Ilya Kabakov sees installation as a new genre that will displace other forms of artistic expression like painting or sculpture, because it includes them. For the artist, the “total installation” absorbs the spectator, who is inside of it, overwhelmed by the intense atmosphere being created. According to the artist, this new genre, which is only in its initial stages of development and promises vast possibilities, encourages a mechanism that he calls “double action”: it immerses us in a fictitious world—a world of illusion—while inviting us to reflect on the construction that surrounds us. Kabakov prefers this genre to traditional art forms, which no longer allow for illusion, as well as to theatre or cinema, which favour action over reflection. The installation is a theatrical construction, complete with its own dramatic mechanisms, that asks the spectator to position herself in a different time by entering a different space.
For Sale is an installation created specifically for the exhibition Toponimias, Ocho Ideas del Espacio, shown at the exhibition hall of the “la Caixa” Foundation in Madrid in 1994.According to the exhibition’s curator, José Lebrero, “the artist has revealed the location of an obsolete and irretrievable yesterday”. The installation consists of two rooms: the first, which serves as the entrance, is small; the second is large and dominated by a dark, theatrically lit space where several pieces of furniture, most of them covered by sheets, fill almost the entire space. The visitor is plunged into an old place—a place from the past—where time seems to stand still. The spectator’s eye is drawn to a single image, because it is the only one in the spotlight: an amateur painting of a view of a corner in Madrid. It is not, however, the only painting in the room. Five other paintings, the artist explains, act as mirrors in which the spectator sees her own reflection, along with other elements that make up the installation. The catalogue for the 1995 exhibition at the Musée National Centre Georges Pompidou, which included a selection of the installations Kabakov produced between 1983 and 1995, stated—in reference to this artwork—that the disappearance of the past, of the old interiors of family homes, was a timely issue in Madrid. The installation’s title, For Sale, is a reference to this attempt at liquidating a past that has fallen into ruin and—due to the will or apathy of its current tenants or owners—scatters and fades. The picture—the painting—exists as a reminder of better days and, in a very traditional sense, as a window that takes us to a sunny, exterior world. This installation, much like the others the artist has realized over the years, questions painting as representation. At the same time, however, it endows painting with a markedly evocative character, in the same way that the use of the furniture carries a strong, emotional charge, and both aspects are essential elements in defining the narrative.
Juan Antonio Álvarez Reyes