Berdj Garabedian: A Pillar Among Many

Berdj Garabedian: A Pillar Among Many

It’s nice to know that nearly three decades after his death, Berdj Garabedian is not a forgotten man. His work in refined metals and numismatic circles continues to live on and be appreciated by those who’ve known him or never met the man.

Berdj Garabedian

An exhibit that will have you applauding his work, “Objects that Transcend: Metalwork from the Garabedian Collection,” is now on display in the Armenian Museum of America.

Eighty guests attending the Armenian Prelacy’s Pillars dinner April 16 remained enamored by the contributions this man made to art and culture. In some ways, he was the paragon of pillars in his medium—a redwood in a forest of sequoias.

On hand were members of the artist’s family, including three daughters, all of whom embraced the moment. Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan was more than generous in his praise of Garabedian, calling him an icon among his peers.

“Berdj was a simple man whose work spoke volumes,” the Prelate described. “He left behind his seal of greatness in the arts, donating time and money to formulate this collection. His love for art portrays his nationhood.”

He remains one of the fortunate ones in our midst by having his talent perpetuated and appreciated. Think for a moment how many artists never gained that opportunity, mired in obscurity, genocide victims whose efforts never took root.

Not only did we lose 1.5 million sainted martyrs, but we also suffered irreplaceable cultural losses. Just look at the ruins of Ani and you’ll see our tragedy. Look at any church in Historic Armenia and you will feel the pain and torment. Look at any religious edifice or icon and see the heartache.

Garabedian was not satisfied with merely collecting and saving Armenian coins and antiquities. He was also inspired by these national treasures. He enthusiastically shared that knowledge with those who were interested in the ancient and medieval cultural heritage of Armenia.

We are writers and photographers, poets and artists. More than anything, we wish to make an impact with our talents, inspire an oncoming generation, and getting our own children involved.

What we do for ourselves unfortunately dies with us. But what we do for others, lives on. It is the stuff of which legacies are made.

I respect people like Dr. Levon Saryan and Gary Setian for how they have taken Armenian coins to another level. Levon’s research of historic coinage has become a vanguard of respect.

Setian, on the other hand, shared his vast collection with Armenian School students throughout our Prelacy schools. I can only tell you what my daughter did with her coin one year.

She took it to a jewelry store and had a pendant made which she treasures to this very day. She took a weathered coin and turned it into a personal jewel, drawing curious eyes to the piece.

“This is a coin from the country of my ancestors,” she reminded everyone.

An inventory of Garabedian’s collection reveals that over a lifetime, he assembled a legendary holding of 7,634 ancient and medieval coins, bank notes and antiquities. His collection consisted of gold, silver and copper coins, coin boards, seals and metalware which carry very important information about our heritage.

Much too often, we pass before our time, only to see our art grow obscure. It seldom works the other way. As long as the artist lives, so does the skill and genius.

Over the years, I’ve amassed a huge photojournalism inventory. Any picture worth its salt was secured and preserved. I can say the same for my visits to Armenia. I do not consider myself prominent by any stretch.

In an attempt to keep my work solvent, I began displaying at libraries and schools and keeping the interest secured. Like Garabedian, we cannot grow to appreciate what we don’t cultivate.

Art becomes a paradox of sorts. If you want to master it, you must become a slave to it. Garabedian was obsessed by it, no doubt. He understood that preserving art and culture is the sacred and ultimate duty of every responsible Armenian.

Like so many other artists that come before us, perusing Berdj Garabedian’s exhibit at AMA only confirms the obvious. Our artistry is a testament to the ingenuity and general refinement of our precious civilization.

For that, we remain grateful.


Source: Armenian Weekly Mid-West