished

artwork with private meaning.

Kimmelman gives us what he

informs us is a rare glimpse of

what the artist is up to.

Private passions that others

may not understand but

which demand a lifetime of

dedicated labor must earn

our respect, sometimes our

unabashed awe. Three flights

of soaring escalators higher

will bring us to Eagle Garden

Hall and to one of the most

popular galleries. It is called

“In the Mind of the Collector.”

Among the objects and art

works on display in this offthe-mainstream

gallery, you

find a 28-foot model of a ship

created to scale with remarkable

veracity and workmanship,

also needing the larger

part of a lifetime of meticulous

labor for a visionary to

complete. The ship was built

inside a small apartment,

needing the full cramped

space of two rooms after the

wall had been knocked down.

The engineer whose vision it

was did it only for the love

of what he was doing, living

with it closer than a wife,

night and day, years yielding

to decades. Can the creator of

this accurate replica of a ship

be called an artist?

If a man makes an accurate

replica of a face in two dimensions

it is called a portrait, in

three dimensions in the round

it is a bust, but if it is a ship

he replicates, it is only a model

with the status of a toy. This

one is no toy. There must be a

qualitative difference. It must

relate to what constitutes art as

a work of the imagination. Art

lives in a realm that seeks much

more than mere replica. Kimmelman

would be able to define

it. But he was in the realm of

negative sculpture. We are left

to ourselves.

By some serendipitous turn of

events, this was a model of the

ship Gerard Cafesjian served on

in the Pacific in World War II.

It had deep personal meaning,

and as such it found a home in

the collection.

In a sense, the whole enterprise

of the Center for the Arts

began to resemble the ship as a

work of passion with personal

meaning. Within the edifice

there is art great and small.

Kimmelman came and went.

We must examine what we have

here, up and down these escalators,

for ourselves.

In doing that and “seeing well”,

we make it our own. Making it

our own is the priceless legacy the

collector offers us on this escalated

avenue of artful dreams. f

Armenian Reporter Arts & Culture | November 14, 2009


C14 The Armenian Reporter | November 14, 2009


Gerard L. Cafesjian: “Welcome to your Cascade”

The following remarks were delivered in Armenian

by the editor of this newspaper on

behalf of Gerard L. Cafesjian at the Grand

Opening of the Cafesjian Center for the

Arts in Yerevan on November 7.

Mr. President, Your Holiness, Ladies

and Gentlemen:

On behalf of Gerard L. Cafesjian,

the Cafesjian Family Foundation, and

the Cafesjian Museum Foundation,

welcome to the Grand Opening of the

Cafesjian Center for the Arts.

Some six years ago, former President

Kocharian and Mr. Cafesjian joined in

a unique public-private partnership to

fundamentally transform this then-neglected

Soviet-era monument and surrounding

property known as the Cascade

into a world-class center for contemporary

art presentation and education, a

premiere gathering place for Armenia’s

people and their guests from around the

world, and a visual focal point on one of

the most prominent and commanding

points of reference in Yerevan.

On behalf of the government and

people of Armenia, former President

Kocharian – joined enthusiastically by

President Sargsyan upon his election

– and Mr. Cafesjian on behalf of the

diaspora created and sustained the

Cafesjian Museum Foundation to

rebirth Tamanyan Park and the Cascade

complex rising above the park. This leap

of faith by Messrs. Kocharian, Sargsyan,

and Cafesjian – symbolically bringing

together homeland and diaspora in a

common vision of hope – has brought

us to this moment of celebration.

For Mr. Cafesjian, this museum

represents his commitment to homeland,

his faith in Armenia’s future as

a beacon and haven for all Armenians,

his vision that Yerevan can and should

present itself to the world as a center

of excellence in all facets of human

endeavor – including the arts – and his

belief that homeland and diaspora can

accomplish anything together.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to your

center of artistic excellence, to your reborn

gathering place, to your Cascade. f

A leap of faith

The following remarks were delivered

in Armenian by the editor

of this newspaper on behalf of

Gerard L. Cafesjian at a private

dinner held on November 9 in conjunction

with the Grand Opening

of the Cafesjian Center for the

Arts in Yerevan.

On behalf of my colleagues on

the Board of the Cafesjian Family

Foundation, I thank you for

joining us in celebrating this

long-anticipated Grand Opening

of the now-reborn Cascade


It is said that success has a

thousand fathers. In this case,

success would have been impossible

without the leadership

and support of President

Serge Sargsyan, former President

Robert Kocharian, and

Mayor Gagik Beglaryan. Thank

you, gentlemen, for your leap

of faith – in me, in the Cafesjian

Family Foundation, and

in a larger sense in the diaspora

– to deliver as promised

an artistic and cultural center

of excellence for all Armenians

and our guests from around

the world.

I intend this arts complex

and campus to be an enduring

place of presentation, interaction,

and education, a place

where the joy, mystery, and

discovery of artistic passion

will stimulate other artists to

create, students to study, patrons

of the arts to house their

collections, and lovers of art

to savor what the world has to

offer in contemporary artistic


In creating with the Armenian

government the Cafesjian

Museum Foundation, I

demonstrated my return leap

of faith in an Armenian homeland

and my pride that an

independent and democratic

nation-state was created on a

portion of our historic lands. I

believe that it is the responsibility

of each and every diasporan

to give freely and continuously

of his or her time, talent,

and treasure to sustain and

develop our common home,

our Armenia, our Artsakh. Our

homeland must flourish, and it

is the diaspora’s honor to help

make this so.

Involvement in


Six years ago, I promised the Armenian

government and people

to invest not less than $20 million

in rebirthing the Cascade

complex. To date, I have provided

over $40 million toward

this worthy objective – an objective

that does not end with

this Phase One Grand Opening.

In continuing partnership with

the Armenian government, and

in anticipation of other patrons

of the arts joining in generous

support, I intend for the Cafesjian

Family Foundation to be

involved in perpetuity in the

ongoing development of the

Cascade complex.

Together we can and will further

expand the physical space

for artistic, cultural, and educational

programming, as we

simultaneously create compatible

entertainment spaces to

help sustain this unique center.

I am very encouraged by the

public response to date. Even

while the Cascade was under

renovation, I was delighted

as hundreds of thousands enjoyed

works of art displayed in

Tamanyan Park, as well as the

series of memorable cultural

events presented by the Cafesjian

Museum Foundation.

And I was particularly taken

by the reaction of children to

the sculptures: to experience

once again the enthusiasm

and wonder of youth, to dream

that some among them would

become the next Gorky or

Libenský – in part because of

what these budding artists experienced,

what creative forces

were unleashed at our center

for the arts.



As some of you are aware, my

activities in support of Armenia

go beyond the Cascade arts

complex. In parallel to the Cascade

initiative, I have invested

some $100 million in commercial

activity to demonstrate to

others with the means to invest

that Armenia has created

an environment conducive to

free enterprise. In a cycle of investment,

development, sale,

and reinvestment known as

entrepreneurial philanthropy,

I will continue to recycle 100

percent of proceeds in new

commercial demonstration

projects or to help sustain the

foundation’s philanthropic activities

in Armenia.

To date, successful commercial

ventures have been created

in media, film, financial services,

real estate, and alternative

energy, generating sustainable

employment and profits and

showing potential investors

what can be accomplished in


Charitable programs

Finally, I have also participated

in charitable and educational

programs. With the extraordinary

leadership of Hope for the

City, some $50 million in medical

equipment and supplies

has been donated. In other collaborations

with institutions

as diverse as the Holy See, the

AGBU, and scores of other institutions,

my foundation has

donated additional millions to

help address the vital needs of

our people.

I did and will continue to

give as freely as I am able in

profound gratitude for being of

some use to my homeland and

people, and in partial payment

of my debt to the generations

that have preceded me, all of

whom persevered and prayed

one day for an independent

homeland where generation

after generation for time immemorial

might live freely

and safely as Armenians, and

where the Armenian nation

and people could once again

make our unique contribution

to the world.

Thank you

I am deeply indebted to all who

joined with me to make this ongoing

offering possible. I thank

my bride Cleo for her constancy,

my colleagues on the Cafesjian

Family Foundation Board Father

Dennis Dease and Dennis

and Megan Doyle for their unwavering

commitment, and my

partner in CS Media and in all

things Armenian Bagrat Sargsyan

for his passion and wisdom. I

also gratefully acknowledge all

in service to the government of

Armenia who provided support

and inspiration, all in service to

the government of the United

States who appreciated and

cultivated ever closer, mutually

beneficial relations between

one of the world’s oldest and

youngest democracies, and all

those serving other institutions

as diverse as USAID, EBRD, and

the United Armenian Fund for

their essential contributions to

our ventures.

Let us all pause and celebrate

today what we have accomplished

thus far – and in honor

of all who preceded us – let us

get back to work tomorrow. f

Armenian Reporter (ISSN 0004-2358), an independent newspaper,

is published weekly by Armenian Reporter llc.

Gerard L. Cafesjian, President and ceo

Copyright © 2009 by Armenian

Reporter llc. All Rights Reserved

The views expressed, except in the editorial,

are not necessarily those of the publishers.

November 14, 2009

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Editor Vincent Lima

Associate editor Maria Titizian

Washington editor Emil Sanamyan

Eastern U.S. editor Lou Ann Matossian

Assistant to the Editor Seda Stepanyan

Art director Grigor Hakobyan

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The Armenian Reporter | November 14, 2009





A center of excellence, with a smile

by Vincent Lima

YEREVAN – Over the past few weeks,

my colleagues and I have been writing a

lot about various aspects of the Cafesjian

Center for the Arts, which had its

Grand Opening on November 7–8: we’ve

written about the sculpture garden, the

Arshile Gorky exhibit, the glasswork by

Libenský Brychtová, the Grigor Khanjyan

mural, the photographs by Pattie

Boyd, and more. Each element has its

own story and is impressive on its own.

Now it may be time to step back and look

at the bigger picture.

As I step back, I find myself overwhelmed.

The scale of the gift Gerry

Cafesjian has given the City of Yerevan

and the Republic of Armenia is difficult

to fathom.

I have to ask myself: Am I reacting the

way I am just because he’s my boss? No. I

remember the tears that came to my eyes

exactly a year ago, when I covered the

opening of the new, state-of-the-art building

of the American University of Armenia.

I wrote at length about it at the time.

What makes such gifts, and specifically

this gift by Mr. Cafesjian, special

is the scale of the vision behind the


The Cat

For many people in Yerevan, it all began

with the Cat.

Of course, it really began with renovations:

the Cascade, at the heart of Yerevan,

connects the city center to the elevated

residential neighborhoods of the

north. The escalators, the escalator shaft,

and the garden were all in sad shape,

and the Cafesjian Museum Foundation,

formed in 2002 as a public-private partnership,

fixed them. Everyone had reason

to be grateful. Then the Cat arrived.

What was this giant bronze sculpture

that had suddenly appeared in the center

of the city? Some skeptics raised their

eyebrows: a black cat? a statue with its

tongue sticking out? But the people

took to it, and very quickly Fernando

Botero’s Cat became a beloved landmark

and attraction in Yerevan.

I moved to Yerevan in May 2006. The

first morning in our new home, my elder

daughter and I looked out the window

of her room on the ninth floor and

stared in awe at Mount Ararat. Then I

said, “Hey, let’s go downstairs, I want to

show you the cat I was telling you about.”

And of course she loved it.

A commentator in one of the local papers

wrote this week that the cat had

sent the message to Yerevan that a statue

does not have to be an ode, a heroic

representation of an admired person.

And Yerevan appreciated that message,

the commentator added. She had a point,

though I would note that not all Armenian

sculptures have been of the heroic

variety. Ervand Kochar, the talented author

of the most heroic statues in the

city, Sasunts Davit and Vartan Mamikonian,

also sculpted original representations

of modern man – gnarled men with

vacuous eyes and an urban landscape in

their guts. That said, I agree that the Cat

is in dialogue with the statues in the rest

of the city. I think its message is this:

Lighten up! Art can be fun.

Soon the cat had neighbors. Barry Flanagan’s

jaunty hares, Lynn Chadwick’s

gorgeous and geometric representations

of the human figure, Paul Cox’s

colorful 2005 creation, Ahoy, among

others. And they were all out there in

the open, part of the new fabric of a city

that was being transformed.

Cultural programs

The sculptures were only part of the story.

Less than a week after I first showed my

daughter the Cat, it was June 1, International

Children’s Day. Tamanyan Park was

absolutely full of children from Yerevan

and beyond, having fun, enjoying the cultural

programming and entertainment offered

by the foundation and its partners.

We were all so happy to be living here.

Every other week that summer, we

could go to Tamanyan Park and take in

a concert or other open-air performance

organized by the foundation. Some of

the concerts featured local artists; others

headlined performers from abroad. The

summer evenings of tens of thousands

of Yerevantsis and their guests were enhanced

by this free programming.

With this programming, the museum

had started yet another dialogue with

the city: museums need not simply be

exhibition spaces; they can offer cultural

programs, it said. I was pleased

to notice the next year, the Hovhannes

Toumanyan Museum started offering an

outdoor public event for children every

year on the great writer’s birthday.

So the Cafesjian Museum Foundation

has been a significant part of the cultural

life of Yerevan for some years now.

And in these bite-sized pieces, it was

fairly easy to appreciate the gift, which

changed Armenia in little, subtle ways.

Lighten up!

Now, with the completion of this phase

and the Grand Opening, the scale of the

gift has become apparent. It is more

than the sum of its impressive parts. It is


Decorating the white stone façade

are fragrant formal gardens with tens

of thousands of plantings. Hidden

behind them is gallery after gallery

of works on display. Like the Cat that

heralded their arrival a few years ago,

many of the works say, Lighten up; art

can be fun.

You want cultural programming? You

have the chief art critic of the New York

Times, no less, and he’s not just a big

name. He’s an interesting and charming

man who – like the Cafesjian Center for

the Arts – rejects the notion that art is a

highbrow affair that regular people can’t

appreciate. He was the right choice to

deliver a talk on opening day.

Here you have abstract glasswork by

Libenský Brychtová. Is it an acquired

taste? Some of us take our time trying

to come to grips with it, looking

at Libenský’s sketches, contemplating

the techniques and stories behind

the various pieces, growing to appreciate

the work. Meanwhile, the hall

has many children in it on opening

day, and they simply love it: they are

looking at the prism of the 3V column,

exploring the play of light and color

in Horizon, and the play of light and

shades of gray in Space T.

The Beatles were a phenomenon that

captured the imagination of Armenians

living behind the Iron Curtain, and it

was great fun to have Cynthia Lennon

Fernando Botero’s Cat is

already a Yerevan landmark.

Photo: Grigor Hakobyan/

Armenian Reporter.

and Pattie Boyd here on opening day.

And if the two women were to meet

again for the first time in decades, why

should it not be in Yerevan?

A center of excellence

Armenia has always displayed its arts

– from stone crosses, church architecture,

and needlework to the canvases of

Saryan, the compositions of Khachaturian,

the sculptures of Kochar, and the

gracious dances of Nayirian girls – with

deserved pride. Now, for the first time,

it can show the Armenian giant Arshile

Gorky as well. But an international city

has to show more than just its native

sons and daughters. With the reborn

Cascade, Yerevan can start thinking of

itself as more of an international artistic

center of excellence.

As the physical space for artistic, cultural,

and educational programming is

expanded, and other patrons of the arts

join in to house their collections at the

center, Yerevan will more and more become

such a place.

And why not? It already has a firstclass

airport, a welcoming and hospitable

people who greet you with a smile,

excellent hotels, restaurants, and tourist

agencies, and more.

The Cafesjian Center for the Arts, in

short, provides Armenian students, artists,

and the public at large with a resource

hitherto unavailable locally; it invites

us to have fun; it allows Yerevan to

present itself as a center of excellence in

the arts. And it does one more thing. It

announces that the diaspora and Armenia,

together, can accomplish anything.

And that’s really encouraging. f

Photos: Mkhitar Khachatryan.

C16 Armenian Reporter Arts & Culture November 14, 2009

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