Curating with a Mission
Christopher Atamian and Tamar Hovsepian develop Atamian Hovsepian Curatorial Practice dedicated to exhibiting extraordinary and underrepresented talents
September 7, 2022 | by Creative Armenia
Born out of a mutual passion for contemporary and Armenian art, Atamian Hovsepian Curatorial Practice is more than just a curatorial agency. Developed by a powerhouse duo – critic and multiplatform storyteller Christopher Atamian and writer and curator Tamar Hovsepian – the initiative set up an ambitious mission to represent extraordinary contemporary art created by underrepresented voices, including art made by women, LGBTQ+ and artists of color into the global discourse. Learn more about the small and big steps the co-curators have been taking to bring their vision to life, one project at a time.
Creative Armenia: Chris, Tamar, what is the genesis of Atamian Hovsepian Curatorial Practice?
Christopher and Tamar: We have known each other for many years and had written extensively about art and curated exhibitions independently. We also have deep respect for each other professionally and personally. Teaming up made perfect sense, so that is what we did! Atamian Hovsepian Curatorial Practice was established in early 2022 and our very successful first exhibition, The Future of Things Passed, opened in Chelsea, Manhattan in May, featuring the work of four outstanding Armenian-American women artists: Eozen Agopian, Melissa Dadourian, Linda Ganjian, and Judith Simonian.
CA: How is a curatorial practice different from a plain old art gallery?
Christopher and Tamar: As curators, we curate exhibitions at different venues: galleries, museums, public spaces, etc. It makes for a richer experience than having a stand-alone gallery – it gives us flexibility both in terms of the artists we select and the themes we choose for our exhibitions. Like conventional art galleries, we sell the work that we show, but we have a more academic, critical approach than typical galleries which are usually concerned with simply selling work at the highest possible price.
CA: How do you choose your artists?
Christopher and Tamar: We choose artists whom we think have something important to say about the world or the process of creativity/creating, which is synonymous with being alive—something that we forget sometimes given the conflicts and problems we see in the world today. We focus on underrepresented artists: POC's, women, Armenian artists, LGBTQ+. We conduct many studio visits and already have a large network of artists in the US, Europe, and Armenia, and we plan to exhibit and represent all of them.
CA: So, in a sense, you are "curators with a cause?"
Christopher and Tamar: First and foremost, we are about bringing important and beautiful art to the world to see—but as part of that, having causes that we support and believe in is part of our offering.
CA: Are women and LGBTQ+ artists still underrepresented in major collections?
Christopher and Tamar: Absolutely. There are still too few women in major museum collections. Often the type of art that women were allowed to create in society – for example, what has been "home crafts" – has been denigrated or somehow considered inferior to “fine arts.” In reality, their work has been just as remarkable: weaving, needlepoint, etc... Not to mention all the great women fine artists like Mary Cassatt and Artemisia Gentileschi, the list is long. Go to any studio program today and half the students are women. So why do names like Banksy, Damien Hirst, and Anselm Kiefer roll off our tongues still, but not their female counterparts?
As for LGBTQ+ people, they have always been a major force in all art forms, including fine and visual arts and film. The trick is to bring to the attention of the public their LGBTQ+ identity and not hide it or be ashamed of it, but rather be proud of it. So many gay artists have contributed to society and then so many died during the AIDS crisis. In dance, there was Nureyev, Alvin Ailey, Joffrey; in art, Keith Haring, David Wojnarowicz, Peter Hujar, etc.—it is the least that we can do in thanks.
CA: Why don't we see more Armenian artists in major collections? Say at the Met or MoMA?
Christopher and Tamar: There are a few Armenian artists in those museum collections, and a few in other museums as well. But there is no critical mass. Many of the artists in question are diasporan artists and, hence, not identified institutionally as being Armenian. They are "French" or "German" or "American."
That is normal of course, but that is where we as curators come in. Tamar was born in Armenia and Christopher is Italian on his mom’s side and Armenian-American on his father’s side. We need to incorporate diasporan artists into the Armenian context: that is what we did with The Future of Things Passed, our first Chelsea exhibition. People reacted positively to the show in part because it spoke to them on different levels.
Also, we are trying to develop a cohort of Armenian collectors who collect both Armenian and non-Armenian art. That takes acculturating people to certain ideas and trends and getting them used to the idea that art is worth investing in just like real estate, stocks, bonds, and crypto. You may have to wait longer but the returns can be even larger. And art is perhaps the ultimate pleasure in life—it has existed ever since Neanderthals when our first ancestors drew on cave walls!
CA: What are some of your next projects that we should look out for?
Christopher and Tamar: We are working on several exhibitions and projects in collaboration with institutions in the US and Armenia. Our next exhibition is at the Lebanese American University in New York from September 6th to 19th, 2022. Art to Learn, Art to Live, is a group exhibition of works by Lebanon’s leading contemporary painters, photographers, sculptors, and multimedia artists creating in Lebanon and internationally. The exhibition will be accompanied by an online auction. Proceeds from the auction will go directly to support student financial aid and cancer care at LAU in Lebanon.
Future exhibitions are being planned with the Mosesian Center for the Arts in Massachusetts and the Contemporary Experimental Art Center in Yerevan. Soon we will also announce our residency program for artists living and working in Armenia, in collaboration with the Ashot Johannissyan Research Institute in the Humanities in Yerevan.
CA: Where can we find out more about Atamian Hovsepian?
Tamar: We have a robust website where you can learn about our artists and exhibitions: www.atamianhovsepian.art. Subscribe to our list to receive emails on all the exciting things happening at Atamian Hovsepian Curatorial Practice!