If we step up in times of need and step up with consistency even when there is not a crisis, Armenia will get through this period of time. And most definitely Armenians will get through it.
When the prestigious Madison Avenue art gallery Rosenberg & Co. announced its new exhibition of the works of French-Armenian artist Léon Tutundjian--who stands among the pioneers of the 20th century abstract expressionist movement in Europe—the team at AGBU Arts saw a connection.
According to AGBU Arts Director Hayk Arsenyan, the opening of a New York art exhibition dedicated to a survivor of the Armenian Genocide just one week after the ethnic cleansing of Armenians from Artsakh would surely have special meaning to the Armenian community. The next step was enlisting the AGBU New York Special Events Committee, otherwise known as NYSEC.
This dynamic group is well connected to both the New York cultural scene and the AGBU community and, for over a decade, has successfully showcased Armenian talent at some of the most prestigious venues in the city, while raising funds for university level arts scholarships in the process. Current members include: Anita Anserian; Nadine Ariyan; Betty Cherkezian; Nila Festekjian (Chair); Linda Gezdir; Maral Hajjar; Hilda Hartounian; Maral Jebejian; Vesna Markarian; Sossy Setrakian; and Vera Setrakian.
However, this year, the committee immediately agreed to help raise funds to support AGBU humanitarian relief efforts, given the crisis in Armenia and recognizing it was time to remind the world of the triumph of the Armenian spirit over adversity and catastrophe, as exemplified by Tutundjian's own backstory.
On November 8th, over 40 guests assembled at the elegantly appointed two-story space that the Rosenbergs moved into in the 1940s. Often described as resembling an aristocratic Parisian apartment, it was a fitting venue in which to honor the late Paris-based Tutundjian, whose genius parallels iconic artists the likes of Calder, Kandinsky, and Klee. His works remain on display through December 22, 2023.
During Arsenyan's welcome remarks, he outlined AGBU’s main areas of focus for humanitarian relief, including food security, health services, and job training and placement support. It should be noted that, as of October 31, 304,000 hot meals had been distributed to Artsakh Armenians across seven regions of Armenia through a partnership with AGBU and World Central Kitchen. This month, 56,000 food boxes are being distributed for at-home meal preparation as families find more stable housing arrangements.
There was also commentary by Marianne Rosenberg, the owner of the gallery, which is part of her family legacy going back four generations. It was her great grandfather who established himself in Paris where he represented Picasso, Matisse, and Legèr among other well-known modernists. Her grandfather, a victim of the Nazi regime, first brought the family curatorial practice from Europe to America after World War II, making her especially attuned to Tutundjian's improbable rise to fame from his humble beginnings as an orphan of genocide.
French-Armenian art historian and curator Choghakate Kazarian was also present to give an informal talk about why Tutundjian deserves to be seen as an historically and culturally seminal figure in the birth of abstract modern art and its timeless value today. Kazarian will be back at Rosenberg & Co. on December 6th to make a longer presentation that delves deeper into the artist’s work, influence, life, and times.
Each speaker also pointed out that, while Tutundjian's name is held in such high esteem throughout European art circles but somehow is less recognized in North America, this exhibition of the creative visionary's works is long overdue.They also agreed that the multilateral collaboration among Rosenberg & Co., the Tutundjian Foundation in France, AGBU Arts, and NYSEC was such a success because each stakeholder brought a particular expertise to the planning and implementation of the benefit event.
AGBU Central Board member Haig Ariyan closed the remarks with an inspired message. He explained why the AGBU Global Relief Fund is so critical at a time of such great upheaval and uncertainty. He also confirmed that the funds that AGBU has already expended for Artsakh Armenians enabled the organization to greatly expand its scope and capacity to meet the needs of tens of thousands of people within a very short window. He cited the outpouring of donor support to meet these challenges. "If we step up in times of need and step up with consistency even when there is not a crisis, Armenia will get through this period of time. And most definitely Armenians will get through it,”Ariyan asserted, reprising the evening's theme of the indomitability of the Armenian spirit.
To learn more about the exhibition of Leon Tutundjian through 12/22/23, go to rosenbergco.com.
To donate to AGBU Global Relief Fund in support of Artsakh Armenians, go to agbu.org/global-relief.