ARARAT Speakers Night:

ARARAT Speakers Night:

“The Museum Today”

As a partner of the most important cultural events both in Armenia and worldwide, this March the ARARAT Museum became the initiator and the platform for the unique “arttainment” project held in the format of Public Talk: ARARAT Speakers Night. For us it was yet another reason to visit the museum, one of the most significant places in Armenia.


That warm spring evening, the museum’s garden and meeting hall was full of artists, actors, museum professionals and journalists. Although ARARAT Speakers Night’s very first edition was yet to be launched, it was clear to all of us that it was going to be something special. As stated in a press release that we read whilst tasting one of the marvelous cocktails based on Ararat brandy, “ARARAT Speakers Night is a special series of meetings and discussions, where professionals from different fields including experts, artists, opinion leaders, journalists and representatives of contemporary art present their thoughts on urgent issues.”
“It’s great to know that the Yerevan Brandy Company is not just enjoying its status as Armenia’s national treasure, but it is also creating a platform to discuss the future of some of the most important global important topics”, noted Peto Poghosyan, a talented painter, who was going to produce some  sketches of that evening. A few minutes’ later, guests were invited into the hall. The decorations with the “The Museum today” writing revealed the topic of the first discussion.

As I was checking in to the ARARAT Museum (by the way, a member of ICOM: The International Council of Museums) on my smartphone, the moderator of the evening Ara Tadevosyan (the director of “Mediamax” media company) presented the speakers of the first episode of ARARAT Speakers Night: Zelfira Tregulova, director of the Russian State Tretyakov Gallery; and Danilo Eccher, curator, a contemporary art critic and one of the primary faces of Italian art.
During the meeting, the speakers presented strategies to build new types of relationships with regular and potential visitors. They also shared their rich experience of combining traditional and modern approaches, such as using cross-media technologies. The latter has reached a record number of diverse visitors of different ages and social backgrounds.
Mr. Eccher noted that times have changed and so has the audience. It reminded me of the very common scene I observe in almost every museum in different parts of the world – youngsters sitting near the art masterpieces but staring into their phones. It’s not enough just to have treasures inside anymore. “Visitors demand new options that we didn’t have in museums 10 to 20 years ago. They need more technologies and more ways to become integrated into the museum,” Mr. Eccher said, “That’s why nowadays you can take photos in many museums, which was impossible a few years ago. The selfie is one of the ways they can interact with museums, it became some kind of source of information in that way”. Additionally, Mr. Eccher said that it is important to fully understand what the demands of the visitors are and to encourage them to come closer to the museum. One of the brightest examples he recalled took place in one of the museums in Rome: “During that exhibition we let people write on the walls, and 120 thousand visitors left notes on the wall. While there surely were explicit words, the majority of the writings were visitors’ impressions about the pieces of art they saw in the museum.” Speaking of writing on the museum walls: there’s a similar writing corner in the ARARAT Museum with greetings from visitors from all over the world.

While discussing the new approaches that museums must employ, Zelfira Tregulova stated that it’s not only about new technologies, but to also provide visitors with a tool to express themselves: “They want to take part in the process and if you give them that opportunity, the museum succeeds. The museum must show not only pieces of art hanging on the walls, but must immerse visitors in everything that the museum is. We need to present interesting, fresh and bright ideas.” Tregulova adds: “The museum must expand outside of the museum’s walls. That’s what we do in Tretyakovka: we went out onto the streets, onto the internet and social networks, and finally, we went down into the metro with a great project with the Moscow Metropolitan. For six months we were exhibiting the history of Russian art since the very beginning of the XX century to the current day in all of the carriages of the subway trains.”
Summarizing the discussion, Mr. Eccher noted that it’s also very important not to get too absorbed in technology and to not forget that the museum’s main function is to show the art’s real value and importance: “Technologies are just a tool and the tool should never replace the art itself.”
The discussion then continued at the meeting hall in a less formal manner. A few hours passed by very quickly, resulting from spending the whole day in an interesting museum and not noticing the time passing by. At the end of the day, it became clear that we are never going to skip any of the next editions of ARARAT Speakers Night.