Ilya and Emilia Kabakov: ENTER HERE at Film Forum November 13, 2013

Ilya and Emilia Kabakov: ENTER HERE, a new documentary film about Russia’s most celebrated artists – major figures on the international art scene – will have its U.S. theatrical premiere at Film Forum in New York City on November 13, 2013, for a two-week engagement. The documentary debuted in September at the Moscow Biennale, which runs through October 20, 2013.

Directed by Amei Wallach, known for her acclaimed film Louise Bourgeois: The Spider, The Mistress and The TangerineIlya and Emilia Kabakov: ENTER HERE traces the husband-and-wife team, U.S. citizens for decades, as they confront their tumultuous Soviet past in the dizzying Russian present. Returning to Moscow, where Ilya Kabakov had been forbidden to show his work, he and his wife, Emilia, prepare for unprecedented exhibitions of their extraordinary walk-in installations at major venues such as the Pushkin Museum. The film is presented in cooperation with the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg.

The premiere of Ilya and Emilia Kabakov: ENTER HERE coincides with an exhibition of work by the Kabakovs at Pace Gallery, 32 East 57th Street in New York City, from November 2 -December 21, 2013.

The emotional heart of the film is a voice-over narration of a letter written by Ilya Kabakov’s mother when she was 80, detailing the ordeals of her life in Russia from the Bolshevik chaos to Stalin’s terror and Brezhnev’s bureaucratic nightmare. Her brutal experiences include being homeless while her son was in art school, and the oppression she faced continues to haunt him to this day. Ultimately, Ilya and Emilia Kabakov: ENTER HERE reveals the backstory that illuminates the Kabakovs’ art projects, which have been exhibited in more than 30 countries.

With unparalleled access to the artists and a global community of their friends and leaders in the art world, including Robert Storr, dean of the Yale School of Art, and Dr. Mikhail Piotrovsky, director of the State Hermitage Museum, Wallach uncovers emotional and professional insights into the Kabakovs’ art and life. Matthew Jesse Jackson, a scholar of Ilya Kabakov and his circle, relates the ironic stories of alienation and catastrophe created by Kabakov to expose the everyday deprivations of Soviet life.

“As Ilya Kabakov says, ‘Art is a special space in another world,’ and ENTER HERE is a way into the Kabakovs’ extraordinary world,” notes Wallach, who first met him in 1987 in the Soviet Union, where she was reporting a five-part series on the effects of perestroika on the arts. In 1996, she published the first biography of the artist, Ilya Kabakov: The Man Who Never Threw Anything Away (Abrams).

The film’s dynamic style, mixing Russia’s epic history of revolution and tyranny, illuminates the Kabakovs’ art and their fears, hopes, and successes. The film focuses on the Kabakovs’ once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to present six concurrent exhibitions in the new Moscow in 2008 – a homecoming and historic event, given that Ilya Kabakov was not permitted to show his work there in Soviet times.

Married in 1992, Ilya and Emilia Kabakov knew each other growing up and were reunited in Europe in the late 1980s. With her exceptional organizational skills, the Kabakovs began to realize larger installations in museums around the world. Emilia’s role of collaborator and producer has been acknowledged since 1996, when the Kabakovs began to sign their installations as by Ilya and Emilia Kabakov. Between 1988 and 2012, the Kabakovs mounted 266 exhibitions in more than 30 countries.

In early 2008, Dasha (Daria) Zhukova, an international entrepreneur and philanthropist, invited the Kabakovs to inaugurate the Garage, a huge art space in a former Moscow bus garage designed by the Constructivist architect Konstantin Melnikov in 1927. The Kabakovs then expanded the project to six installations in five venues, including the Pushkin Museum. The centerpiece of the film, An Alternative History of Art, 1996-2008, an installation at the Garage, is their homage to The Metropolitan Museum of Art and has served to introduce Muscovites to the value of a great museum.

On sites in far-flung sections of the city that are reachable only in the new Moscow’s bumper-to-bumper traffic, the Kabakovs’ relationship emerges as they face great odds to install the exhibitions. He measures, climbs, paints, and worries; she charms, organizes, and deals with crises face-to-face and on her BlackBerry. Then the frenzy breaks loose: it is the madness of the Moscow opening, pronounced on the spot an historic event, with government officials, paparazzi, and jostling throngs – and an urgent sense of what it means to have this exhibition at this moment in this place. More information about the film, including a link to the trailer, is available at

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