• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 7684

    Russian Pictures Including Post-War and Contemporary Art Part II

    26 November 2008, London, King Street

  • Lot 461

    Oleg Tselkov (b. 1934)

    Collector and collection

    Price Realised  

    Oleg Tselkov (b. 1934)
    Collector and collection
    incised in Cyrillic 'Oleg Tselkov' (lower right)
    oil on canvas
    37¾ x 51 in. (96 x 130 cm.)
    Painted in 1988


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    Day after day, for forty years, I glance at the faces of the characters drawn by my own hand, asking each "Who are you?"...Their answers are always devoid of clarity, and float away like smoke...It is clear to me that they have a thousand years behind them and an eternity ahead.
    O. Tselkov, 'Ogonek', no. 39, 23 October 2000

    In 1977, Oleg Tselkov, like so many other artists of the Russian Avant-garde, immigrated to France from the Soviet Union. Since then, he has remained a legendary figure in Moscow's world of unofficial art. Josef Brodsky called him the 'most prominent Russian artist of the post-war period', while Sergei Dovlatov made Tselkov one of the characters in his well-known tale Solo in the Underwood.

    Perhaps the only representative of the surrealist movement in Russian unofficial art of the post-war period, Tselkov has only painted one portrait during his extensive creative career spanning over 50 years. In 1960 he created a collective figure with a bald head and mask-like face. He called his characters Alien tribe; faces that appear to surface from a nightmare, coming out from pages of an anti-utopian or fantastical novel about the victims of a catastrophe and the degradation of society.

    I then painted a sort of portrait, not a taking the subject as an individual, but as a portrait that is universal, collective, united in one character. Not a face, but a mask, a countenance with a horrible familiarity.

    Oleg Tselkov

    Executed in a particularly intense palette of colours, these face portraits emerge before the viewer from a poisonous pink, green or purple painted mass, as seen in the variants of the composition Collector and collection. In the ghostly gallery of the hunter of heads or the collector of masks, each face is as similar to that of its owner as two drops of water. This series of faces, pinned on the wall glance threateningly at the viewer from time to time with accusing eyes which stare out from glossy hardened faces.

    The point is that I was the first of all artists to create a face, which is not at all idealised. A face in which there is nothing from the face of God. Since then, I have spent my whole life thinking about the mystery of this face, and I haven't found the answer.

    Oleg Tselkov

    Special Notice

    Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.
    VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 15% on the buyer's premium


    Pre-Lot Text

    THE PROPERTY OF AN IMPORTANT EUROPEAN COLLECTOR