Two Legacies: Roman Abramovich purchases the John Stewart Collection

Ilya Kabakov, Beetle, 1982

Ilya Kabakov, Beetle, 1982

Ilya and Emilia Kabakov have had a roller coaster year, having been tapped for France’s Monumenta 2013 commission, only to have that commission canceled early this fall. During the last week of November, word went out that the projectGorod (City), which compiles  “visions of progress, science and human superiority, which could have led to the brink of disaster”-  would still take place, only in 2014.

Monumenta isn’t the only cause for celebration. After a worrisome period on the market, John Stewart‘s immense collection has finally found a home with Roman Abramovich and Dasha Zhukova.  Built over more than 20 years, the collection consists of over 40 of  Ilya Kabakov’s key works, including the 10 Characters albums. The acquisition continues in Abramovich and Zhukova’s patronage of the artist (whose Red Wagon installation inaugurated the Garage space, and was later purchased by Zhukova and Abramovich as a gift to the Hermitage.)

The collection is valued up to $60 million and could have wrought havoc on the auction houses, had the works been sold piecemeal. Kabakov officially commands the highest prices for a postwar Russian artist, with his 1982 painting Beetle fetching nearly $5 milliomn in a 2008 Phillips auction. That same auction also saw strong prices for Kabakov’s colleagues, Erik Bulatov and Oleg Vassiliev, the esteemed artist – a close friend of the Kabakovs – who passed away on January 26, 2013, in New York, where he has lived since the 1990s.

Vassiliev was a key player in the Nonconformist movement and factors heavily in the collections dedicated to preserving the legacy (such as the Kolodzei Collection, the Ludwig Collection and the Nancy and Norton Dodge Collection.) To see examples of his painting, check here. Find his obituary (in Russian) on Kommersant. We thought the most fitting tribute may be words of the artist himself, pulled from his website:

To me, the visible and tangible world is more a thing of remembrance than of perceptions of reality.  The present is saturated with the past as a live sponge is saturated with water: through the workings of memory, light comes from the past and illuminates, snatches out of the dark that which is not of this moment.  That light is the very essence of remembrance. … The deeper one delves into the past, the more powerful the stream of light.  And somewhere over there, beyond the boundaries of the discernible, it turns into a river of golden light.  In that river my life drowns, and everything that was before lives.

Oleg Vassiliev, "Ogonyok, No 25, 1975," 1980-1993

Oleg Vassiliev, “Ogonyok, No 25, 1975,” 1980-1993

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6 Responses to Two Legacies: Roman Abramovich purchases the John Stewart Collection

  1. Dianne Beal says:

    Thanks for your tribute. Oleg Vassiliev was a great artist who emerged from an uncertain time to become one of the most important influences on a whole new generation of artists. His talents and gentle soul shined through in all his works. He will be missed but not forgotten.

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