Ilya Kabakov - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session New York Thursday, May 10, 2018 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Galerie Michael Kewenig, Cologne
    Collection Harrie van der Moesdijk, The Netherlands
    Private Collection, Europe
    Dorotheum, Vienna, June 10, 2015, lot 728
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, The Teacher and the Student: Charles Rosenthal and Ilya Kabakov, September 10, 2004 - January 2, 2005
    Moscow, Garage Center for Contemporary Culture, Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, Retrospective, September 15 - October 18, 2008

  • Literature

    Thomas Kellein and Björn Egging, eds., An Alternative History of Art: Rosenthal, Kabakov, Spivak, Bielefeld, 2005, no. 218, p. 177 (illustrated)
    Renate Petzinger and Emilia Kabakov, eds., Ilya Kabakov, Paintings / Gemälde 1957 - 2008, Catalogue Raisonné, vol. II, Bielefeld, 2008, no. 420, p. 140 (illustrated, erroneously dated 2003)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Painted in 2002, Ilya Kabakov’s Landscape with a Pioneers Camp, 1973 is a stellar example of the artist’s highly cerebral conceptual art practice. Since his emigration to the United States in the late 1980s, Kabakov has established himself as the foremost Russian artist of the contemporary era with his meticulously crafted Total Installations—museum spaces in which the viewer enters a world of paintings, photographs, texts and sounds, built upon fictional scenarios designed by Kabakov himself. Landscape with a Pioneers Camp, 1973 was painted specifically for Kabakov’s seminal retrospective, culminating in 2008 at the Garage Center for Contemporary Culture in Moscow with Kabakov’s Total Installation titled An Alternative History of Art: Rosenthal, Kabakov, Spivak, with works attributed to three fictional artists, Charles Rosenthal, the eponymous Ilya Kabakov, and Igor Spivak. Kabakov transformed the contemporary interior of the Garage Center into a replica of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, his most ambitious installation to date.

    According to Kabakov’s invented art historical narrative, Charles Rosenthal was a Russian painter living and working during the Russian Revolution, making works that referenced both the emergence of modernism and the prescribed Soviet Realism. Meanwhile, Kabakov’s creation of the fictional painter Igor Spivak makes fragmented canvases that speak to Kabakov’s notion of ambivalence in present-day Russia. Of this creative endeavor, Kabakov has said, “If I were a novelist, no one would question my doing this. After all, novelists quite commonly create all kinds of different people and have those characters voice their own ideas.” (Ilya Kabakov, quoted in Thomas Kellein and Björn Egging, eds., An Alternative History of Art: Rosenthal, Kabakov, Spivak, Bielefeld, 2005, p. 136)

    The fictional version of Kabakov himself was born in 1933—the same year Rosenthal supposedly died—and was so inspired by his predecessor that he created a new body of work that simultaneously paid homage to and reinterpreted Rosenthal’s paintings. This is evident in the present lot, which employs Rosenthal’s Soviet Realism to depict a bucolic scene, overlaid with white geometric forms in a nod to Kazimir Malevich’s modernist pictorial language. As the title suggests, the present work illustrates a clearing in a forested landscape populated by a row of white tents and a red flag on a post in the far right of the canvas. The campsite references the USSR’s Pioneer Movement, a program similar to the Scout Movement, but steeped in the indoctrination of communist principles. This setting is bordered along the bottom and right sides of the composition with a dark green, almost black paint. As such, the illustration within the margins presents a snapshot of the utopian promises of both the Soviet experiment and of modern art, while the dark border communicates the feeling of unfulfilled promise and a life shrouded in darkness.

    The present lot’s presence in this Total Installation represents both a fascinating rumination on the ramifications of the failed Soviet experiment, and also through its placement in the Garage Center, the limitations of traditional notions of museum retrospectives. Thus, Landscape with a Pioneers Camp, 1973 embodies Kabakov’s overarching goal: to push the boundaries of how we define the role of contemporary artist and of contemporary art.


Landscape with a Pioneers Camp, 1973

signed, titled and dated "I. Kabakov 2002 "Landscape with Camp 2002 [in Cyrillic]"" on the reverse
oil on canvas, in artist's frame
64 5/8 x 99 1/2 in. (164.1 x 252.7 cm.)
Painted in 2002.

$180,000 - 220,000 

Contact Specialist
Rebekah Bowling
Head of Day Sale, Afternoon Session
New York
+ 1 212 940 1250

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session

New York Auction 16 May 2018