Born in 1933 at Dniepropetrovsk, in what is now Ukraine, Ilya Kabakov is one of the leading figures of contemporary Russian art. He has taken American citizenship.
Trained at Moscow Art School and the V.I. Surikov Institute, he made a name for himself in the late 1950s as a graphic artist and book illustrator. But, in counterpoint to this career, pursued openly, he soon began to explore avenues considered by the Soviet authorities at the time to be too innovative, from abstraction to conceptual art. He thus became a prominent personality of underground Russian culture alongside the poets and film directors of the “conceptualist circle”. From the 1980s his installations, taking as their target daily life in the USSR and a social realism he had always rejected, gradually brought him to the attention of a worldwide audience. Rather like Wagner rethinking opera as a “total art work”, Kabakov developed the idea of the “total installation” : objects, paintings, lighting, texts and music transport spectators into a radically different world which nevertheless refers them to a precise historical reality – or his own fantasies.
Ilya Kabakov has won many international prizes for his work, in which his wife Emilia now also collaborates ; it is exhibited in leading museums in the United States, France, Germany and Spain. In 2004, a major exhibition was devoted to him at St Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum.
For the label of Mouton Rothschild 2002, Kabakov expresses both his mastery of graphic art and his predilection for multidimensional space in a striking use of perspective. He has entitled his drawing “OKHO”, meaning window in Russian. Behind the “pane” of the bottle, the artist shows us another world : whirling to infinity, myriads of wings trace its outlines, at the same time bearing us off joyfully towards the realm of dreams and bliss, in a transparent allegory of the magic of a great wine.