Ilya Iosifovich Kabakov of Mattituck, the son of Iosif Bensionovitch Kabakov and Bertha Judelevna Solodukhina, died surrounded by his family on Saturday, May 27, 2023 at the age of 89.

A great artist, philosopher, beloved husband, beloved father and beloved grandfather, he will be honored at a public memorial service in the coming weeks.

Born in 1933 in Dnepropetrovsk, Soviet Union (now Dnipro, Ukraine), Kabakov began his formal art education at the age of 10. Eight years later, he entered Moscow’s Surikov State Academy of Arts to study graphic design and book illustration. During his “official” career in the USSR, he illustrated more than a hundred children’s books. Unofficially, he produced dozens of paintings, drawings, and installations, and over the next three decades he became the leader of the Sretensky Boulevard Group—a group of artists who gathered in his and other artists’ studios to discuss Their interest in unofficial art—and the Moscow Conceptualist movement—worked with fellow artists Erik Bulatov and Oleg Vassiliev, as well as prominent intellectuals such as Boris Groys.

In 1983, Kabakov completed his first “total installation” and is considered the creator of the genre. Kabakov’s work was shown in the West in 1985, curated by Jean-Hubert Martin and Claudia Jolles, at the Bern Kunsthalle organise exhibition. In 1987, Kabakov left the Soviet Union for Austria to pursue his artistic career.

From 1989, Ilya started working with Emilia Kanevsky (née Lekach), whom he had known since childhood, and they married in 1992. Together they have been awarded the Oskar Kokoschka Prize of the Order of Arts and Letters, the Praemium Imperiale, the Cartier Prize, the Lifetime Achievement Medal and the Artistic Achievement Award, the El Greco Lifetime Achievement Award, and more. They are emeritus professors at the University of the Arts Vienna; the Moscow Academy of Arts; the Sorbonne, Paris; and the University of Bern, Switzerland.

Their work delves into human fears, insecurities, and dreams, exploring themes such as utopia, life under totalitarian repression, and art history, and is held in public and private collections around the world, including MoMA, Guggenheim Mu Museum, Tate Modern, Center Pompidou, MAXXI Museum, MUMOK Museum, Kunstmuseum Bern, Kunstmuseum Basel, Zug Kunsthaus, State Hermitage Museum, The Tretyakov Gallery, Abu Dhabi Royal Collection, Sharjah Museum, Stedelijk Museum, National Museum of Norway, Van Abbemuseum, Mori Art Museum and Echigo-Tsumari.

Committed to philanthropy, nurturing young artists and promoting peace, Ilya and Emilia launch 18 years of ‘Ships of Tolerance’, an international humanitarian arts project that unites children from different backgrounds, socioeconomic classes and religions .

A dreamer, inventor, painter, sculptor, writer and a gifted, kind and gentle soul, Elijah was a prodigiously inventive man who worked until the last moment to leave an incredible legacy for future generations. He is survived by his wife, Emilia. his daughter Galina; stepdaughters Isis and Viola; sons-in-law Alexander and Doug; his grandchildren Joseph, Orianna, Aurora, Anya and her husband Xavier; and his great-grandson Anastasia and Maxim.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests charitable donations/donations to the Mattituck-Laurellibrary ( or the Ship of Tolerance/Ilya and Emilia Kabakov Foundation (

Funeral arrangements have been entrusted to DeFriest-Grattan Funeral Home in Mattituck.

This is a paid notice.

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