About the Artists
"...a most talented and fascinating woman. Like a character from the Italian Renaissance, her beauty is wild, strange and flamboyant. She is a flame in the shape of a woman."
Things I Remember
Born in 1907 in Buenos Aires to an Argentine father and an Italian mother, Leonor Fini’s life began in confusion and turmoil. Her parent's divorce, before her first birthday caused her mother to leave South America for Trieste, Italy. It is widely known that Leonor's father tried on numerous occasions to kidnap her, a plot foiled by an ingenious and determined mother, who dressed her daughter as a boy in an attempt to hide her identity from her father.
Unhappy in the conventional school setting and traumatized by the effects of an eye disease in her teens which forced her to wear bandages over both eyes, Fini began to visualize within her own dark world. Her decision to become an artist was certainly influenced by this experience. By the age of seventeen, she was painting portraits of wealthy Italian sitters as well as ordinary citizens in Trieste, and in 1929, had her first one person show in Milan, followed in 1932, by her first show in Paris. Surrounded by her uncle's library and her mother's intelligence, the young Fini joined in discussions on politics, art and philosophy with the adults around her. She lived in the midst of the European avant-garde and began her journey as a painter with a sense of strong individuality and non-conformity. As a talented young woman in Paris, Leonor Fini came into contact with numerous luminaries of the time, including Andre Breton whose Surrealist Manifesto was not to her liking on many levels and, as a result, she refused to officially join the movement. She did however, align herself with many of the surrealists and did exhibit with them. Julien Levy gave Fini her first show in New York in 1936. She was represented at the Museum of Modern Art in the Dada and Surrealism Exhibition as well. When the renowned art dealer, Leo Castelli opened his first gallery at the Place Vendome, it was Leonor Fini, his childhood friend from Triese, who approached artists, gathered their works, created the decor including the furniture and organized the ground-breaking surrealist event.
Although best known for her paintings, drawings and prints, Fini was also a costume and set designer for operas and ballets, not the least of which, Le Reve de Leonor in 1949, her own creation. The author of many books and the illustrator of even more, Fini displayed her talents through these creations. She was a lover of cats and a painter of fantastic sphinxes, erotica and the metamorphosis of life and death. She had legendary friends, among them, Max Ernst, Leonora Carrington, Maria Callas, Jean Genet, Georges Balanchine and of course, her two life long partners Constantin Jelinski and Stanislao Lepri as well as her dearest friend and the executor of her estate, famed photographer, Richard Overstreet. Leonor Fini died in Paris in 1996.
Many have analyzed the life and work of Leonor Fini. Doctoral dissertations have been written on the subject as have magazine articles, books and documentary films. My recommendation is to just look carefully at the magic and mystery in Fini's oeuvre and don't over analyze it. Just allow yourself to be swept away in the experience. That's exactly what I did the first time I saw a lithograph in a gallery window in New York and, that’s what I still do, some forty years later!
"Everyone should stop what they are doing and run to the first exhibit of this young man. At twenty-four years, he is a master craftsman. Professional painters two or three times his age are not as expert...Each painting is a conquest that the spectator is invited to think aboutit is necessary to look at each painting for a long time to see its charm and seduction..."
- Alain Bosquet
Yerant was born in Moscow in 1963. His Armenian father was a well known jazz singer and musician and his Russian mother, a talented student. Yerant’s maternal grandmother and great grandmother were both pianists and his maternal grandfather, a very prominent engineer who designed trains and managed a train company between Siberia and Manchuria. With the help of the French government, the Douvalians emigrated to France in 1968, settling in a Parisian suburb where they raised their only son. At the age of seventeen, Yerant left home to join the French Army. During his military service, He began drawing to pass the time. He also developed an interest in the piano. Not realizing that music and art would be his future, Yerant gave little serious thought to these interests.
Divorced from Yerant’s father, Alla moved to Paris in 1982 and married Charles Kaufman. They encouraged Yerant to study art and within a few months, he was accepted at the prestigious, Academie Julien Met de Penningen – Ecole Superior A Graphique. He was one of the one hundred graphic design students and was immediately recognized by his professors as being in the top 90% of his class in all areas of study. After three years at the ESAG, Yerant began to paint. Rejecting the commercial side of graphic design, he began to paint his own mechanical creations, probably inspired by memories of his grandparents. Soon, Yerant realized that his professional future was as a painter and that while commercial graphic design would play a part in his work, it was not the career he would pursue. He moved to the South of France and began painting.
Intrigued since childhood by mechanical objects, his earliest works were of wheels, cylinders, pistons and locomotive emblems. He soon caught the attention of Katia Granoff, who offered to buy his paintings for her galleries in Paris, Nice and Deauville. Further recognition came when famed art critic, Alain Bosquet saw one of Yerant’s paintings at a friend’s house. He contacted Yerant and suggested that they find a gallery to promote him. At Bosquet’s invitation, Jacques Carpentier viewed the paintings and offered Yerant his first show in November, 1987. A few months later, Yerant had his first museum show at the Musee Francais du Chemin de Fer in Mulhouse. These shows were followed by an exhibition in Geneva and another in Moscow in addition to a group exhibition at the Hermitage. A painting donated by Yerant to the Armenian Auction to aid earthquake victims was purchased by singer, Charles Aznavour.
In July, 1988, Jacques Carpentier met with Carol Curci of Sabbatique Art in Paris, to discuss the sale of paintings by Yerant in the United States. Within a few months, six paintings were placed in private collections. Together, Galerie Carpentier and Sabbatique Ltd. published Yerant’s first lithograph, The Bracelet, and promotion began for his American debut at Art Expo - New York in 1990.
After the sudden death of Carpentier in December, 1989, the Carpentier family and Curci decided to continue the project. Response to Yerant’s paintings was extraordinary. Pieces were placed in private collections, corporate collections and sold to galleries for resale. And so, a young man’s career was underway! Yerant's most recent work can be seen in the set designs of The Matrix and The Matrix Reloaded.
"It is not often that a painter comes along who is modern, albeit highly personal, in imagination and who really knows how to paint in the classical tradition and, more specifically, in a style that echoes medieval art...It is fine painting at its best."
- Helen Khal, 1999Painter and Art Critic
Vahram was born in 1961 in Vanadzor, Armenia. He graduated from the Terlemezian’s Art College in 1986 and Yerevan’s Fine Art Theatrical Institute in 1992. One of a number of extremely talented Post Soviet Painters, Vahram takes his inspiration from his own life experiences, many of which focus around the break up of the Soviet Union.
Married with two young children, Vahram lives half of the year with his parents in Moscow, where he works on designs, and the other half in Armenia, where he works on his larger paintings. His style has been compared to the Surrealists, his characters often fantastic, part real and part imaginary. They are also quite reminiscent of the Flemish School, beautifully clothed and involved in daily activities such as picnics, walks at dusk or playing golf or cards.
Vahram’s unique works reflect his personal opinions and philosophical insights. Using ancient Armenian symbols such as the Horse, which was considered to be holy, almost a pre-historical god, the Peacock, the Goddess of Love and Beauty and the Fish, the Guardian of the Water, the artist transports us to another time and space where pomagranites grow on trees and fall to the ground – as the symbol of the Armenian Tree of Life.
Another interesting symbol in Vahram’s paintings is his use of masks. In Soviet Russia, all people, according to Vahram, wore masks – never letting on their true feelings or intentions. Even today, he believes that people tend not to trust each other. The husbands and wives in Vahram’s paintings are often shown wearing masks. When viewing a painting by Vahram, we can not help but wonder what the relationships are really about, are they in fact open and honest or phony and dishonest? Figuring it out is part of the joy of the work – and what the artist hopes to achieve in sharing his vision.
"...so great are his talents that he is one of the few artists working today who sets the standard by which all other contemporary art is measured. Many investors are adopting a cautious approach to collecting in today’s volatile contemporary art market. For some, only proven names such as Warhol, Rivera, Nieman, and Chemiakin will do."
- The Robb Report, December 1993
Mihail Chemiakin was born in Moscow in 1943 to a military family and spent his early years in occupied East Germany. He returned to the Soviet Union in 1957 where he was admitted to the Special High School of the Repin Academy of Art in Leningrad. He was expelled from art school for failing to conform to Socialist Realist norms, and from 1959-1975 worked as a laborer in various capacities including as a maintenance worker at the Hermitage. He was subjected to compulsory treatment at a mental institution for as a result of his political views. These experiences are incorporated into much of his early work.
In 1971, Chemiakin was forced to leave the USSR by Soviet authorities. He settled in Paris, where he created his famous "Carnival of St. Petersbourg" gouaches. His paintings and gouaches were exhibited at Galerie Carpentier in Paris in 1976. Together with Jacques Carpentier, Chemiakin began to produce prints. In 1981, he moved to New York where he continues to work on paintings and pastels as well as his monumental sculptures.
In 1989, Chemiakin had his first exhibition in Russia since his exile. Subsequently, he has installed four monuments in St. Petersburg, to Peter the Great, to the Victims of Political Repressions, and to the Architects and Builders of St. Petersburg. Another monument was installed in Venice in honor of the bicentennial of Casanova's death. Chemiakin's monument to Children - Victims of the Sins of Adults, commissioned by the city of Moscow, stands in Bolotnaya Square.
Chemiakin's first theatrical work was at the Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory in Leningrad in 1967. He designed a production of Shostakovich's, The Nose, only to see the production closed down by the authorities. There is some irony in the fact that Chemiakin's first ballet production, The Nutcracker, premiered in 2001, directly across Theater Square from the Conservatory!
Mihail Chemiakin is an internationally collected artist. Clearly, one of the greatest colorists of our time, his political views are deeply embedded in his work. His paintings, gouaches, watercolors, sculptures and graphics beg for us to pay attention on more than just the artistic level.