Ilya’s work has shown at the Museum of Modern of Art as well as top European museums. Nine galleries around the world — from Tokyo to Chelsea to Cologne — show his work. His sculptures sit outside housing developments and in public squares in cities and villages around the world. Emilia runs the business side. Works can sell from $550,000 to $5 million.
“I am more ambitious,” she smiles. “And I have a temper, too.”
At 11 years old, she was arrested with her parents trying to escape the Soviet Union. The police said they were going to break her fingers. Her father stayed in jail 10 years; her mother for three. Emilia went to live with her grandmother.
“I wasn’t afraid,” she remembers. “I was angry. Material things do not matter to me. I can walk away from things without care. People, relationships and connections — that matters. It’s people that you miss when they are not there.”
Ilya does not talk to the press. He believes art speaks for itself. He works and works, seeing the creation of art no differently than a bricklayer sees the laying of bricks. He takes breaks to walk to the water. He eyes any stranger in his house (me, the photographer) as a distraction. It’s comical at times and inspiring at others.
The Kabakovs’ work combines giant illustration with a series of paintings. All of it involves compassion, cosmic energy, empathy, creativity and the notion of time. Many pieces never get bigger than small wooden models. One idea is a monument to unknown people.
“Why do we only have monuments for people who do great things?” asks Emilia. “Every person who lives and loves does great things.”