The Strange City


with Emilia Kabakov

YEAR: 2014



Collection of Ilya and Emilia Kabakov


Consisting of nos. 67, 169, 178, 182, 190, 191, as well as of nos. 165, 179 (in the form of large-scale models).

See CRI, vol. 1, no. 67, pp. 438–441.

See CRI, vol. 3, no. 165, pp. 118–125; no. 169, pp. 150–159; no. 177, pp. 228–237; no. 179, pp. 246–259; no. 182, pp. 280–287; no. 191, pp. 350–357; no. 192, pp. 358–365.


Grand Palais, Paris, France
Ilya and Emilia Kabakov: L’Étrange Cité (Ilya and Emilia Kabakov: The Strange City), Monumenta 2014, organization: Réunion des Musées Nationaux with support of the Ministry of Culture and Communication, May 10 to June 22, 2014

Power Station of Art, Shanghai, China
The installation was exhibited in a modified way, without the artist’s architectural superstructure, It included the installations The Dark Chapel, The Gates and Empty Museum, as well as the additional installations 20 Ways to get an Apple listening to the Music of Mozart and The Fallen Angel

Power Station of Art, Shanghai, China
伊利亚和艾米莉亚•卡巴科夫:理想之城 / llya and Emilia Kabakov: The Dream City, 上海当代艺术博物馆, August 7 to December 6, 2015


The concept for an exhibit at the Grand Palais is the creation of a utopian city resembling “The City of The Sun” that at the same time has a romantic, lofty content similar to Hermann Hesse’s Castile. There are five buildings in this city, which has the shape of a full circle. The central building is located directly next to the entrance into the city and is titled “The Empty Museum.” Represented inside is the interior of a “classical” museum, but instead of paintings there are bright spots of light on its dark Bordeaux-colored walls. The solemn music of J. S. Bach’s “Passacaglia” and everything together—the semi-darkness, the gold gilding, the soft chairs—form a strange and lofty kind of union of a museum and a temple.

The other four buildings of the city, similar in layout, represent structures that partially resemble chapels with a central main space surrounded by a corridor. The subjects displayed in each building are different, but all of them are united by an atmosphere of tranquility and concentration, thanks to the vertical direction of the central hall and the light shining downward through an aperture in the ceiling. A large model of the magical city of “Manas” existing simultaneously in two planes—the “heavenly” one up above and the “earthly” plane down below—is erected in the first building. In the second building is the model for the structures “Center of Cosmic Energy” and “Center for Communication with the Noosphere,” which can serve, according to the idea of the Russian scientist D. Vernadsky, as a constant source of creativity, since it is precisely in the Noosphere that ideas created by humanity’s best minds are preserved. In the third building is a visual representation of how one might meet one’s angel, in what way and under what circumstances that angel might come to our aid. The fourth building is devoted to the display of another enigmatic project: presented within a composition of 12 paintings and an object are various versions of the image of a “Gate” standing at the very horizon that can be viewed to have the symbolic meaning of a gate both “into here” and “to the outside.”

In all the corridors surrounding the central space of the buildings are sketches, objects and models that help to reveal and complement the main concept. Two other structures can be seen beyond the city walls. Along the same axis with its entrance and exit. Directly in form of the entrance into the city, not very far from it, is a “Gate” resembling in appearance and meaning a victory arch and it underscores the main axis of the entire exhibit. At the very exit from the city along the exact same axis are the largest buildings of the project. “The White Chapel” that houses a large white space with an open ceiling and a multitude of fragmentary images on all four walls. These Fragments leave the impression that the reality surrounding us is disappearing in the white light, along with the peace and tranquility. The “Chapel” harkens back to the tradition of the “artist’s space” and was conceptualized as a continuation of Giotto’s chapel and Rothko’s chapel. In “The Dark Chapel” are 6 big dark paintings. The ring perimeter of the entire “city” is surrounded by two walls.



2014Megan BartonComment