Details & Cataloguing

Changing Focus - A Collection of Russian and Eastern European Contemporary Photography


Boris Mikhailov
Silver print hand-coloured with aniline dyes. Signed on the reverse. This work is from an edition of 7, each is unique due to quality of the process.
Image 48 by 47 cm (18 7/8  by 18 1/2  in.), sheet 59 by 49.3 cm (23 1/4  by 19 3/8  in.)
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Boris Mikhailov, Portikus, Frankfurt am Main; Kunsthalle Zurich, 1995-1996, (another edition exhibited)

Boris Mikhailov: Time is Out of Joint, Berlinische Galerie, Berlin, 2012 (another edition exhibited)

Faking It: Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2012-2013 (another edition exhibited)


'Photostroika: New Soviet Photography', Aperture116, New York, 1989, illustrated in colour p. 9

Brigitte Kölle, Boris Mikhailov, Stüttgart, 1995, another version ill. p. 67

Gilda Williams, Boris Mikhailov 55, London, 2001, another version illustrated in colour

Urs Stahel (ed.), Boris Mikhailov: A Retrospective, Zurich, 2003, another version illustrated in colour p. 53

Diane Neumaier (ed.), Beyond Memory: Soviet Nonconformist Photography and Photo-related Works of Art, New Brunswick, NJ, 2004, another version ill. p. 30

David Teboul, Boris Mikhailov: I've Been Here Once Before, Munich, 2011, detail illustrated in colour

Catalogue Note

Born in Kharkov, Ukraine, and trained as an engineer, Boris Mikhailov’s photography spans across a wide range of techniques and subject matter. Employing a rich variety of visual possibilities provided by the medium of photography, Mikhailov explores local issues and concerns and continues to return to Kharkov for inspiration after his emigration to Germany in 1997.

The Sots Art series were executed between 1975 and 1986. Mikhailov took photographs that responded to all requirements of the Socialist criteria- pictures of athletic youth, students participating in military training class and beaming street vendors are all within the expected norms of Socialist Realist aesthetics. The artist subtly subverts this tradition by hand-colouring each image in incongruous colours, highlighting the incongruity of the decaying Soviet society and its false ideals.

The present lot is one of the most recognisable images from the series. Mikhailov photographed a parade, whereby distinguished members of society, industrialists, workers, military veterans and students alike had to glorify the proud achievements of each city in particular, and the country and its leadership in general. The honoured men marching under the posters of Lenin and Brezhnev in the foreground wear sashes that pronounce them the winners of an unspecified competition. Adding a layer to this real-life tragicomedy, Mikhailov’s colouring evokes a garish cartoon as the forced expressions of his subjects become apparent through the overbearingly kitsch surroundings of the spectacle.

Mikhailov made seven editions of this work, though the hand-made colouring differs in every edition. One edition of this work is in the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.  Another edition is in the Dodge Collection at the Zimmerli Art Museum, New Jersey.

Changing Focus - A Collection of Russian and Eastern European Contemporary Photography