ROSPHOTO presents an exhibition of works by photographer Alexander Zabrin and one of the most mysterious Russian artists, Vladimir Yakovlev.


Yakovlev was “a genius, a poignant, restless, and heart-rending character.” Sick and half-blind, he spent most of his life in mental institutions. It was there that he died. Nowadays, the Yakovlev’s oeuvre is well-known to connoisseurs both in Russia and abroad. His works are held in collections of major Russian museums, such as the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts and the Tretyakov Gallery, as well as in private collections in Russia, Italy, Israel, France, the USA, Switzerland, Greece, and other countries. Already in the 1970s, his works were collected by Georgy Kostaki, Yevgeny Nutovich, Igor Sanovich, and Leonid Tapochkin, and exhibited at both European and American museums and galleries.

Zabrin is known a chronicler of the Soviet jazz and Moscow underground art scene, a keen artist renowned for his exceptional acute vision, instantly responsive and never indifferent. Back in 1990, together with artist Kirill Mamonov, Zabrin visited Yakovlev in the psycho-neurological hospital where the latter lived at that time. This is when the first series of documentary photographs by Zabrin dedicated to Yakovlev was created.

Yakovlev’s personality seemed to have captured Zabrin as a photographer. So, in 2004, he began working on a new art project.

“The technology behind the project is very simple but this simplicity might be deceitful in the era of new technologies. Zabrin does not use computer montage. With his digital camera, he merges two images in one frame. The ‘bottom layer’ is a photographic portrait of Yakovlev, while the ‘top layer’ is his painting. Thus, a visual text underlies a painterly-poetic one. What we are facing is not trivial montage but rather ‘automatic writing’ inherited from the first surrealists, resonating with the concept of artist’s madness especially relevant for them.

The exhibition at ROSPHOTO unites works by Vladimir Yakovlev from the collection of Natalia Shmelkova, artist’s close friend and helper during the last years of his life, and photographs by Alexander Zabrin.

The display will include 60 black-and-white documentary photographs taken by Zabrin at the Psycho-Neurological Hospital No. 30 in Moscow and at the exhibition “‘Different Art’: Moscow 1956–1976” at the Tretyakov Gallery in December 1990. Besides, the display features 25 color photographs from series devoted to Yakovlev (2004).

In a separate hall, one can see over 50 original graphic works by Vladimir Yakovlev created between the 1970s and the 1990s, and his sculptures made out of multicolored plasticine.


Curator: Irina Alpatova

Dates: 6 October — 10 December 2017

Guided tours in English are available upon request and need to be booked in advance.