A Botero in Armenia?? I was really surprised to come across The Cat set outside the Cafesjian Art Center on my second day in Yerevan. This was my first time in the country, and I knew I’d be seeing plenty of old Armenian art and architecture. In fact, I thoroughly looked forward to it! But when our tour guide stood us in front of this familiar Colombian artist’s sculpture, I had a feeling of excitement I hadn’t expected to experience on this trip – something bridging Armenian cultural life with contemporary Western art.
The Cafesjian Art Center just had its grand opening this month in Yerevan, and it seems to represent an unusual niche in Armenia’s development. Awkwardly grand (and terribly expensive), the Center makes a stark contrast to the basic necessities still lacking a majority of the country’s population. Nevertheless, it also represents new international possibilities. Diaspora Armenians, like myself, have many reasons to get excited about the country and to want to go there to see their ancient roots. But it can be freeing, especially for younger generations of Armenians, to have creative doors opening that, for instance, display art exhibits of non-Armenian artists, just as other nations around the world provide for their citizens.
Access to art is a wonderful way to pave for greater things in all arenas, art-related or otherwise. It brings together unexpected groups of people and academics from around the world and provides a venue for new ideas and creative thinking. Armenia has a right to this opportunity as much as any other country.
After my trip was over, I returned to New York City and, one evening, while walking through the Time Warner Center, found myself stopped in front of the Botero couple set in the shopping mall’s entrance. I smiled as they towered over me – Oh yes, I’ve seen your kind in Yerevan, too.