Oriental Objects for Disposal: the arrival of Armenian dealers in 1890s London

Key information

7:00 pm
Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre (BGLT), SOAS
Event type

About this event

Armenian names litter the archival documents telling the story of the formation of Islamic Art collections worldwide.

Why were these Armenians so central to the sourcing of these objects in the final decades of the 19th century and the first decades of the 20th century? How did they play such an important role in shaping the vision of Islamic Art that prevails in museums today? What was the role of the unprecedented violence that Armenians experienced in their homeland in the 1890s and in 1915? What was the relationship of Armenian artworks- many of which can be classified as ‘Ottoman’ or ‘Persian’ to the rise of Islamic Art at this time? These are some questions that my ongoing project on Armenian antiquities dealers hopes to answer through research into Ottoman and Armenian archives, as well as fieldwork and oral history interviews in Istanbul, Kayseri, Tbilisi, and Yerevan.

This talk will focus on the well-known -and extremely prolific -examples of Dikran Kelekian (1868-1951), Hagop Kevorkian (1872-1962) and Krikor Minassian (1874?-1944). Minassian, Kevorkian and Kelekian all appeared in London in the 1890s (Minassian c. 1895, Kevorkian c.1898 and Kelekian c. 1892), and they had a particularly busy time in the early 1900s offering various ‘Oriental objects’ to major museums and private collections. This talk investigates this moment of arrival in 1890s London, chiefly through examining correspondence at the V&A and British Museum archives that sheds light on what these dealers brought with them and how they interacted with keepers and institutions.

It will discuss the relationship between ‘Armenian-ness’ and these conditions of arrival, as well as the nature of the objects that were offered and the nature of dealer-keeper and dealer-institution relations going forward.

About the Speaker

Dr Alyson Wharton-Durgaryan is Senior Lecturer at the University of Lincoln, UK. Since 2015 she has worked at Lincoln in the School of Humanities and Heritage. Before that, from 2012 she was Assistant Professor in the Department of Art History at Mardin Artuklu University in Turkey.

She has published mainly on Armenian architects in the Ottoman Empire in journals such as the International Journal of Islamic Architecture, Turcica and Études arméniennes contemporaines. Her research on Armenian dealers has been published in its initial form in the journal Museum and Society.

Chair: Professor Scott Redford


Enquiries and Zoom link from Hon. Secretary: rw51@soas.ac.uk