Wednesday, 10 October 2012

The Fly is Free

Ilya Kabakov is the father of Moscow conceptualism, and, without doubt, Russia's most famous living artist.  One of the first artists to leave after Perestroika, his works have been exhibited across the globe, from the Centre Georges Pompidou to the Hermitage, via the Serpentine, the Garage Centre for Contemporary Culture . . . You get the picture. I have been fortunate enough to interview him and his wife, Emilia - they co-sign all their works - more than once, both for AD Russia and Vogue Russia.  The former consisted of meeting them at the Venice Biennale, before spending a whole day at their house on Long Island a month later, being shown around the studio, and swimming in the sea from the jetty at the end of their garden.  (And yet still it took until we had breakfast in London a couple of months later for Ilya to speak to me in English, which, incidentally, he speaks perfectly - we'd been struggling in German up until that point, and I had deliberately taken a German photographer to the Long Island house . . . )  Anyway, that interview is still probably the highlight of my career to date, and Emilia even gave me a goody bag to take home:  pretty much every book ever written concerning their artistic output.

They are less well known as jewellery designers, mainly because it's a recent venture, and the pieces sold are very limited.  Also, they never really intended this to happen.  Ilya designed the set for Emilia for her birthday in 1995, she put the drawings into a drawer and didn't really think much further about them.  For fifteen years.  They only finally got made because the wife of the owner of their London gallery (Elisabetta Cipriani, and the gallery is Sprovieri on Heddon Street) started selling artist-made jewellery, and suggested to them that they should get the pieces made.  The initial designs were for a ring and a bracelet; a necklace and earrings have just been added and been unveiled at PAD (the Pavilion of Art and Design, taking place now in Berkeley Square.)

The whole set is called 'The Fly'; these are the earrings.

Beautiful, no?  The flies themselves are brilliant-cut diamonds and enamel, the leaves pear-cut emeralds and enamel, and all is set in 18 carat gold.  And as for the reasoning behind the fly?  In the words of Emilia, "She is for us a symbol of freedom.  She can go anywhere, be everywhere and we don't even notice her presence, because  she is so insignificant.  Nobody can control the fly.  Even in a totalitarian state, where everybody's life and movements can be limited and controlled, the fly is free."

If my husband's lottery tickets every yield the much longed-for win, Heddon Street will be my first stop.