The book tells the story of an embittered young art critic, Gerald, who wants to purge the post-Soviet Armenian fine arts from 'badness'. Gerald believes artists should start their career with learning about the classics and then produce works drawn on virtue and tastefulness. Gerald's narrative hinges on his judgmental and censorious voice, as the young art critic tells about the visual arts in post-Soviet Armenia.
Although Gerald justifies his penchant for filtering the Armenian fine arts, setting standards, and opening a discussion for art critics to openly express their views on works of art, he blunders into logical fallacy and turns into a fallacious critic. Many artists and art scholars reject his ideas, and this leads to conflict. Disappointed in his pursuit, Gerald finds solace in Ida, a female philologist who is captivated by his stern views on art and becomes his moral support in the effort to create a public space for professional art criticism. But even Ida can't help when a KGB agent forbids Gerald from criticising his father's paintings.
Frustrated in his endeavours and weary of his platonic relationship with Ida, Gerald is about to give up his quest when he meets Hrach, a painter who is willing to cover his back. Will Gerald's new cohort help him to surmount the blocks and obstructions put in his way by the conservative artists and academics? Is he even on the right path, and is he aware of the high stakes if he loses his battle?
National Art Gallery explores the complicated transformations in the sphere of visual arts in the socio-cultural life of post-Soviet Armenia. Gerald, an art critic from Armenia, is determined to push painting toward a distinctly Armenian, yet evolving, aesthetic influenced by the Soviet Fine Arts School. To do so, he attempts to beat the artists of Yerevan into submission.
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