Ilya and Emilia Kabakov are both children of communist Russia, and despite the couple’s longstanding residence on Long Island, the Soviet Union still inspires their high concept, large-scale installation works. The aesthetics of these often hark back to Soviet dreams of a utopian future and have earned them widespread acclaim and shows at prestigious venues the world over, including the Hermitage. But neither fame nor age (Ilya is 86) have altered the childlike whimsy and delight with which the pair approach art – qualities that are on full display at the Tchoban Foundation’s exhibition In the Making: Ilya & Emilia Kabakov. Here (displayed over two floors of the geometric construction that houses the Museum for Architectural Drawings) concept sketches and drawings illuminate the process behind their most famous works. It’s a delight to explore the origins of realised pieces like “How to Meet an Angel” (2003), which has been installed in multiple locations from Bielefeld to Amsterdam; the notes explain how the 1200-meter-tall ladder aimed to maximise users’ chances of divine encounter by elevating them to “the level of space where such encounters most often occur”. It’s even more fun to consider pieces that remain unmade (due to scale) like the “Vertical Opera”, an intricate five-level stage depicting Soviet history intended for New York’s Guggenheim museum. Visitors hungry for more Kabakov can take a day trip to Alt-Hohenschönhausen, where the charming Mies van der Rohe Haus displays a three-piece capsule collection called Movement as a Dream. It includes a 3-D miniature model of the Kabakovs’ dome from Strange City (2014), a life-size, alien cityscape they built within Paris’ Grand Palais five years ago. The model has found a picturesque setting at the lakeside Bauhaus-era cottage, kept alive as a contemporary art space thanks to the efforts of curator Wita Noack (find out more about the masterpiece of modernist design in our recent interview with Noack), and will be residing there until December.
In the Making: Ilya & Emilia Kabakov | Tchoban Foundation Museum for Architectural Drawing, Mitte. Through Feb 23.
Movement as a Dream | Mies van der Rohe Haus, Lichtenberg. Through Dec 22.