Lot 39
  • 39

Victor Pivovarov, B.1937

60,000 - 80,000 GBP
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  • Victor Pivovarov
  • eros
  • comprising 40 sheets, each signed in Cyrillic and dated 76 l.r. and number l.l.
  • gouache over pencil, pen and ink
  • each 43 by 31cm., 17 by 12in.


Sonja and Angels, ex.cat., Prague: Gallery Rudolphinum, 1996.
Note: following pages of the album have been reproduced: 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61

Catalogue Note

In the early 1970s, Victor Pivovarov, one of the major Soviet nonconformist artists, began his experimentation with image/text art in the form of hand-produced conceptual albums. From 1975 to 1982, Pivovarov produced twelve albums that represent a synthesis of a narrative text with a pictorial series, and raise questions regarding the interaction of man and his inner life. The narrative impulse is central to the work of Pivovarov, who tells stories through sequential pages devoted to the characterisation of people, objects, and events, or to the elaboration of an ongoing action or conversation. Pivovarov's interest in combining word and image in his albums resulted from his many years of experience as an illustrator of children's books. According to Pivovarov, by inserting text into a picture one was able to broaden the semantic field of a work of art, to convey ideas that may not be expressed through visual means. In Pivovarov's albums, both the image and the word are freed from their traditional limits.  

The artist would show his albums, composed of similar-sized sheets housed in folders, to groups of usually three to five people at a time. The album would be placed on a reading stand or simply on a table; the audience would be seated in chairs in front of the table, and Pivovarov would stand and turn the pages. Pivovarov calls the action of turning the pages "the most important element in such a display". He has also pointed to the fact that he was able to control the presentation in a very subtle manner - "just like a conductor in front of an orchestra". The act of turning the pages before the audience was to result in an experience comparable to that of viewing a theatrical performance.

The vocabulary of anonymous street production was central to Pivovarov's artistic practice and development. He developed a type of picture inspired by the aesthetics of the billboard that, as he described it, possessed the following characteristics: an economical, condensed, and detached manner of expressing ideas; an impersonal style; and a sense of alienation, of distance between the author and his work. All of these features can be found in Pivovarov's conceptual album Eros (1976).

Pivovarov has likened his works to literary genres, in particular short stories, poems, diaries, biographies, and novels. His works include fragments of memories and reflect mood changes. Pivovarov's Eros exemplifies this approach. Although presenting something very personal, even intimate, namely, one individual's experience of a romantic date, Eros at the same time reflects elements common to every love affair. The album starts and ends with an image of an empty room, followed by monotonous waiting and, simultaneously, anticipation ("I was very anxious to see you"..."Steps behind the door"), and concludes with a sense of emptiness and loneliness after the date ("Are you leaving already?" ...  "I will be waiting for you"). The central part of the album represents a euphoric culmination of the love affair. However, there are no overtly sexual connotations in Eros; instead, each image is almost dream-like and semi-abstract, reduced to a solitary sign, and each phrase is very subtle and poetic.