Gayane Umerova

Gayane Umerova

Senior curator, Art Gallery of Uzbekistan. Graduate of the School of Integrated Arts (West Yorkshire), University of Westminster (London), University of Manchester (Manchester), Sotheby’s Institute of Art, (London).

I learned about the British Council when I was preparing for my first IELTS exam in Tashkent in 2001 to study Art and Design in the UK. My first experience of working with the British Council in Uzbekistan began in 2015 when I was asked to curate an exhibition Henry Moore: The Printmaker at the State Museum of Arts of Uzbekistan. I facilitated negotiations between Uzbek and British teams and structured different art-related initiatives.The experience was particularly gratifying and enriching. My next collaboration with the British Council is a project New Past: Contemporary Art from Britain, which opens at the Art Gallery of Uzbekistan in October 2016 showcasing developments in British contemporary art over the past twenty years.

To me, working with the British Council team in Tashkent is a great source of inspiration. They devote all their energy to creative and intellectual endeavours. The team is really committed to encouraging cross-cultural exchange and stimulating international dialogue and that is a great contribution to the local art scene. Working with the British Council Uzbekistan gave me a unique opportunity to explore the Council’s art collection and to deepen my knowledge of British contemporary art. I have always been focused on art and museums as a way to think about larger issues inurban community life and development. I genuinely believe that my cooperation with the British Council can improve our society, especially when the team displays such a strong commitment and a well-planned strategy. For many people in the region, culture and artsprovide a link to the wider world and they appreciate that a work of art is a gateway to a huge creative realm. 

As a curator I feel the need to promote Uzbekistan overseas and in working with local and regional artists. I was trying to support Uzbek contemporary art by mapping its place in the contemporary art world. My collaboration with the British Council has changed the way I think of art. Bringing British art to Uzbekistan and overcoming some organisational obstacles allowed me to see where I could apply my experience and visionary approach to influence the art discourse in my country. None of my previous projects had involved the educational dimension but working with the British Council’s team gave me a unique opportunity to develop an educational programme, around the exhibition employing resources and experiences that the British Council had been generating over the past years.

It is important to educate the general public in Uzbekistan so that people could first understand and accept contemporary art to be able to respond to it. I am applying for a PhD course on Anthropology studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science for the 2017 academic year to conduct research on cultural diplomacy.

The future is rich with potential, as Uzbekistan remains terra incognita for contemporary art. I feel that I could achieve more by increasing my sphere of influence connecting Uzbekistan to the international world, developing and reconstructing the system rather than dealing with art only internally.