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  • Provenance

    Galerie de France, Paris

  • Exhibited

    Paris, Galerie de France, Art Contemporain Sovietique – Sélection d’oevres
    provenant de la Collection KNIGA, 1987; Paris, Grand Galerie, Centre Georges Pompidou, Face à l’histoire, December 17, 1996 - July 4, 1997

  • Literature

    Les Editions du Regard and Galerie de France, eds., Art Contemporain
    Sovietique – Sélection d’oevres provenant de la Collection KNIGA, Paris, 1987, n.p. (illustrated); I. Kabakov and Y. Kuper, Ilya Kabakov Yuri Kuper 52 entretiens dans la cuisine communautaire,
    Rennes, 1991, pp. 240-241 (illustrated in black and white)

  • Catalogue Essay

    La Chambre de Luxe is a seminal work by the Russian born artist Ilya Kabakov. Executed in 1981, it is a primary example of the artist’s maturing body of work, in which he continuously plays with the banality and stereotypical ordinariness of everyday Soviet Life. With its large and impressive scale, the painting acts as a platform from which the artist enters into a dialogue of contemplation between himself and his surroundings. This becomes reflected through his use of image and text within a pictorial entity. In two parts, each comprising of four singular square wooden panels, La Chambre de Luxe is a composition that delicately accentuates the idea of juxtaposing imagery with text, leaving the spectator to decipher the potential relationship between the two. Cut off and isolated from the international art scene at the time, this work offers a glimpse into the Cold-War reality of the environment depicted.

    “The life of the unofficial artist and author lasted almost thirty years in a world that was sealed and bolted away. All through those years unofficial artists and authors were unable, because of political, ideological and aesthetic censorship, either to exhibit or to publish […] In this almost ‘cosmic’ isolation, the artists of this circle were completely thrown back on their own devices, and became, for each other, what other people should have been for them: viewers, critics, connoisseurs, historians and even collectors.” (Ilya Kabakov taken form B. Groys, ‘The Movable Cave, or Kabakov’s Self-memorials’, Ilya Kabakov, London, 1998)

    To some extent, Kabakov’s painting is a visual message transmitting the unconscious desire amongst Soviet artists seeking to link up with Western Modernism – a desire to be shown and exhibited against a background of a broader art-historical context, where the social climate of a post-Stalin Soviet Union could be visually captured and expressed. Stylistically manifesting this onto the canvas through Social Realism would prove to be the driving force for artists such as Kabakov, where engaging with his own memories and combining them with everyday moments and places, would give way to works of art such as La Chambre de Luxe.

    Through its pictorial effect, Kabakov presents, or rather confronts the spectator with a visual juxtaposition between image and text, between content and context – a juxtaposition rooted in a cultural and pictorial world, where iconography and iconology are intertwined, similar to another of his works from the same year, titled Gastronom (cf. Figure 1). For the spectators of La Chambre de Luxe however, Kabakov visually demonstrates that “…the most important dilemma facing any viewer of a work of art ...[is] to immers [oneself] in what is offered…and to receive information… Works of art…consist of a series of traps, or concealments, through which the viewer has to pass.” (Ilya Kabakov in conversation with Robert Storr taken from Ilya Kabakov, London, 2002, pp. 128-129).

    Its subject matter spread across two panels, in a sense accentuates this political and artistic divide that was taking place between the West and the Soviet Union – a division that for artists such as Kabakov would visually be explored to the extent of painting a composition, yet consciously dividing its surface.

    With a color palette of wine reds, saturated greens and yellows, pastoral shades of blues, Kabakov depicts the interior of a room. The pictorial finesse becomes obscured with the chalk-white Russian text that distorts the image’s visual purity. Placing the text and its accompanied map in context with the actual image reveals the room to be located in a resort near the Black Sea. With a certain ironic detachment, Kabakov to some extent mocks the idea of the portrayed destination, aware of it being a far cry from a ‘holiday’ resort, or any Western-held notion of one. This becomes apparent when placing not only image and text in relation to each other, but when viewing the painting in context of its French title –La Chambre de Luxe (The deluxe room). In the painting Kabakov makes use of westernized elements, such as the title, or even his slightly ‘Hopperesque’ aesthetic (cf. Figure 2). The visual and eerie similarity that is found in the works of these artists are both powerful examples of the genre of realism – artist’s who produced out of the pool of their time. Hopper’s realism during the interwar period in America, focused on capturing the effects of a growing era of mechanization and industrialization and visually recording it onto his canvases. Like Kabakov, through art, both artists aim at expressing the world around them. Although Hopper’s paintings often include a figure, they are always alone and withdrawn, leaving the painting with an eerie aura. Similarly, La Chambre de Luxe, although being devoid of the human subject, equally expresses a mood of alienation and estrangement, where the human subject has been replaced by text, leaving behind an uncanny atmosphere in the works of both artists.

    With its monumental scale and meticulous color palette, La Chambre de Luxe is a visual account, in which Kabakov finds himself attempting to stabilize a cultural context of his own time. He invites the spectator to consider the idea that the aesthetic value of art is never definite and, as Kabakov has illustrated, can become uncertain. He presents the notion that pictorial imagery should not be purely practical and pleasurable, but aims at accentuating its functionality. Kabakov’s La Chambre de Luxe is a fundamental composition emphasizing both visually and literally the social realism and artistic challenges confronting Soviet artists at the time. The painting is a powerful example, capturing a time, where any form of expression would be limited to the visual arts, making this work a perfectly balanced synthesis of its time and a signature work within Kabakov’s painterly oeuvre.

9

La Chambre de Luxe

1981
Oil on wooden panel in two parts.
Overall: 84 1/2 x 116 1/2 in. (214.6 x 295.9 cm).
Signed, titled and dated “И. Кабаков ‘Комната Люкс’ 1981” on the reverse of each panel.

Estimate
£400,000 - 600,000 

Sold for £2,036,000

Contemporary Art

22 June 2007, 4pm & 5pm
London