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   Alternative History of Art and other projects
         16 September – 19 October 2008

                   The Gates
       State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts

             Alternative History of Art
                   Red Wagon
Center for Contemporary Culture Garage, Moscow

               The Life of Flies
                  The Toilet
Contemporary Art Center WINZAVOD, White Hall

             The Tennis Game
     M&J Guelman Gallery at WINZAVOD

    Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation
                 Moscow Government
    State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow
           Art Foundation Moscow Biennale
  Center for Contemporary Culture Garage, Moscow

    State Museum and Exhibition Centre ROSIZO
       Contemporary Art Center WINZAVOD
           Contemporary City Foundation

                 General Partner:
                 IRIS Foundation

                 ArtMedia Group

            Curator: Joseph Backstein
          Advising Curator: Robert Storr
           Coordinator: Marat Guelman
      In September 2008 Ilya and Emilia Kabakov will launch a large “retrospective”
exhibition project in Moscow. This exhibition will be the largest project in Russia by these
famous Russian artists, whose names are regularly listed in the top ten of world’s best artists
ratings and exhibited in its most prominent museums and prestigious venues. Many
international awards have expressed the recognition of Ilya Kabakov’s contribution to
contemporary art, among them the Honorable Prize of Venice Biennale (1993) presented for
the installation Red Pavilion, Prize of Joseph Beuys from Joseph Beuys foundation in Basel,
Title of Knight of Fine Arts and Literature of France, Title of Honorary Doctor of University
of Berne (2000), and many others.

      The timing of the exhibition project Retrospective coincides with Ilya Kabakov’s two
anniversary dates. September, 30 is the 75th birthday of the world art scene’s legend, the head
of “Moscow conceptual art”, and this year is the 20th after his departure from the Soviet
Union, a state that has now ceased to exist. His return to the new Russia is not a turning back
but the beginning of a new story for this master.

      Once, in a dialogue with Boris Groys, Kabakov observed that “Warhol and Picasso
wanted to create their own currency” meaning that their works became such equivalent of an
exchange. If we follow this analogy, then Ilya and Emilia Kabakov’s works became the hard
currency for Russian art - the golden rouble accepted by any museum all over the world. Their
installations The Man Who Flew Into Space From His Apartment (1989, Centre Pompidou,
Paris), The Bridge (1992, Museum of Modern Art, New-York), The Life of Flies (1992, Köln,
Kunsthalle), The Toilet (1992, Kassel, Documenta IX), and others, became the significant
works for the art of XXth century. The Museum Wiesbaden is planning to dedicate the whole
wing of new exposition to Ilya and Emilia’s creative work. Among other projects, the famous
Red Wagon installation (purchased in 1999) will be presented there.

      Ilya Kabakov was the first to reveal to the West the previously unknown experiences of
communal life as lived by several generations of Soviet people – the meeting-place of
ideology and everyday life, of the public and the private. The “total installation” genre
invented by Kabakov allowed every viewer to feel himself a character within a great
performance of an unknown life, to go through the drama of lone personages in the inevitable
collective community, to feel this world as a sensual experience, to hear it, to stumble over its
broken stairs. The artist himself confessed when he spoke about the Red Wagon work: “I
virtually exported a cube of Soviet air”. One may consider his installations as a philosophical
and artistic encyclopedia of disappeared Soviet Atlantis. The ironic and subtle eye of the artist
not only revealed to the West an unfamiliar world, but also helped it to get rid of its phobias.
He had shown the connection between the Soviet utopia and the search and tragedy of Russian
avant-garde, and in so doing incorporated it into the international tradition of existential
absurdity. In fact, Kabakov provided a key to its understanding, having interpreted it from
some incomprehensible language into the language of contemporary art.

     Ilya and Emilia Kabakov have prepared the Retrospective project specially for Moscow.
Even the disposition of exhibition venues becomes the visual metaphor of history of art of XX
century: the State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts is a classical museum built by Ivan Tsvetaev;
the CCC Moscow (Center for Contemporary Culture, Centre “Garage”) is a unique building
designed by the great architect Konstantin Melnikov; and at last WINZAVOD, which
combines two representations: a site of Soviet industrial production and a contemporary art
venue with the most prominent Moscow galleries.

     A completely new project, The Gates, will be presented at the State Pushkin Museum
of Fine Arts. Museum is the last harbour for an artwork to moor to, after many voyages over
the world. This quiet haven may serve as a symbol of eternity. In the centre of the installation
defined by the artists as “an artist’s last piece”, there is a door, behind which viewers will find
a new space revealed. The door is hastily knocked together from planks of wood and veneer.
Behind it there are 16 drawings and 12 paintings. The scenery depicted changes in the course
of day. Between the paintings there are texts.
       The main exhibition of the Moscow project will be the Alternative History of Art at
the Center for Contemporary Culture Garage, Moscow. This exceptional example of a
Soviet avant-garde building will become a stage for a grandiose mystification, in which
Kabakov himself is willing to play the part of the three characters which he made up: Charles
Rosenthal, who lived at the beginning of XX century; Igor Spivak, born in Ukraine, who
worked in 1990s and “Kabakov” himself, for whom his namesake paints new works. In the
installation here, an imaginary retrospective of these three artists represents the whole XX
century and suggests a version of Russian avantgarde which could have been realized had it
not continued down the path initiated by Kazimir Malevich. An exact copy of the renowned
Red Wagon will also be built in this space. Though this wagon is without any wheels, it is
always on-the-way, giving its audience the illusion that the bright future is reachable. Red
flags are flying on the steps leading upwards. Music is heard from inside. The composer
Vladimir Tarasov specially arranged the famous Soviet songs for this installation. Though you
can’t enter the railway car through the central entrance, you can go round it, and find a “back
door” through which it’s possible to get into the past, just as if it was a time machine.
       Three famous installations will be re-installed in the Contemporary Art Center
WINZAVOD. In the White Hall one will be able to find The Life of Flies, performed in the
genre of “scientific” exposition of some Soviet provincial museum with its atmosphere of
“hopeless boredom, in which even flies fall dead”. Nevertheless, the visitors will not be bored
viewing this installation. Thoughtful visitors can indulge themselves by a scrupulous
examination of civilization of flies, which, according to the artists, has greatly influenced the
mankind: its economics, finances, movement of money and of course culture. This is
additionally affirmed by the concert for flies.
       Also here at WINZAVOD visitors will be able to discover the famous The Toilet
installation, which made a big stir at Documenta IX in 1992. Inside the «M» and «Ж» lettered
construction (constructions of such kind are scattered all over the great country of Russia)
there are the contents of an ordinary Soviet flat. Sofas, tables and carpets stand just near the
toilet holes. The standard of well-being of Soviet petty bourgeoisie is put into the space of
public lavatory.
       Inside M&J Guelman Gallery another installation The Tennis Game will be
presented. Spectators will be able to follow Ilya Kabakov and Boris Groys’ game through the
monitors. It's not that any of them reached the level of Boris Becker or Marat Safin, but the
main thing is to enjoy the process. Here one will also be able to witness another game, scored
up on school blackboards – that of dialogues between the philosopher Boris Groys’ and the
artist Ilya Kabakov, presented as a five-round tennis tournament, in which each question/
serve is followed with a counter strike.

     Ilya and Emilia Kabakov’s Retrospective exhibition project is not only a significant
event in the sphere of culture but in the social sphere as well. The philosophical and artistic
comprehension of the social experiment that they have produced is a means through which
you can observe the path trodden by new Russia in recent years. Only truly Russian artists
could manage this.

      On September 17-18 the Center for Contemporary Culture Garage will host a
symposium, Contemporary Russian Art: Aesthetics and Politics, to coincide with the
opening of the ‘Retrospective” exhibition project in Moscow. Many famous curators, critics,
art connoisseurs, scholars of contemporary art will take part in the symposium. The program
includes many well-known international curators, critics and art historians: Robert Storr,
Lance Fung, Dr. Jonathan Fineberg, Matthew Jesse Jackson, Boris Groys, Amei Wallach,
Gary Tinterow, Ebrahim Melamed, Sergei Gordeev, Ekaterina Degot and Margarita Tupitsyn.

     The Moscow Retrospective exhibition project by Ilya and Emilia Kabakov is the first
project of the Classics of Contemporary Art program, conducted by the Moscow Biennale of
Contemporary Art.

The major sponsor of this project is the IRIS Foundation.

Dates of the exhibition:

16.09 - 19.10 The Gates, State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Volkhonka st 14 (The Gallery
of Art of Europe and America of XIX and XX centuries), price of ticket 60 roubles

17.09 – 19.10 Alternative History of Art, Red Wagon Center for Contemporary Culture
Garage, Obraztsova st. 19, free pass

18.09 – 15.10 The Life of Flies, The Toilet, The Tennis Game Contemporary Art Center
WINZAVOD, 4-th Syromyatnicheskiy lane 1, bld. 6, paid entrance


15 September 2008 - State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Volkhonka st 14
gathering at 11.30, beginning at 12.00
16 September 2008 - Center for Contemporary Culture Garage, Obraztsova st. 19
gathering at 12.30, beginning at 13.00

Press agent JMgroup
tel. +7 495 951 22 88, fax +7 495 951 71 64,

Maria Jouk,, +7 925 517 42 60
Natalia Govoruhina,, +7 926 508 8224;

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