After several weeks of (peaceful) protests, blocked roads, and halted infrastructure that left us all wondering whether indeed the Armenia Art Fair was going to happen, we are excited to be a part of its much anticipated launch this weekend at the Yerevan Expo center from May 11-13.
While Armenia has a legacy of international contemporary art exhibitions – from the reputed Gyumri Art Biennale (from 1998 to 2012), to on-going projects at Armenia’s Center for Experimental Art (locally referred to as “NPAK” under its Armenian acronym), to last year’s 2017 STANDART Triennial of Contemporary Art- this marks Armenia’s first international commercial art fair. Although HAYP Pop Up Gallery is not your standard gallery (we operate as an N.G.O. with community projects versus an LLC), part of our mission is to stimulate and uplift the local contemporary art scene, and we believe that this is a significant step towards laying the groundwork for a much-needed Art Market in Armenia.
As a pop up gallery that lives on the margins of cultural institutions, comercial galleries, and the public and private space, together with the Armenia Art Fair organizing team, we decided to participate through a collateral project within the grounds of the Expo in an unused space at the Mergelian Institute (across from the Expo Center). But more about our project later, first, let’s take a look at what to expect at this year’s Armenia Art Fair, and some useful tips on how to get there, how to avoid “museum fatigue”, and where to eat.
Who and what is at the Art Fair?
The main motor behind the Art Fair is a team of four, including Founding Director Nina Festekjian, Co-founding Director Zara Ouzounian-Halpin, Curator Eva Khachatrian, and Communications Lead Sarah Watterson. An extended team of graphic designers, and program and exhibitions coordinators are also part of the magic.
Exhibitors include galleries, curatorial projects, and independent contemporary artists, mostly from Armenia but also from the UK, Belarus, the UAE, and Russia. As the first edition of an Art Fair in a country that, let’s face it, doesn’t have an art market (1), perhaps the most interesting component to the project is the Open Space section, the concept child of Eva Khatchatrian.
“This section is what pulled me to the Art Fair, my background is in experimental curatorial projects more than commercial galleries,” Eva told us. “The idea is to show a diverse face of Armenian contemporary art by including artists who were active in the 90s as well as emerging artists. The Open Space will create a dialogue between the two”.
Though the Art Fair’s program of events is not extensive, we are expecting some interesting content.
Friday, May 11:
7pm Private Viewing (by invitation only)
8:30pm Performance: by Swiss artist Christian Zehnder in the framework of the Aré Performance Festival
Saturday, May 12:
2pm Public opening
6-7pm “Transliterative Tease”: a Performance Lecture by “Slavs and Tatars”
8pm HAYP Pop Up Gallery: Opening of “Narek Barseghyan: The Leather Show”, an exhibition and fashion performance
Sunday, May 13:
6-8pm Night Owl Round Table Discussion and Q&A
Topic: “Shifting Perspectives on Art from Local to Global: The Contemporary Image Maker”
Speakers: A discussion with curators and critics Susanna Gyulamiryan (ACSL), Nazareth Karoyan (ICA), and visiting curator and writer George Schoellhammer. The discussion will be moderated by Dr. Randall Rhodes (AUA).
What we’re excited about (besides our own opening, of course)
“Transliterative Tease” by “Slavs and Tatars”. Slavs and Tatars is an artist collective whose main activities include exhibitions, performance-lectures, and books. They define themselves as Eurasian, somewhere between “East of the Berlin wall and West of the Great Wall of China”. Common themes in their work concern semantics, cultural transliteration (in their words, “the younger, trashier sibling to translation”), and issues of identity politics and appropriation (of sounds, language, meaning). We won’t go too much into the details of their performance work in order to save you the treat on Saturday evening, but their use of subtle humour to slowly reel the viewer into an absurd world is seductive and hilarious.
Our Recommendation: How to spend your Saturday
Take into consideration your capacity to look at art when planning your visit, i.e. how long can you be in an exhibition space before you get museum fatigue (you know what we’re talking about, right?). If you want to make a day of it and skip the crowds, then we recommend coming right at the Art Fair opening around 2pm. This will give you plenty of time to visit the Art Fair at the Expo Center, including the galleries and Open Space, and break for a late lunch (early dinner) before attending the evening events from 6-9pm. Alternatively, if you want a half-day of events, consider coming around 4pm, which gives you about 2 hours to visit the Art Fair and maybe grab a coffee in the courtyard.
Don’t miss the 6pm Performance Lecture by “Slavs and Tatars”, before heading over at 7:30-8-ish to the other side of the courtyard to HAYP Pop Up Gallery. On the 7th floor of Mergelian Institute’s central building, HAYP has temporarily transformed an unfinished space into a gallery for a more alternative, “street”, fashion-meets-art project: “Narek Barseghyan: The Leather Show”. The Leather Show is a solo exhibit of some truly amazing works on canvas by emerging artist Narek Barseghyan, and a fashion-performance starting at 8pm of the Leather Show Collection produced during our 10 day fashion workshop where designers Narek Jhangiryan, Tatev Khachatryan, and Sarko Meené collaborated with our visual artist to create a unique 90s inspired high-low collection. Performance, live set, and light beverages will be served. Not to be missed! NOTE: Because our event starts after working hours for the Mergelian Institute, security requires you to sign-up on our Event-brite for a FREE ticket and registration (sign-up here)! Please don’t forget, bring your printed ticket, or just show the image on your phone at the entrance. If you have a printed invitation then you’re all set.
Where is the Expo and how do I get there?
The Yerevan Expo is a recently built exhibition center (2014) located within the courtyard of the Mergelian Institute Complex. The Institute was originally built in 1956 and operated as Yerevan’s Computer Research and Development Institute. The institute was famous for housing the first ever computer, and while it no longer functions on the cutting-edge of computer technology, it is still an active Tech Cluster housing multiple office spaces and start-up organizations.
Fun Art Fact: Check out Armenian modernist Yervand Kochar’s “Muse of Cybernetics” from 1972, a copper sculpture dedicated to the institute that has lived in the courtyard since 1973.
Yervand Kochar, Cybernetic Muse. Photo credits: pinterest
Getting there by Taxi:
Tell your taxi driver you’re going to the “Mergelian Institute”, most drivers know the institute, but are not aware of the Expo Center since it’s still pretty new. You can always give the exact address: 3 Hakob Hakobyan street.
Getting there by Metro:
The Mergelian Institute is a 5 minute walk from the Barekamutyun Metro Station (Friends Station). Barekamutyun is the last stop on the metro line after the Baghramyan stop. When you leave the metro platform, the escalators take you to an underground market where you can find just about anything (from cheap shoes, to funky eyewear and even popcorn, shawarma and horrible wigs). It’s a circular market located under a main intersection, which means there are several exits which can be confusing if you’re not familiar with this stop. Make sure to exit at the H. HAKOBYAN STREET (Հ. ՀԱԿՈԲՅԱՆ) exit. Word of caution, the exits are listed in Armenian language only. From there, walk up Hakobyan street about 3 blocks until you get to the Mergelian Institute on the left hand side of the street. You can’t miss it, it’s the tallest building on the block. HAYP Pop Up Gallery is located on the 7th floor of this building from May 12-22. It looks like this:
Mergelian Institute, 3 Hakob Hakobyan Street.
To get to the Expo Center, walk through the main doors of the Central Mergelian Institute Building, cross the courtyard (where you’ll see a pool, randomly) and enter the Expo Pavilion. The Expo Center looks like this:
Yerevan Expo Center in the courtyard of the Mergelian Institute
Here’s a map to clear things up!
Where to eat?
The Expo Center has a small cafe near the main entrance, as well as a little hidden coffee stand in the courtyard garden, and a buffet-style lunch spot called Art Lunch near the main entrance of the Mergelian Institute. The food is good, cheap, and they have wifi, but it gets crowded at lunchtime in particular during office hours. If you want some real eats nearby, about a 5-10 minute walking distance from the Mergelian Complex, we have two main recommendations. Neither of them are “luxurious” in terms of interiors, but the food is consistently good and you can eat it there or get it “to-go” (տանելու “tan-eh-loo”, in Armenian).
Tasty Syrian Food at Jaco’s:
38 Gulbenkyan Street
Jaco’s has a strange design layout, but plenty of seating both inside and outside on their terrace. The menu is a typical middle eastern menu with an assortment of Mediterranean appetizers (hummus, mutabal, tabulé, etc.) as well as tasty main dishes from skewered barbecue meats (Shish Tawuk and Kebabs) to stewed vegetables and more. They also have an extensive Hookah (or Nargile) menu, which can be a bother if you’re not into that and would like to eat in a non-smokey environment. Having said that, most restaurants in Armenia are smoking… a good solution to this problem is a table outside at their terrace.
Homemade Local Food at “Arevelyan (Eastern) Cuisine”:
16 Komitas Avenue
Arevelyan has an extensive menu of local dishes, from typical Eastern Armenian salads and soups (with sorrel or yogurt), to various meat dishes. If you want something quick, their savory pastries are good. Their “Khatchapouri” (or Eastern cheese-stuffed “boreg”) is simple but tasty.
That’s all we have for you today!
Join us this weekend, May 11-13, at the Armenia Art Fair, and make sure you get your tickets to HAYP Pop Up Gallery presents, “Narek Barseghyan: The Leather Show” on eventbrite here.
(1) We are speaking from experience when it comes to the local art market, but don’t just take it from us, UNESCO’s recent research shows that among the various cultural sectors in Armenia, the visual arts contributes only .2% of the national GDP, placing sixth most lucrative after 1) Audio-visual and interactive media, 2) Art Performances & Celebrations, 3) Literature, 4) Design, and 5) Natural Heritage (in order of GDP contribution). We have a long-way ahead towards paving the wave to healthy art market, let’s get to work!