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Ilya and Emilia KabakovIlya and Emilia Kabakov: Soviet Union

Kabakov art

Ilya KabakovKabakov art

Ilya and Emilia Kabakov return to Russia

Watch the VideoAfter Russia's most famous artists Ilya and Emilia Kabakov fled the oppression of the Soviet Union, they never thought they would return — until they were offered the chance to exhibit their work at the Hermitage, Russia's greatest museum. The exhibition was an extraordinary success, but it brought back memories of why they fled. The Art of Departure explores decades of the turbulent lives of the Kabakovs, both in and out of the Soviet Union.

1. Following your 2004 exhibition in Russia, your first since you left the country in 1987, do you foresee yourself pursuing more opportunities to work and exhibit in your homeland?

We didn't pursue this exhibition in 2004, it was offered to us by the Hermitage Museum, which we respect a lot, so we agreed. If the right opportunity or offer presents itself, we'll do another exhibition in Russia, this time in Moscow. If not, well...

2. Overall, how did you feel about the reception your exhibition received in Russia?

The exhibition had an extraordinary reception and resonance in Russia. The reviews were super positive—or super negative. This is Russia; nothing is simple there.

3. Russian life, particularly the effects of its societal limitations, has figured prominently in your work. Do you think your experiences in America have had an equally important influence on your art?

There was 55 years of life in the Soviet Union, and only 14 in the United States. An artist's work is based on much deeper influences and meanings than the change of physical space or, even, a country.

4. You've described yourself as a traveler, an inhabitant of the "art world." Why did you choose Long Island, New York, as your home base versus a location in Europe?

We choose New York because I was already based here for 17 years; my family is here. Long Island is a very calm, beautiful, in a way "cosmic" place, where we are able to work and live. And people who surround us here are nice, friendly, and compassionate. (It's the North Fork.) But, who knows? Maybe, one day, we'll move again. Once a nomad, always a nomad.

Source: Series: Destination America

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