New exhibition Arto Funduklian: His Personal Choice opens at Buxton Museum tomorrow. Not only does the exhibition reveal a rarely-seen collection of magnificent art but also something about the man and the family who acquired it. To accompany the exhibition, we are privileged to present the research of performance artist Sarah Coggrave, as well as two actual performances in the gallery. Sarah’s findings about the Funduklian family are extensive and shed more light on our own art collection. Parts two and three will follow in the next couple of weeks. You can see the exhibition until Sunday 6th September. Over to you, Sarah:

This summer, Buxton Museum and Art Gallery showcases the art collection of Arto Funduklian – an Armenian textile trader who resided in Buxton during his latter years. Arto was born in Constantinople (now Istanbul), but grew up in Manchester, and spent much of his adult life doing business in New York. He had four siblings – three younger brothers and a sister, Astra.

On July 25th and August 15th, between 2pm and 4pm, the exhibition will receive a visit from Arto’s sister, Astra, re-imagined as an artistic performance.

My name is Sarah Coggrave, and I’m a performance artist and researcher currently based in Derbyshire. I’ll be responsible for bringing Astra to Buxton. My practice involves creating characters, costumes and gestures to bring hidden histories to life. I also possess the unique experience of having lived in the former Funduklian home – a large red brick Edwardian villa in Didsbury, a suburb in South Manchester.

Above: The former Funduklian home, at 20 Pine Road in Didsbury (source)

Whilst in residence there I produced a solo exhibition and live performances, inspired by the Funduklian family. This was shown at Didsbury Parsonage in 2014, and was accompanied by research for Archives+, in conjunction with the Greater Manchester County Record Office. The project was also included in the recent BBC Radio 4 documentary Out Of Armenia.

Above: ‘Astra’ at Didsbury Parsonage in March 2014 (source)

Before his successful forays into business and art collecting, Arto and his siblings grew up Didsbury – an affluent area of Manchester, under the watchful gaze of parents Karnig and Aznive, and several servants. The house has since been converted into flats, and for one year I resided in number 1 – the room in the basement, with a view of the leafy garden.

Above: The garden at 20 Pine Road (source)

The name on the gatepost of this grand house quickly became a source of fascination for me, even before knew anything about the Funduklian family. On a street filled with very English names, the word Massis, engraved on either side of the gate, in elegant capitals, stood out.

Above: The name on the gatepost (source)

Further research revealed it to be an Armenian word, an alternative name for Mount Ararat. It is here, deep in the Middle East (now part of modern-day Turkey) that Noah’s Ark supposedly came to rest (following a biblical flood), and the landmark holds immense significance for Armenian communities across the world.

Why, I wondered, would my home have been given such an exotic name?

A painstaking search of census records eventually revealed the answer. The 1911 England and Wales Census revealed the first record of a family living at 20 Pine Road – the Funduklians. With four children and several servants, this was evidently a family that had thrived in Manchester’s industrial heyday. Didsbury was (and still is) a haven for the well-to-do. But who were these people? And what had brought them to Manchester?

Above: The Funduklian Family – Arto is the young boy on the left (source)

(With permission, courtesy of Greater Manchester County Record Office)

Karnig, the head of the family, was the first to arrive in the city from Constantinople, where many Armenians then resided. Shortly before his arrival I also came across that of a Tigrane Haroutune Funduklian. Whilst I’m unsure of the exact relationship between the two, it seems likely that, they arrived in Manchester to research business prospects.

Indeed, the mid to late 1800s, Britain saw a surge in the arrival of Armenian migrants. Many went on to run successful businesses in Manchester – certainly prospects were better here than in the then Ottoman Empire.

In Constantinople and elsewhere, Armenian families such as the Funduklians would have faced increasing persecution, not only affecting their prospects of prosperity and success, but ultimately their lives also. The Hamidian Massacres and the Armenian Genocide provide chilling examples of fates the Funduklians might otherwise have faced, had they stayed in Turkey.

Above: The Funduklian family business agreement, Manchester, 1911 (source)

(With permission, courtesy of Greater Manchester County Record Office)

From a fledgling family shipping and textile business, Karnig successfully created a livelihood in Manchester sufficient to bring over his young family.

In Didsbury, Karnig and his wife Aznive were able to offer their four children a life of safety and affluence, far from the horrors of persecution in the Ottoman Empire, and from the dust and smog of industrial central Manchester.

Arto and his siblings were to thrive in their new home.


Archives+ (2013) Various articles, accessed 2015 at, online source.

England and Wales Census (1911) Record for 20 Pine Road, Didsbury, accessed 2013 at, citing National Archives, Kew, UK.

George, J. (2002) Merchants In Exile: The Armenians Of Manchester, England 1835 – 1935, Taderon Press.

Manchester Guardian (1900-1950) Various articles accessed 2013 at, online source.