Lot 55
  • 55

Boris Orlov, b.1941

40,000 - 60,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Boris Orlov
  • iconostasis in imperial style
  • signed on one panel in Cyrillic l.r. and dated 1991
  • six panels, enamel and gold paint on wood
  • each panel: 130.25 by 120.5cm., 51¼ by 47½in.


V. Allakhverdieva, "O pol'ze vozvrashcheniia (Interview with Boris Orlov)", Iskusstvo, 2004, no.6, pp.59-65
V. Hillings, Boris Orlov, in Russia!, ex.cat. New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 2006, p.249
V. Patsukov, Boris Orlov, A-Ya (Unofficial Russian Art Review), 1984, no.6, pp.13-17
M. Sandman, Das Haupt, ex.cat., Hamburg, 1998, pp.32-33

Catalogue Note

Boris Orlov graduated from the Stroganov Institute of Art and Design in Moscow in 1966, and then went on to work as a sculptor. His work confronts and reveals the inherent contradictions within the mythology of the Soviet system. However, his aesthetic vision has implications beyond Soviet culture, commenting on totalitarian societies and mythological systems in general.

In the mid-1970s, Orlov began to create a series of sculptures and mixed-media works that were based on portraits of Roman emperors and contain ironic representations of military heroes of the Soviet Union (the latter of which was a subversion of Soviet ideological codes). As seen in Orlov's Iconostasis in the Imperial Style and Supreme Commander-in-Chief, his portraits do not depict real individuals but, rather, the social types that take the place of individuals in a totalitarian society. These works satirically recall the portraits of previous cultures and ages such as the Baroque and Neo-Classical eras, which conveyed the importance of the subject not by revealing his unique character traits or complex inner life but through a profusion of ornamental accessories like medals and ribbons.

Reduced to the sum of ideological emblems of the Soviet state, the faceless "totems" presented in Iconostasis in the Imperial Style parody Soviet official portraits. They also supplant the images of Russian saints featured in a traditional Russian iconostasis - a wall of icons separating the body of the church from its sanctuary. In a final touch of irony, Orlov included red ribbons that bear the repeated inscription "All power is from God", in this way sarcastically commenting on the concept of a supernatural source of power.