ph. Roman Mensing /, Stiftung Industriedenkmalpflege und Geschichtskultur

Ilya & Emilia Kabakov

Ilya (Dnepropetrovsk, 1933-2023) & Emilia (Dnepropetrovsk, 1945) Kabakov were born in Ukraine, in the former USSR. Ilya Kabakov studied at the V.I. Surikov Art Institute in Moscow, and he began his career as an illustrator of children’s books in the 1950s. In 1987, he was offered a scholarship at the Kunstverein in Graz, Austria, and he subsequently settled in New York.

Emilia Lekach Kabakov trained as a classical pianist at the Irkutsk Music College, and she studied Spanish literature at Moscow University. She emigrated in 1973 to Israel and, two years later, to New York — where she started to work as a curator and art dealer.
Ilya and Emilia have collaborated in their Long Island home from 1989 until Ilya’s death in 2023. The two artists are best known for their pioneering “total installations,” which completely immerse the viewer in a dramatic, constructed environment. These installations, along with paintings and works on paper, are influenced by their shared past in the Soviet Union, but also by universal themes, such as: personal or collective memory, fantasy, and illusion. Often populated by fictional characters, their works are inspired by the optimistic idealization of the visual culture of socialist realism. The Kabakovs’ early works have been exhibited in various institutions, including: Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (1990); The Museum of Modern Art, New York (1991); Los Angeles County Museum of Art (1992); Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt (1995); Center Pompidou, Paris (1996). They also represented Russia at the 1993 Venice Biennale with the installation The Red Pavilion. Solo exhibitions of their works have been held at: Dallas Contemporary (2021); Kunsthalle Rostock, Germany (2018); Kistefos Museum Sculpture Park, Oslo (2017); Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C. (2017); Power Station of Art, Shanghai (2015); Sprengel Museum, Hanover (2014).