Memories of a Maestro: How the Sergei Parajanov Museum came about – Armenian Weekly | Candle Made Easy

Admission to the Sergei Parajanov Museum (courtesy of the museum)

Nestled into the cliffs of Dzoragyugh, a former district of historic Yerevan, stands the Sergei Parajanov Museum, a former carpenter’s workshop. But how did this wonderful museum dedicated to a global film icon come about? The museum’s designer and chief architect, Arshak Ghazaryan, lifts the veil to reveal the difficult path to immortalizing Parajanov’s artwork.

While Ghazaryan initially aspired to become a painter like his father, who taught many of the great Armenian painters of the 20th century, Ghazaryan eventually fell in love with architecture and graduated from Yerevan State Polytechnic University in 1976 with a degree in the field .

Ghazaryan worked on many projects during his career as an architect. He worked at the ARMSTATE Project Institute, which undertook a variety of projects. In 1983 he became chief architect of the Dzoragyugh Ethnographic District Project operated under the Department of Preservation and Restoration of Historical Monuments, the first of its kind in the Soviet Union. In the future, the Sergei Parajanov Museum would become part of the Dzoragyugh Ethnographic District Project.

In 1988, photographer and director of the Folk Art Museum Zaven Sargsyan, who later became director of the Sergei Parajanov Museum, brought Parajanov’s collage collection to Yerevan from Tbilisi, Georgia. These collages were created by Parajanov during his captivity and are believed to have saved his life while in captivity. An exhibition was created and many Armenians and foreign visitors came to see it, including Ghazaryan.

Ghazaryan and many other artists such as Sargsyan and Grigor Khanjyan believed in the need for a house-museum for Parajanov. After seeing the exhibition at the Folk Art Museum, Ghazaryan came up with the idea of ​​a location in the Dzoragyugh Ethnographic District.

Ghazaryan passed this idea on to Khanjyan, Karen Demerdjian’s informal visual arts advisor and curator of the Dzoragyugh Ethnographic District Project. Khanjyan went to Demerdjian and asked that the building on the cliffs in Dzoragyugh, which was then only half built, be donated to Parajanov as a house-museum.

“Demerdjian agreed and the decision was made,” Ghazaryan said in a recent interview with The Weekly. “After that, Parajanov’s other artworks were brought from Tbilisi [to Yerevan] over night. It was a big project. We rushed to give him this building because Parajanov was already ill.”

Parajanov at that time was seriously ill with diabetes, and his health was deteriorating, he often had difficulty walking.

Architect Arshak Ghazaryan, filmmaker Sergei Parajanov and former director of Sergei Parajanov’s house museum Zaven Sargsyan pictured in front of the work-in-progress museum. Photographer unknown.

Ghazaryan first met Parajanov outside the future house-museum. Although this was their first face-to-face meeting, Ghazaryan felt like he’d met Parajanov a long time ago when he first watched shadows of forgotten ancestors on TV.

“My impression of him was formed as a teenager 20 years ago,” Ghazaryan recalls. “For me he was a source of pride, an Armenian and a great artist. The most important thing was that even though he had done so much work and had so much knowledge, he had no arrogance at all.”

They toured the building together while Ghazaryan explained the vision for the project: a space for an art studio, a museum and a living area.

Courtyard of the Sergei Parajanov Museum (courtesy of the museum)

“I’ve been anxiously awaiting what he has to say. I asked, ‘What would you advise us to do better?’ He said: “Keep it up. Whatever you have done is good.”

When construction began in 1988, the Karabakh movement had also begun. After that, everything started to get complicated.

“But in every situation, Karen Demerdjian, Grigor Khanjyan and the City Hall did everything to allow the construction to continue. It went very slowly. Then construction stopped, not because of the movement, but because a nearby tenant wrote a complaint to Moscow.”

Complaints were received that the building violated many regulations and was a nuisance to local residents. This delayed construction until mid-1989, when Ghazaryan and his team worked to get a permit again and prove that they had in fact not broken any codes.

“We were in a hurry. We all understood that we had to be quick so that he could live there at least one day for it to become a house-museum.”

Everyone on the project was in a hurry because Parajanov was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1989 and his health was deteriorating rapidly. He underwent one pneumonectomy, a lung removal operation, in Moscow in the same year, but unfortunately his condition did not improve. Despite this, he was still active and even traveled to Germany in 1990, where he received an award and announced the establishment of his house museum and workshop.

On July 17, 1990, he returned to Yerevan seriously ill and was hospitalized.

“The last time I saw him was in the hospital. Within three days he died… on July 20th,” Ghazaryan shared.

Parajanov was a popular artist, filmmaker, director and advocate of artistic liberation. His artworks still inspire, and even have, the modern world shaped pop culture in America. He never saw the full realization of the museum and could never live in it. Thus, the museum is not considered a house museum. The museum officially opened in the summer of 1991, a year after his death.

Entrance Hall of the Sergei Parajanov Museum (courtesy of the museum)

“Parajanov was in and out of the museum during construction,” Ghazaryan said. “His energy stayed in the museum. That is why the museum lives on to this day.”

While discussing the final moments he spent with Parajanov, Ghazaryan said, “We haven’t spoken to each other. We just looked at each other. Before he died he kept saying, ‘I will live in Dzoragyugh.’ I told him very quietly, ‘Dzoragyugh is waiting for you.’”

The Sergei Parajanov Museum on Hrazdan Gorge in Yerevan (courtesy of the museum)

Jane Partizpanyan

Jane Partizpanyan is a journalist and public relations major from California State University, Northridge. She works as a writer for the Daily Sundial. She is also the public relations coordinator for public relations firm Agency 398 and is a published poet.

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