The national pavilion of the Republic of Armenia wins the Golden Lion Award at the Biennale
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The national pavilion of the Republic of Armenia wins the Golden Lion Award at the Biennale
Aikaterini Gegisian, A Small Guide to the Invisible Seas (The Sea of Waves, 1), 2015. Collage on paper, 32.3 X 47.5 cm. Courtesy the artist and Kalfayan Galleries, Athens-Thessaloniki.

VENICE.- In this symbolic year 2015, on the occasion of the one hundredth commemoration of the Armenian Genocide, the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Armenia has dedicated its pavilion at the 56th International Art Exhibition of la Biennale di Venezia to the artists of the Armenian diaspora. It is located at the Mekhitarist Monastery on the island of San Lazzaro degli Armeni. Vaporetti leaving for San Lazzaro every early afternoon from the Giardini.

The curatorial concept of Armenity** implies the notion of displacement and territory, justice and reconciliation, ethos and resilience. Regardless of their place of birth, the selected artists carry within their identity the memory of their origins. Through their talent and willpower, these grandchildren of survivors of the Armenian Genocide—the first genocide of the 20th Century—rebuilt a “transnational assembly” from the remnants of a shattered identity. Their ingrained concern for memory, justice and reconciliation skillfully transcends notions of territory, borders and geography. Whether they were born in Beirut, Lyon, Los Angeles, or Cairo and wherever they may reside, these global citizens constantly question and reinvent their armenity.

Armenity** is being held in a setting of special significance for the Armenian diaspora. It was on the Island of San Lazzaro, located between San Marco and the Lido and facing the Giardini of the Biennale, that in 1717 the Armenian monk Mekhitar established the Mekhitarist Order. It was here that in the early 19th century Lord Byron studied the Armenian language. Many important works of European literature and religious texts were first translated into Armenian on this scenic island. Over its three-hundred years history the Monastery of San Lazzaro with its gardens, former print shop, cloisters, museum and library, has helped to preserve Armenia’s unique cultural heritage, much of which might otherwise have been lost.

An accompanying catalogue published by Skira, Milan contains colour reproductions and texts in English and Armenian. An introduction, forewords and curatorial texts are followed by 4 pages dedicated to each of the 16 artists: 1 page of text by each artist and essays by international art critics and writers such as Ruben Arevshatyan, Cecile Bourne, Ginevra Bria, Adam Budak, David Kazanjian, Berthold Reiss, Gabi Scardi, Hrag Vartanian and 3 pages with images and drawings of the works.

The third part of the catalogue contains essays by New York-based art historian and independent curator Neery Melkonian and London-based art writer and Ibraaz editor Stephanie Bailey. The catalogue ends with the Armenian translations of the texts.

A book of poetry comprising the work of 12 Armenian poets born after the Armenian Genocide and the Russian Revolution accompanies the catalogue. The poems have been translated into French by the prominent Swiss-Armenian poet Vahé Godel. The book includes an essay by the author, along with a selection of Armenian translations.

* Adelina Cüberyan v. Fürstenberg, a Swiss citizen of Armenian origin, is a renowned international curator. A pioneer in the field, she is known for broadening contemporary art to include a multicultural approach. She is the founder and first Director of the Centre d’Art Contemporain de Genève and the former Director of MAGASIN--Centre National d’Art Contemporain in Grenoble. In 1996 she founded ART for The World, an NGO working with contemporary art, independent cinema and human rights.

** Armenity derives from the French word Arménité, a notion which expresses the particular characteristics of the grandchildren of Armenian Genocide survivors. These include a state of constant flux, a diversity of self-definition, and a modern and often subjective sense of being-in-theworld.

***Located at 26 Place Bellecour in Lyon, the Bullukian Foundation is known for its work ensuring the public good and for providing shelter and aid to those in need. Faithful to its founder Napoléon Bullukian’s vision, the foundation works mainly in the following three fields: medicine (health and cancer research); culture (more specifically by helping young artists); and Armenian social work.

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