The Transformative Power of Art: Alumna Tatyana Kalaydjian Serraino

Alumna Tatyana Kalaydjian Serraino is an Italian/Danish/Armenian Art Historian who graduated from JCU with an MA in Art History in Fall 2019. Tatyana also holds a B.A. in Art History from the University of Cambridge (St John’s College) and an M.A. in Arts & Culture Management from Rome Business School. She is the founder of About Art by Tatyana, a social media channel that makes art history accessible through YouTube documentaries, TikTok shorts, and online courses. Tatyana is based in London, where she is currently working as an art historical content creator and freelance broadcaster. 

Tatyana Kalaydjian Serraino
Tatyana Kalaydjian Serraino

How did you become passionate about art history? 
My passion for art was born at a young age. I attended the King’s School in Canterbury, and art history instantly became my favorite subject. The classes took place in a dimly lit, cluttered attic and consisted of free-flowing conversations sparked by close observations of paintings, sculpture, and architecture from past times. I quickly began to realize that art history comprises a wide range of skills, ways of thinking, and areas of study. It involves art, psychology, history, politics, theology, and philosophy. It requires you to look closely, think critically, research scrupulously, and discuss open-mindedly. 

How did you find out about JCU’s MA in Art History and what made you decide to apply?  
I found out about JCU’s MA in Art History through organic online research. I was intrigued by the program’s structure, the campus’ incredible location in the heart of Rome, and the international student body and faculty. In addition to strengthening my research and writing skills, JCU provided me with the unrivaled opportunity to see the artworks we were studying up close and in person. 

You recently appeared in Episode three of Rob and Rylan’s Grand Tour on the BBC. How did this opportunity come about? Tell us about your contribution to the show. 
Running About Art by Tatyana has led to some incredible partnerships, including collaborations with the National Gallery in London, Perrotin Gallery in New York, Bottega Veneta in Milan, LEGO Art in Denmark, Netflix Queue, and most recently, the BBC. Rob and Rylan’s Grand Tour is a three-part travelogue exploring the educational trips around Europe undertaken by British aristocrats from the late 17th century through the early 19th century. The series also explores the transformative power of art in the cities of Venice, Florence, and Rome. I appear in Episode three (Rome) as Rob and Rylan’s guide. In the episode, I meet Rob and Rylan to discuss the Counter-Reformation and its influence on art. It was an honor to speak about my favorite art movement and an all-around thrilling experience that solidified my passion for broadcasting. The episode aired on BBC2 on Sunday, May 26, and the full series is now streaming on BBCiPlayer. 

Tatyana Kalaydjian Serraino in 'Rob and Rylan’s Grand Tour'
Tatyana Kalaydjian Serraino in Rob and Rylan’s Grand Tour

Tell us about your Blog, YouTube, and Social Media Channel About Art by Tatyana. 
Shortly after completing my master’s, I began creating documentary-style videos on works of art to share my passion for the subject, offer a fresh twist on known artworks, and make the discipline as a whole more accessible. Art history has often been regarded as an elitist subject. By foregrounding the stories behind works of art, I hoped to change that perception and show that deciphering paintings is not only fun but also incredibly enriching. Paintings, sculpture, and architecture reveal so much about how we, as a species, have perceived and visualized our reality over time. As I often say: art history is the study of humanity over time. This project also allowed me to combine my love for the discipline with my long-standing passion for filmmaking. My channel offers detailed discussions of famous and less-known works of art from around the world, including those by contemporary Armenian artist Sarkis Hamalbashyan and Cypriot artist Stass Paraskos (1933 – 2014). My TikTok shorts, on the other hand, strive to link works of art together in fun, thematic ways (e.g., “Three paintings that are not what they seem”), answer questions (e.g., “How much was Michelangelo paid to paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling?”), and provide entertaining yet educational how-to tutorials (e.g., “How to recognize the female artist”). 

Tell us about your thesis. 
My thesis focused on the possible meanings of the two theatrical masks in Jacopo da Pontormo’s Venus and Cupid (1532 – 34), a painting based on a lost cartoon by Michelangelo. 

Masks, as an art historical motif, have received little attention in scholarly literature; they have typically been dismissed as symbols of love’s deceit. I explored how the masks were likely meant to be interpreted by the painting’s contemporary Florentine audience, arguing for a more complex reading that questions whether they were simply symbols of a single idea.  

What classes and/or professors impacted you the most and why? 
Every single one of my professors approached the discipline with such passion and specialized knowledge. That being said, the Italian Baroque has always been my favorite Art Historical movement, so I particularly enjoyed Professor Carolyn Smyth’s, Professor Sarah Linford’s, and Professor Laura Foster’s classes. 

What are your plans for the future? 
In January of this year, I moved to London with the aim of continuing to create art historical content and expanding my reach. I am also currently working on a book that examines paintings united by the theme of heartbreak, and I am conducting research with the aim of pursuing a Ph.D. in the near future.