“When I came to Italy 20 years ago, I had no acquaintances, no money, and no place to live. I didn’t know Italian either, but Florence welcomed me with open arms,” recalled Vigen Avetis.
The famous Armenian sculptor living and working in Florence left Armenia 25 years ago. Back then he didn’t know where fate would take him, however, Florence became an important journey of his self-discovery and self-awareness.
“I wanted to discover freedom and feel the status of a free man, so I dropped out of the State Academy of Fine Arts of Armenia in 1993 and left for Poland, where I lived for around 5 years,” Avetis said.
In Poland he continued his education at the University of Fine Arts in Poznan and then moved to France for another year. In 1998 Vigen Avetis went to Italy and right after graduating from the Florence Academy of Fine Arts, he started lecturing at the same Academy.
“Fate took me to Florence at the age of 30, where I started my professional life as a sculptor,” Avetis explained. “Students, professors and the rector of the Academy helped me as much as they could. In a very short period of time, the Academy gave one of the Medici villas to me, which had 42 rooms and 5 hectares of forest area. And all of that belonged to me. The professors also arranged a huge space for me to use as a studio. And that space actually covered all the basement areas of the Fine Arts Academy. These kinds of privileges hadn’t been given to anyone before.”
Today Avetis has many sculptures placed not only in Florence and other Italian cities, but around the world. His works have won numerous awards: Vigen Avetis was awarded the 1st prize in the Novara City Sculpture International Competition back in 2002. He was also recognized as the best sculptor of Florence in 2014. He is a member of the Union of “40 Florentines” as well as the Artists’ Union named after Donatello.
“Living in Florence for these past 20 years has led to achieving all that I could never even dream of," Avegis added. "I was longing for discoveries, self-awareness, socializing, and museum education. And Italy gave it all to me. As an artist, it was very important for me to feel and live free, wherever I would like to. And I proved that it is possible."
Avegis feels that he has acted as an “ambassador” of Armenia in cultural, spiritual, and political sense. “There were people who used to ask whether I was Christian or Muslim, since they knew nothing about me, or Armenia. I started telling them about us and our history,” he said.
He has never lost touch with Armenia and visits his homeland every year. Avetis also retained his Armenian citizenship.
The artist considers Florence to be the place where he is able to live and create, but Armenia, his spiritual fatherland, is always with him, and there are numerous projects to be realized there in the future.
“I have never thought of myself as a migrant and never felt like a foreigner in any country,” Avetis said. “In all countries people have welcomed me with big love.”