Object of the Month: September

Ilya Kabakov, The Man Who Flew Into His Picture, 1987-1989


Ilya Kabakov’s installation The Man Who Flew Into His Picture consists of several elements. Three notebooks filled with the artist’s handwritten thoughts are laid out on a table for anyone to read. A wooden trestle separates the viewer from the picture on the wall in which a tiny human figure forms the central point of the artwork. The viewer can sit on two wooden chairs and take in the picture or browse through the short stories. The installation was created in Freud’s former private apartment and consists of objects left behind by previous tenants from the time after Freud’s emigration. It is part of Kabakov’s series How I became a character myself. In this series, and in this work, he explores his own identity and his memories of the Soviet Union as an artist, with communication and separation going hand in hand. The centrepiece, the small human figure glued onto the picture, stands for both the artist and for the viewer. In this piece the artist alternates between his real self and his alter ego, the “hero” who crosses real borders. But above and beyond personal aspects, the work also conveys universal messages about social problems, echoing Freud’s wish-fulfilment in dreams, for example the artist’s wish to liberate himself from internal and external constraints.

Ilya Iosifovich Kabakov was born in Dnipropetrovsk in Ukraine in 1933. From 1945 to 1951 he attended the Art School in Moscow, going on to study at the Surikov Art Institute in Moscow. Working in the former USSR, he was regarded as an important exponent of Moscow conceptualism. In 1987 Kabakov was awarded an art residency in Austria and in 1989 one in Berlin, where he worked for the first time with his wife-to-be Emilia, who had emigrated to America in 1975. Rather than returning to his home country, he later moved permanently to New York. The artist couple continue to work today, exhibiting at renowned art galleries.

The artwork The Man Who Flew Into His Picture was added to the collection of the Sigmund Freud Private Foundation as part of a contemporary art collection initiated by Franz West and is currently on show on selected dates in the showroom on the upper ground floor.

Photo: Ilya Kabakov, The Man Who Flew Into His Picture, 1987-1989 (c) Margherita Spiluttini

Go back