photographed by grisha petrosyan
So, the first question is when did you buy this apartment and how did you make your choice?
I bought the apartment in 2022 and started doing renovations in Spring 2023 for five months. I moved in on September 2nd, which is my birthday, so it's very fresh. The choice turned out quite smoothly, because my parents live on the 8th floor of the same building, and I have lived in their apartment quite a lot when I moved to Armenia from Paris. I love the neighborhood. I’m located at the crossroad between the Komitas district and the small center, near Baghramyan street, the metro, the lovers park. The building has a private yard, a swimming pool for the residents. Even though we are in the center, just minutes away from Cascade, it's very quiet here. In front of the building is the former clock factory, I love the site and how it’s being inhabited by artists and artisans. My apartment is on the fifth floor, neither on the first floor nor on the tenth. It’s the perfect height, the panoramic view of the whole city opens from my balcony, and I love how the entire apartment is bathing with the morning light.
Your interior is beautiful, who did it?
I worked with my friend and colleague architect Gayane Sofoyan and I also had a good team of masters who created the different furniture items needed. It was very important for me that the home would be very light without heavy furniture, that everything would be white. I always told Gaya and my friends that it’s a 50 shades of white home. It was important for me that everything would be locally produced, so we worked with several different masters. Gaya recommended a furniture master, another studio specializing in wood production made the table, chairs, and sofa. I also worked with a team of restorer to restore vintage armchairs and created felted pebbles to sit and for my nephews to play with.
Are these tables and chairs made in Armenia?
Yes, I had ordered trestles like the ones used for architect tables for a temporary exhibition. I reused them to create my dining table and shared a design for the chairs to be custom made.
I asked because it’s quite difficult to find good furniture masters here.
I agree. These masters may be a bit pricey, but they did a very good job. It happened little by little, we didn't choose everything at once. For example, we decided to have white doors at the end, because there was a problem with the floors. The floors of the kitchen were different from the living room, and after leveling, it turned out that the existing doors did not match, and we had to change the doors. The original wooden doors became white. 50 shades of white home, ha-ha.
And this table was also produced locally?
Yes, and it has a story behind. I wanted to have white marble stone from Artsakh in my house. Another designer friend of mine and I managed to find 2 small pieces of that stone in Yerevan, it was the beginning of September. The stone was exactly the size needed for the tables, for a small coffee table and a narrow long table in front of the sofa. I wanted part of the stone to have a natural edge, some raw part and I suggested to the master to break one side of the stone by hand to give it a wild natural look, but it turned out artificial. The human hand is not equivalent to nature. So, I asked him to refine and polish the stone completely. It turned out that when they started working on it, the stone split in the middle because of the nerve it had inside, and I decided to leave the stone just like that. War broke out in Artsakh just a few days later…
You came here from Paris, when did you come and how did you make the decision?
The decision was very natural. At first, I decided to move for one year. It was 2015, I came in the spring, I visited the Komitas Museum Institute, which had just opened in January, and I met the director of the museum. I was finishing my master's degree in Art History when the management of the museum offered me to come and head the exhibitions and education department, and in July I had already moved to Armenia. I worked there for three years. Afterwards, I wanted to move from a micro-environment to a more macro level and have a larger understanding of the museum sector on the scale of Armenia and I joined the Smithsonian Institution’s cultural heritage tourism development program implemented in the regions of Armenia. I was in charge of the department of regional museums, we worked with 10 different museums. Parallel to the institutional work, from the start, I dived into the contemporary art scene and started collaborating with different independent practitioners. I observed that museums today do not provide a platform for them, which was very sad for me. The museums were not addressing contemporary issues and opening their doors to thinkers and practitioners of today. I founded AHA collective with the aim of becoming a bridge between artists and museums and other cultural platforms to foster dialogue and exchange through the commission of new artworks, the curation of solo and group exhibitions, publication and public programming. I think it is very important that people do not work separately, but feel part of a big network to make the society and the country more solid and stable.
Are you now involved with AHA collective as a curator?
Yes, we do exhibitions, we commission new artworks, we publish books, we do educational programs for children. We love working with museums, archives, international organizations, private collectors, artists, and scholars. The last project was the exhibition “Living Portals” in summer that we did in Verishen, a bordering village next to Goris. We collaborated with a social enterprise - the Verishen Crafts Workshop created by the Goris Women Resource Development Foundation, where women continue the carpet weaving tradition. AHA invited a team of practitioners from Armenia and the diaspora to station periodically over 1 year in the region of Goris, investigate the territory and produce works in dialogue with the region rich with cave dwellings, engage with the local community and their know-hows, such as the age-old art of carpet weaving.
Can you tell us more about these carpets?
These carpets were designed by visual artist Davit Kochunts. They are all handwoven by women master weavers in Verishen from 2022-2023. It’s a collection of 9 unique pieces produced locally with 100% natural dyes. The collection is called “Bold Khndzoresk” in reference to the artist’s family hometown. The workshop is located in the former House of Culture of the village, which had been closed for 35 years. When they started working on the carpets, they suggested that maybe we could exhibit them in the House of Culture in order to open the doors of this place again. And on June 3rd the collective exhibition was opened. I hope other regional House of Culture sites will reopen as well to breathe life and art into the villages. The last project AHA worked on is the exhibition “Voices from Our Collective Past” showcasing James Tufenkian's private collection of 19th century Armenian carpets. On September 2nd, when I was moving to my new house, we opened this very important exhibition at the History Museum of Armenia.
Is it open for visits now?
It's open for one year until September 2024. AHA collective’s team for this project included Gaya who did the architectural planning and furniture design, Maïda Chavak who worked on the scenography, Piruza Khalapyan who produced photo-video works. It’s interesting that I opened the exhibition with almost the same friends and colleagues with whom I did my house. The historical photograph of the Independence Movement taken by Grigor Qananyan I have in the kitchen was printed by Piruza. They have opened a great new specialized photo lab in Yerevan - 4plus print lab.