Ilya and Emilia Kabakov. An Incident in the
Museum and other Installations
On 22 June 2004 the first large exhibition in Russia of works by Ilya and Emilia Kabakov opened in the General Staff building. The exhibition signifies the return of the artists to their homeland after their departure abroad in 1988. The exhibition has been organized by the State Hermitage together with the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York and the Stella Art Gallery, Moscow. Support has been provided by the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation. The show presents several installations and includes more than 80 drawings, 16 paintings, and sketches, design models and photographs from various museums and private collections with commentary from the artist.
Ilya Kabakov is a very famous Russian artist whose works enjoy high demand and are considered to be classics of modern art. He has created more than 200 installations in a number of different countries. His works are found in the collections of many museums around the globe, including the Museum of Modern Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, and the Centre Georges Pompidou as well as the Musée d'Art Moderne in Paris, and the Museum fur angewandte Kunst in Vienna, to name several.
Ilya Kabakov was born on 30 September 1933 in the city of Dnepropetrovsk. From 1945 to 1951 he studied art in Moscow, where he graduated in 1957 from the V.I. Surikov Art Institute with a specialty in graphic design. During the 1950's he worked as a book illustrator while experimenting with several forms of abstract art.
Ilya Kabakov became one of the main figures in the Moscow underground, specifically in the community of artists and intellectuals that was known as the Conceptualists' Circle. During the 1960's and ‘70's, this group worked on a number of different artistic projects including poetry, visual art and films.
At the end of the 1980's, Ilya Kabakov's words were exhibited in Germany, Switzerland and Spain, and they were included in several exhibitions in the United States of America. Then there were exhibitions in the Venice Biennale in 1992, in the Dokumente in Kassel, Germany, and also in the Biennale of the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1997. Ilya Kabakov's works attracted the attention of art critics in many different countries and ensured him a reputation as an artist of world importance.
At the present time Ilya Kabakov and his wife Emilia, who has been directly involved in all installations since 1989, lives in New York.
Kabakov became famous in the West as the author of a very specific genre, the Total Installation, which creates a special atmosphere by combining pictures, texts, objects and sounds.
"The whole exhibition is constructed in such a way as to fit in with the existing decor," the artist told journalists at the press conference. Three installations, design models and drawings are distributed among four halls in the General Staff building. The first hall presents preliminary drawings and photographs of works completed after 1988 which made the artist famous. The second room contains his gifts to the Hermitage: the two modest sized installations, Toilet in the Corner (1992) and In the Closet. "These two exhibits mark the beginning of our collection of art from the late 20th century," said State Hermitage Director Mikhail Piotrovsky at the opening of the exhibition.
The next room displays projects which have not yet been implemented. They are amazing in their ambitious scale and comprehensiveness.
The exhibition concludes with a total installation entitled Incident in the Museum. As the artist explained, this room once was supposed to be the venue for a lecture and exhibition of his works, but some unforeseen development thwarted those plans. By the order of a commission, everything was left as it was at that moment. For the sake of security and better observation, visitors traverse the room on a wooden bridge and there are binoculars available so that one can look down at the floor where there are little figures of men all moving in one direction.