Ilya Kabakov
(1933 - 2023)

To fly or not to fly, 2002

Installation (plastic flies on wall)
variable size (approx. 150x200 cm)

Niccolò Sprovieri, London;
Graziella Lonardi Buontempo collection, Rome-Naples;
Private collection, Rome

Incontri... dalla collezione di Graziella Lonardi Buontempo, 26 September - 2 November 2003, Accademia di Francia a Roma, Villa Medici, Roma. Artwork illustrated in double page not numbered in the exhibition catalogue


Ilya Kabakov (Dnipro, 1933 - New York, 2023) is recognized as the most important Russian artist of the late 20th century. Considered the father of Russian Conceptualism, his installations speak as much about conditions in post-Stalinist Russia as about the universal human condition.

"To fly or not to fly" is an important installation from 2002. The writing seems to be drawn in black on the wall, but, approaching, you immediately discover that to form the phrase are many small flies (plastic) glued on the wall. The observer’s conscience immediately grasps the tragicomic sense of the metaphor: in fact, flies, as we know, have a disordered, free and chaotic flight, while here they are stuck in an almost military order so much to proclaim loud and clear that "they are free".

Born in the Soviet Union, Kabakov studied at the VA Surikov Art Academy in Moscow and began his career as a children’s book illustrator in the 1950s, working outside the official Soviet art system as some Soviet conceptual artists. In 1988 he started working with his future wife Emilia. From this moment on, all their work was collaborative, in different proportions depending on the specific project involved.

The artworks of Ilya & Emilia Kabakov privilege from the beginning a subtle play of relations between visual and verbal elements. Images and objects related to everyday life chase personal experiences, against the background of the rise and fall of totalitarian mythology, the living conditions in post-Stalinist Russia; elements that actually propose an analysis of the universal condition of man, often presenting the dramatic aspects of existence, mediated through the filter of irony. Objects and images of daily life are thus de-functionalized of their usual dimension to rise to symbols of the deep contradictions of Soviet society and to extension of contemporary society. The style of the Kabakov emanates a poetic fantasy that is an expression of a dreamy world, probably mindful of his work as an illustrator for children in the Russia of the fifties. (from the biography of the artists by the Museo Madre, Naples).

€ 25.000,00 / 30.000,00