Questionnaire: Ilya & Emilia Kabakov

Q: What do you like the look of? A: Water, always, in any weather. Calm, stormy, in the morning, at sunset, even at night.

web_p13068_p-cmyk.jpg

Roni Horn, Untitled from the series 'Still Water (The River Thames, For Example)', 1999, lithograph on paper, 77 x 105 cm. Courtesy: American Acquisitions Committee 2005 © Tate, London 2017

Roni Horn, Untitled from the series 'Still Water (The River Thames, For Example)', 1999, lithograph on paper, 77 x 105 cm. Courtesy: American Acquisitions Committee 2005 © Tate, London 2017

What images keep you company in the space where you work?
EMILIA KABAKOV: We mainly are surrounded by paintings that are works-in-progress. But we do have one picture: Talisman by the Ethiopian artist Gedewon. He made it for me 20 years ago and it is absolutely beautiful and magical. I cannot live without this work and I do feel protected by it.

What was the first piece of art that really mattered to you?
It wasn’t a particular artwork so much as the atmosphere of the museum. The sacred feeling of a temple you felt the moment you entered. It stays with you forever.

If you could live with only one piece of art what would it be?
Why do we have to choose?

What is your favourite title of an artwork?
This is a really strange question but that said, How to Meet an Angel (2003), one of our own works, is the best.

What do you wish you knew?
Everything that’s possible or impossible to know.

What should change?
Too many things to mention, especially people’s ability to be compassionate towards other human beings, being more tolerant to each other and more protective of children, mothers and older people.

What should stay the same?
Culture.

What could you imagine doing if you didn’t do what you do?
Being a musician: I think this goes for both of us. Ilya wants to play violin and I still dream of being a pianist.

What music are you listening to?
Classical, romantic, country and the music I can hear even when it’s not playing: the music of the wind and water and the music of silence.

What are you reading?
Ilya reads Russian history, classical literature, poetry and biographies. I read poetry, romance and historical novels, detective stories, art articles and art history.

What do you like the look of?
Water, always, in any weather. Calm, stormy, in the morning, at sunset, even at night.

What is art for?
Art, music and literature are the things that make – and keep – us human.

Ilya and Emilia Kabakov live in Long Island, USA. Their solo exhibition at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, USA, runs until 4 March 2018. Their retrospective at Tate Modern, London, UK, runs from 18 October until 28 January; it will then travel to the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, Russia, and the State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia. Their concurrent solo shows at Thaddeus Ropac Gallery in London and Paris, France, will open this month. 

Issue 190

First published in Issue 190

October 2017

Most Read

The Courtauld Gallery, London, UK
Openings at the new ICA, The Bass and PAMM played out against a backdrop of geographic uncanniness and atmospheric...
With the recent razing of suburban slums, tightening censorship and the sad passing of Geng Jianyi, a year of...
Nicholas Mangan, Ancient Lights (detail), 2015, two-screen installation, solar panels, batteries, projectors powered by solar energy, dimensions variable. Courtesy: the artist, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne, Hopkinson Mossman, Auckland and Labor, Mexico
At once stagnant and dynamic, politically tense and blissfully buoyant, the French capital was a strange place to be...
From victims of Hurricane Harvey to the music of Roger Waters, 2017 has been full of renewed debate around support for...
In further news: MOCA Detroit suspends Jens Hoffmann after harassment allegations; Met refuses to remove ‘suggestive’...
‘Conflicts of interest’ may have cost Beatrix Ruf her Stedelijk job but the problem doesn’t just lie with individuals...
Her work animates the consequences of our colonial history and the construction of identity politics: in a divided...
France's President Emmanuel Macron meets Burkina Faso's President Roch Marc Christian Kabore at the Presidential Palace in Burkina Faso on November 28, 2017. Courtesy: LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP/Getty Images
The French President’s recent comments hint at a dubious politics: using art restitution as a stopgap to France’s...
More from today’s Briefing: protesting Raghubir Singh; documenta artists defend exhibition (again); Enrico Castellani (...
Tiffany and Co., Sterling Silver Paper Cup, 2017, from the ‘Everyday Objects’ collection. Courtesy: Tiffany and Co., New York
Tiffany & Co.’s new range of gift objects and the shifting meaning of the ‘everyday’
From Hannah Black to Not Surprised, the changes demanded by today’s letter writers are still a long way from being...
Johan Grimonprez, Shadow World, 2016, film still. Courtesy: the artist, Sean Kelly Gallery, New York, Galerie Kamel Mennour, Paris, Flatland Gallery, Amsterdam, Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Simi Valley, Louverture Films, Dillywood and Shadow World inc., New York
Johan Grimonprez’s recent films explore the mechanisms of the arms trade
A pivot to glass by the sculptor shows an attempt to see hope through political disillusionment
In further news: initiative for museum staff diversity; Gwangju Biennale's 2018 curators; Jens Hoffmann clarifies Front...
Ahead of Manifesta’s opening in Palermo next summer, the importance of remembering an alternative Mediterranean...
Inverting the gaze: real life biography, game play fantasy and Frantz Fanon combine in the British artist’s films
Old Food, 2017, production still. Courtesy: the artist, Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin, Cabinet Gallery, London, Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, New York and Rome, and dépendance, Brussels
Helen Marten responds to Ed Atkins’s new work, Old Food, currently showing at Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin
Elsewhere: activists protest AfD with Holocaust Memorial replica; censorship at Kuala Lumpur Biennale; Venice Biennale'...
Twenty years after the First Cyberfeminist International at Documenta X, what does Cyberfeminism look like in...
Thinking about propaganda, palimpsests, and a presentation of Tino Sehgal works in Moscow
As London's Architectural Association celebrates 100 years of female students, rediscovering the city designed by women
Lin May Saeed, Lobster, 2017. Metal, 11 x 24 x 14.5 cm. Courtesy: the artist, Nicolas Krupp, Basel, Jacky Strenz, Frankfurt am Main and Lulu, Mexico City
Lulu, Mexico City, Mexico
For the 6th Amsterdam Art Weekend, our picks of the best shows and events across the Dutch capital
Highlights of the shows included in the third iteration of Dublin Gallery Weekend
An interview with Casco – Office for Art, Design and Theory, on new ways for art institutions to work
With her current show at Studio_Leigh, London, the artist shares some important images
Recent instances of censorship show an emboldened far right attacking the arts, queer identity and more: artists,...
The staggering price reached by Salvator Mundi prompts the question: what are you really buying when you buy an artwork?
Wong Kar-wai, Happy Together, 1997, film still. Courtesy: the artist and Alamy 
From the new issue of frieze: Changes in urban cultures and queer aesthetics across the Sinosphere 
On the occasion of two UK solo exhibitions, the British artist reflects on the art and events that have shaped her...

Latest Magazines

frieze magazine

September 2017

frieze magazine

October 2017

frieze magazine

November - December 2017