Ilya Kabakov was born in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine in 1933. From 1945 to 1951, he attended the Moscow Secondary Art School and from 1951 to 1957, he attended the Surikov Institute of Arts, specializing in illustration. After graduation, Kabakov found work illustrating magazines and children’s books, while also experimenting with various forms of abstract art in his spare time.
Kabakov moved to Moscow where he joined a group of artists known as the conceptualists, whose work was often critical of the Soviet government and its oppressive policies. Kabakov began hosting conceptualist artist’s meetings in his Moscow apartment in 1975. He became the leader of the Sretensky Boulevard group (named after the street where many of the artists lived). During the 1980s, many of the artists began using a combination of objects and images to recreate physical environments such as classrooms, hospitals and other communal spaces, which depicted the frustrations of Soviet life. Kabakov referred to these as “total installations” and they brought him recognition in Europe and the United States.
Kabakov has had numerous solo exhibitions, including shoeings at Ronald Feldman Fine Arts in New York in 1988, The Venice Biennale in 1993 and the Center of Contemporary Art in Warsaw in 1994, to name a few. He currently lives and works in New York.