The town of Dilijan in Armenia.

Armenia’s Dilijan Arts Observatory Is the Nation’s First International Arts Initiative

Anny Shaw of the Art Newspaper writes that the Dilijan Arts Observatory, Armenia’s first international arts initiative, which opens on August 22, 2016, will aid in reinvigorating the financially struggling nation. A third of the participants in the event are Armenian.

Presentations on Soviet architecture, astronomy, and local crafts, among other topics, will be taking place on September 10 and 11, along with a full schedule of performances and exhibitions. There will also be talks from Lebanese artist Haig Aivazian, Australian fashion designer Misha Hollenbac, and Armenian curator Vigen Galstyan. Another observatory is in the works for next year. Exhibitions related to it are scheduled to take place at the Centre Pompidou in Paris during the summer of 2018, and Berlin’s Hamburger Bahnhof in November of 2017.

There is hope that the observatory will be integral to establishing an art academy in Dilijan. In addition to art, the school will offer courses in law, botany, and medicine, and could be involved in the making of goods. Clémentine Deliss, a curator for the observatory as well as the former director of the Weltkulturen Museum in Frankfurt am Main, said “I’m interested to see if we can put our finger on a prototype; it could be a plant-derived product like Moroccan argan oil. The idea is to create a model for an institution that could apply to all parts of the world.”

The philanthropists Ruben Vardanyan and Veronika Zonabend—founders of the Dilijan Art Initiative—are supporting the observatory. They also sponsored the Armenian pavilion at the 2015 Venice Biennale, which was awarded a Golden Lion. Vardanyan and Zonabend also backed thirteen artists who were making work about the Armenian genocide for the 2015 Istanbul Biennial (a century later, Turkey still refuses to claim responsibility for the atrocity). The pair are also backers for the Foundation and United World College Dilijan, and Initiatives for Development of Armenia.