The Rope of Life


YEAR: 1985



The artist.

First realized in 1985 in the Moscow studio.

Version 1

The Norton and Nancy Dodge Collection of Non-Conformist Art from the Soviet Union, Jane Vorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, USA, since 2000.

Version 2

Since 1985 part of No 87, The Rope of Life and Other Installations.

Collection Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt am Main, since 1995.


Version 1

Ilya Kabakov. En marge, Galerie de la Vieille Charité, Marseille, 18 January – 2 March 1986;

Ilya Kabakov. Am Rande, Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, Düsseldorf, 6 June – 3 August 1986;

Kabakov, Centre National des Arts Plastiques, Paris, 19 November 1986 – 11 January 1987.

Ten Characters, Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York, 30 April – 4 June 1988.

Version 2

Ich lebe – ich sehe. Künstler der achtziger Jahre in Moskau, Kunstmuseum Bern, Bern, 11 June – 14 August 1988;

Ilya Kabakov. The Untalented Artist and Other Characters at the ICA London, Institute of Contemporary Art, London, 23 February – 23 April 1989.

Das Schiff – Die Kommunalwohnung, Zwei Installationen von Ilya Kabakov, Kunsthalle Zürich, Zurich, 2 June – 30 July 1989.

The Rope of Life and Other Installations, Fred Hoffman Gallery, Santa Monica, 13 January – 10 February 1990.

In de USSR en erbuiten, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 22 September – 4 November 1990.

In Public: Seattle 1991, Security Pacific Gallery, Seattle, 27 June – 3 November 1991.

Recycling through Art, Expo ’93, Taejon, 7 August – 7 November 1993.

See No 8, 13, 32, 87.


The floor of a rather large room (10 x 10 meters) is covered with large white sheets of paper, which impart to the room a rather strange, ‘temporary’ appearance. This is the way the floor is covered when repairs are begun. A discarded rope of approximately 10 meters length is lying carelessly in the middle of this white floor. All kinds of small pieces of garbage are attached to the middle section of the rope by thin strings: a broken toothbrush, empty bottles, buttons, papers, etc., and in turn a small paper label with text on both sides is attached to each of these pieces of garbage. On each label, there is a date and a brief recollection as to what happened at that time. All of the recollections are connected to the author’s biography. In this way, year after year the entire story of his life is ‘strung’ on this rope – from earliest childhood to the day when this rope was laid down on the floor. The ‘beginning’ and the ‘end’ of the rope remain free, and this circumstance is explained in a short commentary which is lying right on the floor near the ‘rope’ itself.



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1985Megan BartonComment