The Kabakovs: Monumenta Exibition at Le Grand Palais, Paris

Monumenta: Ilya and Emilia Kabakov (10th May – 22nd June 2014)


The risk of the saturday morning tourists may have seemed like a reckless choice, but after a stodgy brunch at the uber-cool, yet deeply unfriendly Holy Belly in the 10th, we ventured to Le Grand Palais early. L and I were there to see the biennial Monumenta commission and it seemed it had rather fallen under the radar. After many months of assessing the New York art world together this was our first outing in Paris and it was going to be good. With this exhibition, the first point to note is that one must enter the alarmingly vast exhibition space with an open mind, because you will most likely leave dazed and confused. 



The brainchild of Russian artists Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, this metaphysical experience leaves you utterly spellbound. They present the concept of a utopian village, called L’étrange cite beneath Europe’s biggest Belle Époque domed roof. It consists of a disorientating labyrinth of temples, chapels, and archways, which are nestled within a maze of a cluster of shapes resembling white igloos. 



 Of the somewhat disorientating selection, we were captivated by a few spaces in particular. Le centre de l’energie cosmique was an ancient civilisation presented in the form of a silvery scientific city, which then leads you into Manas. This space presents a two tier Tibetan outpost with an earthly, but also celestial level, which inhabitants use to seek spiritual development. 



La chappelle blanche followed the Russian Suprematist Malevich’s 'white on white' dream of infinity. It also makes a point of referencing the fragmentation of the art of antiquity in places of worship. Within the chapel,  the art blends idyllic imitations of Impressionist outdoor scenes with mock Soviet Realism in the form of cheerful workers in a faded palette juxtaposed with a splash of blood. This space has the power to shock, but simultaneously gives you food for thought. 



What makes this exhibition so stirring is the perplexing layout, which lets you transcend conventional curation and appreciate this dreamscape on another level, whether it be through photography or personal experience. I would highly recommend visiting, but ensure that you read all of the corresponding leaflets and blurbs if you want to have a chance of understanding what lies ahead.



Last night we also watched the 'monumental' electrical storm unfold and these are a few of my more successful shots of the lightning.


Written by Flora Alexandra Ogilvy, founder of