Though best known for the installations he started producing in the early 1980s, Ilya Kabakov’s career as an artist goes much further back. He studied at the Surikov Art Institute in Moscow, graduating in 1957 with specialisation in illustration. After completing his degree, he initially worked as an illustrator of children's books. In the 1960s he produced paintings and objects and began to combine text and images in his work. It was during this period that he started work on his first ‘albums’, each of which focuses on one character, and conceived fictitious exhibitions in the form of accordion-fold creations, which can be seen as precursors of some of his later installations. His work became known in the West through his first installations in the 1980s, which included works like Sixteen Ropes and The Ship of Tolerance. By the middle of the decade, his work started to be shown regularly in many European capitals (Bern, Marseille, Paris, Düsseldorf and Graz). In 1988 he produced his first ‘total installation’, entitled Ten Characters, in New York. In 1991 he added music to his work. Since then he has remained very active, working mainly in the United States and Europe.
Juan Antonio Álvarez Reyes