The Beatrice And Hrandt Avakian Collection

22 Spătarului Street, Bucharest (see also in Romanian with illustration)
 The siblings Béatrice and Hrandt Avakian set up their collections independently, nevertheless evincing a shared predilection towards Eastern art, to be accounted for among others, perhaps, by the extraction of the family, native of Syria. Culled with great sacrifice, the collections were brought together to form a complex entity of national, European and Oriental art, in which the Far-Eastern collectables would prevail both by dint of their number and value. Donated to the state in 1971 and presented to the public in 1974, the collection was added to the Museum [of Art Collections] in 1978. The original donation was supplemented on two occasions after 1989 and currently totals 1042 items.Hrandt Avakian (1900-1990) was born in Aleppo (Syria). He attended the courses of the ArmenianSchool (the lower forms and the first forms in high school, between 1907-1915), and, subsequent to its disbanding, resumed his studies at the German high school (1915-1917). He would break them off, however, in his last year, on account of pecuniary straits and take upon himself the upkeep of the family, after his father's death. A refugee in Balcic (in 1920), he opened up a tiny shop for brushes, paints and glassware. He succeeded in gaining access to the artistic milieu of the town on the SilverCoast and earned the friendship of figures like Jean.Al. Steriadi, Iosif Iser, Cecilia Cuţescu-Stork, Alexandru Satmari, Rodica Maniu, Ştefan Popescu, who would spur him into cultivating his gift for painting apparent since his school years. He worked as a substitute teacher of drawing at the Gymnasium in Balcic; he was to be initiated into the technique of restoration under the guidance of Alexandru Satmari, started to paint and to take part in various group exhibitions (1922-1925); he would advocate the cultural actions of the Free University "SilverCoast" magazine, run by Octavian Moşescu.He established himself in Bucharest (1929), where he studied graphic arts and painting with Jean Al. Steriadi; he exhibited in the official galleries. At the same time, he resumed and enlarged his specialization in restoration; he worked, in point of fact, from 1949 to 1960, as a restorer at the National Arts Museum of Bucharest and was taken counsel with the Armenian Patriarchate relative to the restoration of the church held under patronage. In 1960 and 1962 he opened two exhibitions of painting in Erevan. In the make-up of the donation, consistent in its prevalent features, the contribution of the two collectors documents the favored inclinations of each. Béatrice Avakian (1905-1996) was passionately fond of the art of jewelry, wooden and ivory miniatures, embroidery, Bohemian crystals, painting, whilst Hrandt Avakian was drawn to smallish bronze statuettes, archeological findings, Roman vitrics, textiles and pottery.A remarkable attraction is given by the ensemble of Japanese small sculptures, consisting of netsuke (miniatures in ivory and wood), inrõ's (tiny boxes with drug shelves, varnished and painted), dating back from the 18th and 19th centuries. Representative artists of the schools of Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka are featured in the collection by works drawn from every-day life, peopled by historical characters or demons, Buddhist or Taoist gods, zodiacal animals or mythical creatures. Along with these pieces sculpted with proverbial technical craftsmanship and unlimited creative imagination by the Nippon artists, a group of Chinese sculptures dating back from the late Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) stands out. Therefrom, the piece representing the six-armed goddess of mercy, Guanyin, manufactured in the North-Western province of Gansu, is notable. These are complemented by a number of ritual pieces: Indian spice boxes, a sculpture rendering a woman carrying a lamp, sculptures from South-Eastern Asia, as well as by two elegant Chinese candlesticks from the 18th century, crafted in cloisonné technique, dishes and plateaus from China and Japan, manufactured in the same technique. A cabinet produced in Korea in the 19th century, decorated with a delicate lacework of nacre, attracts the attention of the visitor. Unique throughout all arts collections in Bucharest due to the rarity of iconographic representations, are the Lamaist sculptures in gilded bronze dating back to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). They belong to a less known field of Buddhist art, being created in specialized workshops in Tibet and Northern China. A rare Buddhist sculpture of Gandhara typology inspiringly complements the Far-Eastern art section which is the pride of the Béatrice and Hrandt Avakian Collection.The textile arts are illustrated by Turkish (Ghiordes and Kula) and Caucasian praying rugs from the 16th-19th centuries, a spectacular shabrack manufactured in the sumak technique in the 19th century, Bursa and Bukhara embroideries, and Kashmir shawls from the 19th century.Amply represented by objects from various geographical areas, rendering the distinct characteristics of each of the schools and workshops evident, the art of precious metals takes an apart place in the collection. Turkish goblets, caskets and mirrors, as well as pieces of silverware manufactured in the workshops of Vienna, Paris, Moscow, London, Augsburg, and Sibiu bear witness to the Oriental pomp or to the Occidental comfort. Equally relevant is the jewelry crafted in silver, in polychromous enamel, with settings of inlayed pearls, precious or semiprecious metals. A further constant attraction for the collectors was constituted by pottery, represented by Hellenic and Roman pieces from 1st-4th centuries, as well as by Persian dishes and plaques manufactured in the 13-19th centuries. Among these, the Tanagra statuettes and the Rhages bowl dating back from the 13th century are pieces of reference. The section also includes items of Romanian folk-art ceramics.The icons on wood, originating in the Romanian or Greek and Russian space, among which several are overlaid with silver, as well as the icons on glass compel a special mention. Some of them are the work of renowned icon masters from the 17-19th centuries, such as Steven the Painter (Saint Nicholas, Maramures), Gregor the Painter (Mother of God with Infant, Wallachia), George the Painter (Saint Nicholas, Transylvania).Amongst the Romanian works of painting and graphic art the following stand out: Nicolae Grigorescu (The Lighthouse of Pompeii), Gheorghe Petraşcu (The Almond Branch), Theodor Pallady (Still Life with Book and Flowers), Iosif Iser (A Couple of Tartar Women), Lucian Grigorescu (Still Life with Crabs). This section is completed by a considerable number of original creations by Hrandt Avakian, a sensitive artist with a special inclination towards landscape (Boat in the Delta, Abandoned Boat).
Excerpted from The Béatrice and Hrandt Avakian Collection, in: The Guide to Collections, issued by The Museum of Art Collections, The Romanian Museum of Art, Gistal Imaging and Printing, Bucharest 2003

by Alexandru Măciucă