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Oct 25 2018

Obituary: Chant Avedissian (1951–2018)

by Dennis Mao

Egyptian-Armenian artist CHANT AVEDISSIAN died on October 24 at the age of 67. He was known for his use of painted stencils in works exploring the relations between history, politics and pop culture, as in Faten, 2008, gouache on cardboard, 49 × 69 cm. Courtesy Barjeel Art Foundation.

Chant Avedissian, a multidisciplinary Egyptian-Armenian artist whose works examined national identity, folk art, and the relations between traditional and popular culture, died on the afternoon of October 24, after a three-year battle with lung cancer and metastatic bone disease.

Born in Cairo in 1951, Avedissian studied at the School of Art and Design at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. During his nearly five-decade-long career, Avedissian remained committed to interrogating the hybridization of cultures and identities through his multimedia practice, spanning painting, prints, photography, sculpture and textiles. He drew inspiration from a wide range of sources, such as Pharaonic iconography, classical Islamic arts and Zen Buddhism, combining such historical references with elements from popular culture and politics. Among his most recognized series is “Icons of the Nile,” initiated in the 1990s and composed of mixed-media-on-cardboard portraits of prominent mid- to late-20th century cultural and historical figures, such as Egyptian film actress Faten Hamama and former Egyptian president Gamal Abd El Nasser, created using gouache, and hand-colored stencils. A work from this series, titled Icons of the Nile (1991–2010)composed of 120 portraits, set a record for the highest price achieved at auction by a living contemporary Arab artist in 2013, when it sold for USD 1.57 million at Sotheby’s in Doha. 

Avedissian has been featured in 25 solo exhibitions since 1969, and his artworks are held in the collections of institutions including the National Museum of African Art – Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC; the British Museum, London; the National Museums of Scotland in Edinburgh; and the National Gallery of Jordan, Amman.

Dennis Mao is an editorial intern of ArtAsiaPacific.

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