In today’s Estonia, is it possible for an artist to live and work without support from the government, foundations or sponsors? And without selling his works? It seems, yes. An example is an Estonian artist, Rafael Arutjunjan, who has relied only on himself and his family.
In the middle of August, Rafael Arutjunjan exhibited his works of the past five years in the Vanalinna Stuudio Theatre. He is an artist who in principle refuses to sell his works to earn a living. It is his son and producer, Areg Arutjunjan, who has been taking care of all the financial and organisational matters. Why is he doing all that?
“Our temperament is southern, although I was born in Estonia. Family and respect for parents is very important for us. It would be very strange if I had money and didn’t help my father. Such are our long-standing traditions. I am a businessman and my father does not have to sell his works to earn money,” says son Areg.
In 1997, when Rafael Arutjunjan celebrated his 60thbirthday, he wanted to hold an exhibition of his sculptures in the gallery at 6 Vabaduse Square, but was turned down. Then the artist’s son undertook the organisation of the anniversary exhibition himself. The grand show displaying over 100 sculptures by the artist was opened in the exhibition halls at 3 Sakala Street. Since then, the artist has never sought outside help.
Another reason why the artist does not sell his works is the family’s plan to build a new art gallery. Thus it would be pretty thoughtless to sell one’s work in order to have to buy them back later. At present, the father has 230 paintings and prints and over 100 sculptures. In the gallery, the son envisages exhibiting works of other Estonian and European artists and procuring some classics, as well.
“One day I will be happy to say that the gallery belongs physically and morally to our family. And as a businessman I find it funny to go to another businessman to sponsor my father’s activities,” Areg Arutjunjan, who was pretty good at drawing in school, explains his principles. But he takes more to business and organising. His principle is that if a person is not crazy about making art, it makes no sense to deal with it at a mediocre level.
How did Rafael Arutjunjan manage to be a free artist earlier?
In the Soviet time, it was not talent that counted when you wanted to get orders, but acquaintances. The artist was not willing to spend his valuable time on making acquaintances. To remain a free artist and to feed his family, Rafael Arutjunjan worked as a stone cutter at a cemetery in the daytime and spent evenings in the studio with his sculptures. These 17 years were very hard morally and physically.
These years also wore out the sculptor’s hand. The painful hand led him to painting. “I intended to draw a bit for a change and go back to sculptures when my hand got better. But my hand only got worse. Little by little an urge developed in me to express myself in colours,” explains the artist who also plays music and writes poetry as a hobby.
In 1964, he graduated from the Department of Sculpture of the Estonian State Art Institute. The artist says that he gets his ideas from the environment surrounding him. His inspiration also derives from events in his homeland and the Bible.
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The artist’s son and producer, Areg Arutjunjan, finds that if a person is not crazy about making art, it makes no sense to deal with it at a mediocre level.
The artist Rafael Arutjunjan says that he has got everything in life, now also a small grandchild.