Armenia. Contemplating the sacred From 10 November 2023 to 10 March 2024. Villa Empain, Brussels

  • 11.11.2023
  • 0

Iconem, Tumo
Church of Surp Hovhannes, Meghri, Armenia , 17th Century
@ Iconem 3D Model

Curators: Bernard Coulie en Louma Salamé

The exhibition Armenia. Contemplating the sacredopens this Friday 10 November in the Project Space of the Villa Empain.

Antoine Agoudjian, Jean Boghossian, Pascal Convert, Mekhitar Garabedian,  Aïda Kazarian, Sarkis.

Boghossian Foundation
Villa Empain, Centre for art and dialogue between Eastern and Western cultures
Avenue Franklin Roosevelt, 67 – 1050 Brussels

An invitation to travel to millennia-old Armenia, where virtual reality blends with historical vestiges and contemporary works of art.

According to legend, recounted by Greek and Roman historians, Armenia was
founded by a descendant of Noah. A mythical birth for a people whose history has
been marked by tragedy, down to the devastating events of recent weeks. And
yet, the fascination remains intact when faced with the exceptional architectural
and cultural heritage that characterises this civilisation.
In partnership with Iconem, immersive videos present visitors with a truly unique
experience as they discover endangered historic sites such as the emblematic
monasteries of Geghard, Haghpat, Hayravank, Kirants and Arakelots, as well as
the sites of Surp Hovannes – Meghri and Deghdznut.
The exhibition also features exceptional items from the Musée Arménien de
France. Miniatures, manuscripts, precious liturgical objects never before exhibited
to the public, are shown alongside works by contemporary artists such as Sarkis,
Mekhitar Garabedian, Antoine Agoudjian, Jean Boghossian, Aïda Kazarian and
Pascal Convert.

Boghossian Foundation
Villa Empain, Centre for art and dialogue between Eastern and Western cultures
Avenue Franklin Roosevelt, 67 – 1050 Brussels 1
«Time goes by», «Time goes by faster and faster», «Time has passed»… these are
everyday expressions. They show that we see time from our point of view. But it’s
not time that’s passing, it’s us that’s passing. Time, on the other hand, remains,
and that’s what makes it sacred. So how do we situate ourselves in this time
and overcome our ephemeral nature? How can we become part of this time that
remains beyond us?
The Armenians have been particularly sensitive to this question. Like all Christian
people, the Armenian people have inscribed their history in the wider history of
Salvation, leading from the creation of the world and of mankind and from original
sin to redemption and the end of time. But it has added its own elements to this
For the Armenians, what enables each of us to transcend our ephemeral nature
and become part of time is memory: we do not disappear as long as someone
remembers us. Memory, remembrance and recall keep us alive.
Memory comes through speech and writing, and the two come together when it
comes to reading aloud.
And writing itself is sacred. According to tradition, it was God himself who inspired
Mesrop Mashtots to create the Armenian alphabet, just as he had dictated the
Tables of the Law to Moses. Going through the written word therefore takes on
a sacred dimension.
This is why the walls of Armenian churches are covered with inscriptions recalling
the names of donors, princes and bishops. Names can be read on tombstones
and khatchkars. Whoever reads these names keeps the dead alive.
This is why the copyists of Armenian manuscripts often include a note at the end
of their work relating the circumstances in which they worked; they give the names
of kings, catholicos, patriarchs, and above all their names and those of their family
members, and end with a formula inviting the reader to remember them.
In Armenian, these colophons are called hishatakarank, «memorials».
Because Armenian writing is sacred and etches each of us into time.
Bernard Coulie
Boghossian Foundation
Villa Empain, Centre for art and dialogue between Eastern and Western cultures
Avenue Franklin Roosevelt, 67 – 1050 Brussels

Antoine Agoudjian, Jean Boghossian, Pascal Convert, Mekhitar Garabedia, Aïda
Kazarian, Sarkis.

Musée Arménien de France

Synaxarion from the Convent of the Holy Sign of Erzinka
17th Century
@ Musée Arménien de France
Manuscript on parchment

The Musée Arménien de France was founded in 1953 on the initiative of
Nourhan Fringhian, an industrialist, with the support of Armenian collectors and
scholars who were survivors of the 1915 genocide. Today, Frédéric Fringhian,
Nourhan’s son, is the museum’s president and is working to restore the collection,
which covers more than 1,200 items, tracing the history of Armenia from the preChristian period to the present day. The museum remains a pillar for preserving
and sharing Armenian culture, a legacy for future generations.
Founded in 2013 by Yves Ubelmann, Iconem contributes to the conservation and
promotion of endangered heritage, by digitalising it for further exploration and
study. Across the world, his team brings together technologies that adapt to all
terrains such as photogrammetry, laser scanning, and large-scale scanning via
drones. The digitalisation of our heritage’s invaluable sites into 3D photorealist
models is essential to their preservation and their transmission to a larger audience.
Over the past few years, Iconem has designed digital exhibitions such as
Cités millénaires, at the Arab World Institute, Paris, 2018 and From Mossoul
to Palmyra, A Virtual Journey through the World’s Cultural Heritage, at the
Bundeskunsthalle, Bonn, 2019, and the immersive exhibition Aleppo, a 5,000 year
journey programmed at the Boghossian Foundation in 2019. These immersive
experiences grant the public access to exceptional heritage sites.
Historical Sites
Monastery of Haghpat (13th century), Monastery of Hayravank (9th-10th
centuries), Monastery of Geghart (13th century), Monastery of Deghdznut (13th
century), Monastery of Vahanavank (10th century), Monastery of Sourp Arakelots
(13th century), Church of Surp Hovannes (Meghri, 17th century), Monastery of
Kirants (13th century).
Boghossian Foundation
Villa Empain, Centre for art and dialogue between Eastern and Western cultures
Avenue Franklin Roosevelt, 67 – 1050 Brussels

Iconem, Tumo

Monastery of Kirants, Tavush, Armenia , 18th Century
@ Iconem 3D Model

Bernard Coulie was born in Brussels in 1959. He studied classical philology
as well as oriental philology and history. He later obtained a doctorate in oriental
philology and history from UCLouvain. After post-doctorates at Harvard and
Vienna, he pursued his career at the FNRS and UCLouvain, where he was
appointed full professor in 2000. He teaches Armenian, Georgian and Byzantine
studies, as well as European identity and culture. His research centres on
Armenian manuscripts and Armenian and Georgian translations of Greek texts.
He has held various positions at UCLouvain, where he was rector from 2004 to

  1. He is the author of more than 440 publications. He sits on several boards
    of directors, mainly in the hospital sector. Bernard Coulie is scientific curator of
    the exhibition Georgia: a history of encounters, which is being held in Brussels
    as part of the Europalia Georgia festival (27 October 2023 -18 February 2024).
    Born in 1981, Louma Salamé is a graduate of the Ecole Nationale
    Supérieure des Beaux-Arts (Paris) and the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des
    Arts Décoratifs (Paris). After an initial position in the curatorial department of
    the Guggenheim in New York in 2007, she moved to the Mudam collections
    (Luxembourg) in 2009. From 2009 to 2013, she took part in the Franco-Emirati
    project at the Louvre Abu Dhabi, before joining the Mathaf (Doha) in 2013.
    Returning to Europe in 2015, she joined the Institut du Monde Arabe (Paris)
    to continue her mission of bringing together Eastern and Western cultures.
    She designed the exhibitions Chemins de Traverse in 2015 and Mental Map in
    2012 in Paris. Director of the Boghossian Foundation – Villa Empain since 2016,
    she is behind the exhibitions Melancholia (2018), Flamboyant, un art de vivre
    dans les années trente (2019), The Light House (2020), How Will It End? with
    Alicia Knock (Centre Pompidou, Paris) (2021-22).
    Boghossian Foundation
    Villa Empain, Centre for art and dialogue between Eastern and Western cultures
    Avenue Franklin Roosevelt, 67 – 1050 Brussels

    Complementary programme
    Lecture Arménie, patrimoine millénaire menacé et nouvelles technologies, with
    Yves Ubelmann and Aurore Vaucelle, on Friday 10 November, at 7 pm.

    Lecture Arménie : une identité à l’épreuve du temps, with Bernard Coulie, on
    Wednesday 17 January, at 7 pm.
    Practical information
    From 10 November 2023 to 10 March 2024
    From Tuesday to Sunday, from 11 am to 6 pm
    Free guided tours: every first Sunday of the month (3 December 2023, 7
    January, 4 February, 3 March 2024)
    The exhibition will be exceptionally closed on 21 November, 25 December 2023
    and 1 January 2024
    The exhibition has been produced with the support of the Aliph Foundation,
    AGBU and the Wilhelm & Co Group.

Pieces of Musée Arménien de France

@ Silvia Cappellari

Fragment of Gospel binding, the evangelists Matthew and John

19th Century
@ Musée Arménien de France
Vermeil and embossed silver

Pascal Convert

@ Silvia Cappellari


connect with us: