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– Autumn/Winter 2016

The Kabakov Effect: ‘Moscow Conceptualism’ in the History of Contemporary Art

Ilya Kabakov, The Man Who Flew Into Space From His Apartment, undated concept drawing, watercolour, felt pen, lead pencil, chalk and correction fluid, 34 × 23cm. Courtesy the artist and Wolfgang Roth & Partners Fine Art

... starting in the late 1960s ... [the Moscow conceptual] circle of artists became an engine in the development of aesthetic and conceptual models that, while reflecting on local issues, also fit successfully into the discourses that were being developed by their contemporaries in the West. Indeed, it can be claimed that the 1970s and 1980s were the last era when a channelling of local contexts into an international language was effectively realised, just as in the period of the historical avant-garde.

– Margarita Tupitsyn1

The term ‘Moscow’ is heavy enough to outweigh any Western term like ‘futurism’ or ‘conceptualism’.
– Boris Groys2

These two statements raise a series of interesting historical and methodological issues about the emergent discourses of a global art history and of histories of contemporary art in particular. Taken together, they highlight the tension internal to the phrase ‘Moscow Conceptualism’, in which a Western category (‘conceptualism’) is conjugated with a