Lissitzky – Kabakov, stage 2
Uit de keuken van de curator

Lissitzky – Kabakov, stage 2

the continuing story

Writing on my laptop at Schiphol Airport waiting for my flight to St. Petersburg I take some time to describe how ideas for an exhibition like ‘Lissitzky – Kabakov’ come into being and how they develop. Like many things such a creative process has to do with the coming together of coincidence on one side and preparation on the other. In this case it was Charles Esche who came into contact with Ilya and Emilia Kabakov through one of our Promotors. An invitation like many others at first sight (“please come over and meet some artists”) but this meeting turned out to be very prolific because coincidence and preparation came together and interacted. On this meeting Charles asked Ilya and Emilia to think about a project with our collection of works by El Lissitzky. After visiting the museum twice to think this over they came with the brilliant idea of juxtaposing these two oeuvres in different ways, arranged by several themes. The artists (curators?) wanted us to select the works of Lissitzky because they needed more distance to these works. They only wanted to choose their own. The Kabakovs respect Lissitzky very much and it is because of this that they did not want to make this choice. We had to do it. The themes were clearly those of Kabakov, but the Lissitzky counterparts were very clear and made enough sense for us to be able to select the works. Thus the concept was really: two artists looking at the work of one distinguished predecessor. And the Soviet Union would be central in the exhibition but also absent in a sense. Splendid!

When Ilya and Emilia first presented it in 2011 the idea it turned out to be much bigger than we had in mind. We offered one floor of the new building of our museum, but they took that one and the larger one above it. I can safely say they “took it”, because it was the power of their idea that convinced us. But it was also clear that this would be much more work than the original concept for one floor that was never elaborated. This would mean more international loans so more preparations, more planning, more time, more people and more money. And it would certainly mean more work for me, because I knew that Charles would be somewhere else the next day (as ever) and would leave all the ‘details’ to me. Thanks Charles! Always glad to be of service! Всегда готов!

In between these lines I have arrived in my hotel in St. Petersburg. The taxi that took me from the airport was cooler than my room here. Outside it is 33° C. and inside in my room it is no less. There is no airco. “Four stars” they call this. But I am not complaining. There was no hotel to be found nearer to the Hermitage, because now it is the Festival of the White Nights. All of St. Petersburg is fully booked and it is one big feast here with theatre, music and art. It is 9 pm now and the sun is still spreads its yellow shining over the some orange colored houses on the boulevard. Fortunately I have found балтика 7 зкспортное (пиво сварено длия вас). It helps.

I hope at 10 the sun will be gone. When it is cooler I will go out, upgrade my metro card and buy a book for my Russian lessons. The famous bookshop ‘Dom Knigi’ at Nevski Prospekt is open till midnight. Moreover after that it might very well be that some good acquaintances here in St. Petersburg will have got my message and will invite me to a nice terrace nearby. The only difficulty for me is to find out via my new smartphone where they are. I still really do not know how to do that. But once that’s done the evening will be over in a minute (the night is only a few hours) and I will have to find my way back…