Sculptor Mikayel Ohanjanyan won the prestigious “Enrico Marinelli Contemporary Art Award,” which recognizes contemporary artists who are akin to the old masters whose works adorn the Florentine monuments and fill the Cathedral Museum. The jury — composed of art experts and directors from some of the most important international artistic institutions — chose the project of Mikayel Ohanjanyan among the five finalists. The four other finalists were Francesco Arena (Italy), Marco Bagnoli (Italy), Sakshi Gupta (India) and Barthelemy Toguo (Cameroon). The renowned curator Adelina von Furstenberg coordinated the award.
The award was created by the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore and the Guild of the Dome Association to honor the memory of its founder and his extraordinary contribution. The award was made possible thanks to the generosity of Eurovita Assicurazioni, and it will give the winner the possibility to create an original sculpture for the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo of Florence. Ohanjanyan’s piece, “The Threshold is the Source,” will be exhibited during the month of October. Ohanjanyan will work on the sculpture in Tuscany, with the help of the local artisans, and the piece will then be exhibited temporarily into the museum’s premises for a six-month period.
The five artists were asked to present a 3D rendering of their artwork along with a detailed description. The theme of the contest was “Hope,” — Timothy Verdon, director of the Opera del Duomo Museum and member of the award’s organizational committee, described it as follows.
“A theological virtue, meaning Hope in God and in his salvation,” Verdon said. “Today, although it still maintains a religious connotation, it also relates to people and common situations, and their potential to change. It can refer to problems of our times such as immigration, peace, human prosperity.”
The theoretical, social and human understanding of Mikayel Ohanjanyan — explained the jury in its motivation — towards a contemporary notion of “Hope” is the most convincing and brave among the projects.
Regarding “Hope,” Ohanjanyan offered an awareness that crossed the idea of a magmatic reality and of the myth of memory and materiality of transformation. He used volcanic stone to explore the nature of changing and fusing the elements of reality. Ohanjanyan’s project also related to a serious line in contemporary arts which considers the memory and the nature of materials as vectors of life and change.
The evaluation criteria took note of the ability to be inspired by the context, the capacity to create an artwork in continuity between past and present, the willingness to collaborate with the local artisans, in the same way the great masters of the past did in order to create their masterpieces for the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore monuments.
The jury of the “Enrico Marinelli Contemporary Art Award” is composed of the following members: Micol Forti, director of the Collection of Contemporary Art of the Vatican Museum; David Stuart Elliott, vice director and senior curator for the RMCA di Guangzhou; Antonio Natali, member of the council of the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore; Christian Oxenius, writer and guest curator of the Kunsthalle di Osnabruck; Denys Zacharopoulos, artistic director of the Municipal Gallery, Museum and Art Collection of the City of Athens.
Mikayel Ohanjanyan was born in Yerevan in 1976. He lives and works between Reggello, Florence and Pietrasanta. He attended the P. Terlemezyan State College of Fine Arts of Yerevan (graduated in 1995) followed by the State Academy of Fine Arts of Yerevan (graduated in 2001). In 2000, upon relocation to Italy, he entered the Academy of Fine Arts of Florence (graduated in 2005).
During the course of his artistic career, he has participated in various national and international exhibitions, such as the 12th Venice Biennale of Architecture in 2010 (National Pavilion of Armenia), 54th Venice Biennale of Art in 2011 (Collateral Event) and the 56th Venice Biennale of Art in 2015 (National Pavilion of Armenia), in which Armenia was awarded the Golden Lion for Best National Participation. In 2016, his work, “Diario,” was selected for the Frieze Sculpture Park 2016, exhibited at Regent’s Park in London and subsequently, the same work was chosen for the prestigious Yorkshire Sculpture Park. In 2017, two works by Ohanjanyan were chosen for the Fiac “On Site” project, exhibited in front of Petit Palais in Paris.