Simon Faibisovich - Important Contemporary Russian Art–Property from a Foundation London Wednesday, February 27, 2008 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Phyllis Kind Gallery, New York

  • Exhibited

    Kunstmuseum Bern, Iche Lebe – Ich Sehe. Künstler der Achtziger Jahre in Moskau, 11 June – 14 August 1988; NewYork, Phyllis Kind Gallery, Direct from Moscow!, 6 May – 30 May, 1987

  • Literature

    H. C. von Tavel and M. Landert, Ich Lebe – Ich Sehe. Künstler der Achtziger Jahre in Moskau, Bern, 1988, p.47 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    The first work by Faibisovich on a social theme, "an entrance into a conversation about the life of a person in this country," wound up to be unusually effective. Indoor Family Portrait is an answer to the then fashionable film of Lucino Visconti: our Soviet family portrait in an entirely non-aristocratic interior. Work on the painting lasted a few years, over the course of that time the artist changed apartments a number of times, but the moves did not affect the content of the work: places of common use – one of the main heroes of the work – were virtually identical throughout the entire country: crowded and wretched. In order to emphasize these circumstances, the artist made use of each centimetre of valuable space just like in reality, having over-saturated the space with various objects.
    Continuing to work at that time in a design institute, the self-taught painter spent a very long time working on this diptych in his free time from work: his own family and apartment turned out to be the most convenient models for this multi¬year meditation, for the multiple sketches and observations. A camera was not used in this work. Indoor Family Portrait is done scrupulously realistically.
    The painting is meticulously drawn, precisely executed with the steady hand of a professional architect who had studied graphics for many years. As opposed to the later works by Faibisovich, this is not a fragment of reality obtained at some risk, but a detailed telling of a story with a light touch of the absurd.
    Long before the invention of the ‘beyond the mirror' format, Faibsovich demonstrates that he has nothing to hide from the public, he reveals the most intimate of details – his family literally in the bathroom: the artist is sitting on the toilet, his son is on a potty. He makes allowances for his wife, but not entirely without a dirty trick: following the classical subject of the beauty at the mirror, the viewer unexpectedly discovers a similarity in the pose and clothing of the lady with the malicious and cozy ‘Fresh Suitor' by Pavel Fedotov, whereby destitution is trying to feign elegance. But in the 19th century the artist reveals the private life of invented personages, whereas Faibisovich, honest to the point of despair, puts on display his own personal undergarments – he has nothing to hide.
    It was not these circumstances that determined the difficult fate of the painting. (Faibisovich was only able to exhibit in one exhibition hall of the Union of Graphic Artists – a hall that was specially opened by the authorities as a preserve for artists who were anxious to reach the public, but who did not observe the rules of the game, and there such tricks were met with understanding.)The problem turned out to be that in the painting, as in reality, Fabisovich had decorated the bathroom with a portrait of Nikita Khrushchev with all kinds of pins attached to it by the artist.
    During those times, such jokes were far beyond the limit of the permissible – even his freedom-loving colleagues, the non-conformists from the then-fashionable group ‘21' – were afraid to exhibit the diptych: "I was forced to take it away, to get it out of sight, they didn't even give me a chance to pack it up, I just transported as it was; so I am standing with it at the bus stop and everyone is saying: "Brezhnev, Brezhnev, Brezhnev." Given that only the lower part of Nikita Khrushchev's face was visible, people confidently confused him with Brezhnev, even with Lenin. For me, the real discovery turned out to be that all the faces of our General Secretaries were identical.
    It was displayed for the first time in a closed design office. "There was a fashion then to have all kinds of semi-official exhibits and we were invited to a Design Bureau where Khrushchev's son worked. I said, no, I don't want to participate, but they persuaded me only because they promised that they would hang up this diptych, and they did hang it up. And in the morning they removed the exhibit – not because of the diptych, but because of other works with labour camp themes. Later someone retold me a conversation with a person who had been responsible for the exhibit: "Khrushchev's activity is judged by the Party to have been libertarian, therefore every Soviet citizen can depict him however he pleases."
    Faina Balakhovskaya


Indoor Family Portrait

Oil on canvas.
180.5 x 70.5 cm. (71 x 27 3/4 in).
Signed and dated ‘S. F. 82 [in Cyrillic]’ lower right of each panel and signed, titled and dated ‘S.FAIBISOVICH INDOOR FAMILY PORTRAIT 1982 [in Cyrillic]’ on the reverse.

£80,000 - 120,000 ‡♠

Sold for £180,500

Important Contemporary Russian Art–Property from a Foundation

28 Feb 2008, 6pm