Ilya Kabakov

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Ilya Kabakov
Илья Кабаков
Ukrainian SSR, Soviet Union
DiedMay 27, 2023(2023-05-27) (aged 89)
New York, U.S.
Known forInstallation art
SpouseEmilia Kanevsky
Kabakov gives instructions for the installation "The Man Who will Fly into Space From His Apartment" in 2016
Installation in Münster[1]
"Tomorrow We Fly", exhibition in the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, 2023

Ilya Iosifovich Kabakov (Russian: Илья́ Ио́сифович Кабако́в; September 30, 1933 – May 27, 2023) was a Russian–American conceptual artist, born in

Ukrainian SSR of the Soviet Union. He worked for thirty years in Moscow, from the 1950s until the late 1980s. After that he lived and worked on Long Island, United States.[2]

Early life

Ilya Iosifovich Kabakov was born on September 30, 1933, in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.[3] His mother, accountant Bertha Judelevna Solodukhina, and his father, locksmith Iosif Bentcionovitch Kabakov, were Jewish. Ilya was evacuated during World War II to Samarkand with his mother. There he started attending the school of the Leningrad Academy of Art which was evacuated to Samarkand. His classmates included the painter Mikhail Turovsky.


After the World War II his family moved to Moscow. From 1945 to 1951, he studied at the Moscow Art School; in 1957 he graduated from V.I. Surikov State Art Institute, Moscow, where he specialized in graphic design and book illustration.


Unlike many underground Soviet artists, Kabakov joined the

Union of Soviet Artists
in 1959 and became a full member in 1962. This was a prestigious position in the USSR and it brought with it substantial material benefits. In general, Kabakov illustrated children's books for 3 to 6 months a year and then spent the remainder of his time on his own projects.

In the vibrant art scene of 1970s Moscow, Ilya Kabakov's unconventional talent found an unexpected champion in Dina Vierny, a distinguished gallerist with a keen eye for groundbreaking art. Vierny, after a visit in Moscow in the early 1970’s, committed to supporting artists resisting the constraints of socialist realism, discovered Kabakov. The fateful meeting occurred on the evening of January 16, 1970, when Vierny recognized Kabakov as an artist of exceptional originality, despite being unknown and prohibited from exhibiting in Moscow. Vierny's genuine interest in Kabakov's work transcended time, enduring for over 27 years. Despite Kabakov's infrequent exhibitions in Moscow, his drawings managed to captivate international audiences. Vierny not only encouraged Kabakov to leave the Soviet Union for broader recognition but also actively supported him by acquiring a substantial number of his works. This support was not limited to Kabakov alone; Vierny, upon her return, brought back works by other non-conformist artists such as Erik Boulatov and Vladimir Yankilevsky, known as the Group of Boulevard Sretensky. Together, these artists, despite differing styles, shared a common struggle against state-imposed artistic limitations, particularly the constraints of socialist realism. Vierny's commitment culminated in the groundbreaking exhibition "Russian Avant-Garde - Moscow 1973" at her Saint-Germain-des-Prés gallery, showcasing the diverse yet united front of non-conformist artists challenging the artistic norms of their time.

The 1980s

Between 1983 and 2000, Kabakov created 155 installations.[citation needed] Of these, one of the best known installations is The Man Who Flew Into Space From His Apartment. First created in 1985 in a secret attic studio in Moscow, Kabakov later recreated the piece in the United States at Ronald Feldman Gallery in 1988. The installation portrays a small, run-down bedroom with a large hole in the ceiling and propaganda photos covering the walls.[2] The exhibition was widely reviewed, securing Kabakov's reputation in the New York art world. [4]

Personal life and death

In 1989, Kabakov began working with his niece,

State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg in 2004, and the Tate Modern and the Hirshhorn in 2017.[2]

Kabakov died on May 27, 2023, at the age of 89.[9][10]

Exhibitions and collectors


St. Petersburg
in 2004.

His works are included in the collections of the Zimmerli Art Museum, the Centre Pompidou (Beaubourg), Museum of Modern Art, Guggenheim, The Hermitage, Tretjakov Gallery (Moscow), Norway Museum Of Contemporary Art, the Kolodzei Art Foundation and museums in Columbus, Ohio, Frankfurt, and Köln, etc.

In 2017 the

Hirshhorn Museum
in Washington, D.C. set up an exhibition Ilya and Emilia Kabakov: The Utopian Projects.

National Museum of Norway (Norway) has "Søppelmannen" ['the garbage man'] on permanent display.[11]

See also


Further reading

External links