We are thrilled to be staging Erik Bulatov’s first exhibition in London since 1989. Ever since the summer night in 1987 when Paul Jolles, the former Chairman of Nestlé, took me to visit the studio that Erik Bulatov was sharing with Oleg Vassiliev in Moscow, I have loved his work that is bold and powerful while being subtle and refined. — Simon de Pury
Erik Bulatov returns to London for the first time with a comprehensive show since his epochal exhibition that was held at the ICA in 1989.
During the years of Perestroika, conditions for artists that were not working in the only hitherto accepted style and manner for the first time found a possibility to exhibit their work to sell it and to travel.
In 1988 Simon de Pury initiated the groundbreaking auction held by Sotheby’s which represented a turning point for both, unofficial as well as official artists working in the USSR. The two most important artists who have emerged on the international scene at that time until today were Ilya Kabakov and Erik Bulatov.
Bulatov’s work caused an instant sensation. On one hand his very graphic and striking use of cyrillic letters were comparable to some pioneers of the Russian avant-garde such as Olga Rozanova or Maria Stepanowa. At the same time his figurative way of painting landscape, skies and people always contained symbolic content, sometimes ironic, humorist or political. The Centre Pompidou mounted a one man show in 1989. In the same year, the ICA in London was the first British Institution to show his work.
Bulatov has pursued his career in a painstaking and single minded way, away from any preoccupations as to his positioning in the art world. Russia eventually recognised his towering importance and paid homage to him first with a first retrospective that was held at
the Tretyakov gallery in 2006 and a second one more recently in 2014 that was held at the Manege. The last exhibition attracted hundreds thousands of visitors with long hour queues in order to be able to see his work.
In 2012, the American Friends of the Hermitage Museum honoured Erik Bulatov and Jeff Koons as two artists of seminal importance in Russia and America.
When Dasha Zhukova recently opened the new Garage building built by Rem Koolhaas, she commissioned Erik Bulatov to do a large mural in the entrance hall of that new institution.
The exhibition curated by de Pury de Pury will focus on 15 more recent paintings and 16 works on paper, sometimes preparatory studies.
Today, Erik Bulatov lives, together with his wife Natasha, in Paris, they regularly return to Moscow.
Erik Bulatov paints very slowly and produces not more than 2–3 paintings per year. With thanks & courtesy Kasia Kulczyk