The deputy Prime Minister of Turkmenistan Byagul Nurmuradova, appointed to her current post in February 2012 and responsible for culture and arts, made a personal decision over who will be chairing the non-governmental association – Turkmenistan’s Union of Artists. On 28 March Saparmamed Meredov, who served as the curator of the Museum of Fine Arts, was appointed to this position after the scandal broke out.
The election meeting of Turkmenistan’s Union of Artists was held that day. It should be noted that many members of the Union learned about the upcoming meeting an hour before it began. Apart from People’s artists A.Almammedov, B.Annamuradov and O. Mammetnurov, the Deputy Prime Minister B. Nurmuradova presided over the meeting.
The session was opened not by the authorized representative of the Coordination Council but the Chairman of the Union of Designers O.Mammetnurov. On his own initiative, violating the charter of Turkmenistan’s Union of Artists (part V, articles 5.6 and 5.7) and without giving the floor first to the Union’s Chairman-in-office Babasary Annamuradov, O. Mammetnurov made a speech and suggested that a new leader of the Union be elected. The first article of the charter runs: “Turkmenistan’s Union of Artists is a creative voluntary and independent public association bringing together people doing fine arts and art studies”. Despite this definition, O. Mammetnurov proposed the name of the new Chairman of the Union, which had been approved by the Turkmen Cabinet of Ministers in advance.
Only after the meeting participants make a critical comment indicating a violation of the charter, the chairman of the Union Babasary Annamuradov, who was not yet dismissed from his post, was given the floor.
The presentation made by Annamuradov which was monotonous and inarticulate, lasted for about an hour. Without posing any questions to the chairman-in-office, O. Mammetnurov hastily announced that Saparmamed Meredov would become the new chairman of the Union of Artists. In fact, he virtually instructed that all members of the Union of Artists attending the session should vote for this candidate.
The overwhelming majority voted against this candidate. However, Mammetnurov announced that 85% of the votes were in favour of the protégé of the Cabinet of Ministers Saparmamed Meredov.
Many members of the Union who were present at the meeting, demanded that other candidates be nominated, namely N. Gochmuradov – Director of the Exhibition hall of Turkmenistan’s Union of Artists, after which Mammetnurov announced Gochmuradov as a candidate for the chairperson and the majority voted for him. Yet, after counting the votes, the speaker said that Gochmuradov received an insufficient number of votes to be elected. And immediately for the second time he announced S. Meredov as the winner.
The majority of the Union members were discontent with the election process since their opinion was ignored. Moreover, the active involvement of the deputy Prime Minister at the meeting of the non-government organization was a gross violation of the existing laws.
Addressing the audience, the Deputy Prime Minister B. Nurmuradova said: “If you do not respect me (she meant that the members did not support the candidate she nominated), you should at least respect my post” hinting that the members of the Union of Artists did not give her a standing ovation when she entered the room. Speaking about works of the artists, she made a critical comment: “For the past twenty years you have not produced a piece of the art praising our country”. The artists treated this as a hint that from now on they should make portraits and sculptures of the incumbent President only.
The newly-elected or, to be more precise, newly-appointed chairperson Saparmammet Meredov read his program for the next four years and immediately started reading out the list of geneshlik members (the supervisory board) of the Union of Artists. One of the first names on the list was Saragt Babaev, the author of the first sculpture of the incumbent Turkmen President.
Another scandal broke out at the session. The People’s Artist of Turkmenistan Gulnazar Bekmuradov, one of the oldest artists in the country, the founder of Turkmenistan’s Academy of Arts, the government artist, who has always supported the position of the authorities, despite the protest of the speaker, stood up and spoke about financial support to the artists. In his address, Bekmuradov suggested that the Ministry of Culture purchase the works of the artists for the artistic depository and museum reserve stocks as it had been done before. He noted that many arrivals to the country’s museums are done secretly. The paintings and sculptures of doubtful provenance and quality authored by unknown artists are bought, which are often copies made from a photo or internet resources. Bekmuradov drew the attention of the Cabinet representative to the fact that over 200 paintings of Turkmen artists are exported via the Turkish Embassy on annual basis and that this practice has persisted for many years. “If our paintings are in such a demand abroad, why are they not purchased here?” – the artist asked the Deputy Prime Minister. For these words he was dismissed from Turkmenistan’s Academy of Arts virtually the next day. Together with him, his friend and colleague, the People’s Artist Chary Amangeldiev was also fired.