MacDougall's Russian Art Auctions 25-27 November 2019

25 Nov 2019

Artist Index / Full Catalogue


Empty Icons Series

20. PEPPERSTEIN, PAVEL -1966

Empty Icons Series, ten works, each signed “Insp. / MG” (Inspection Medical Hermeneutics), variously inscribed in Cyrillic and dated 1995–2012.

Each giclée print on canvas, the largest measuring 70.5 by 63 cm and the smallest 70.5 by 41 cm.
70,000–90,000 GBP


Provenance: Important private collection, UK.



Authenticity certificate from the artist.



Pavel Pepperstein’s powerful Empty Icons, comprising the unique set of ten giclée prints on canvas, is inspired by the eponymous work, produced in 1993 by the artist and Inspection Medical Hermeneutics art-group, of which he was the founding member. This fascinating work re-interprets the traditional function and context of icons, yet in a way which is intended to stimulate interested debate rather than deliver an anti-religious message. By removing these objects of holy veneration from their customary surroundings — from the church — Pepperstein encourages the onlooker to contemplate the immense mystery of God without recourse to the imperfection of a human-made image, one which dictates a pre-conceived view of a profoundly abstract Idea.



In an interview, given in March 2012 in Moscow to a renowned art historian and curator Andrey Erofeev, on the creation of the series presented here for auction, Pavel Pepperstein said the following: “...I’d like to emphasize that this work is in no way anti-religious or anti-Orthodox. Quite the opposite, it’s the fruit of certain meditative explorations undertaken by us in this area and an attempt to follow a very old, primal and canonical Doctrine. But at the same time, naturally, we were not in any way attempting to create objects intended for veneration. ... Our works are not charged with any theological significance. ... Now, since so many years have gone by [since 1993] and the context has changed, certain political labels have been applied, certain markers, within the institutional framework of contemporary art, this territory has been tagged in a certain way, marking it as necessarily anti-religious, anti-church and somehow opposed to religion and the church in general ... So I’d like to mention specifically that this particular work has its own context, which doesn’t correspond at all to the context of contemporary art today, and that is the ... internal ... context of the MH group’s work and the hermeneutical process taking place in the 1990s. We didn’t make it any kind of goal to wage war on icons, quite the opposite in fact: we regarded them with great respect.”



Empty Icons Series
Empty Icons Series

Notes on symbols:
* Indicates 5% Import Duty Charge applies.
Ω Indicates 20% Import Duty Charge applies.
§ Indicates Artist's Resale Right applies.
† Indicates Standard VAT scheme applies, and the rate of 20% VAT will be charged on both hammer price and premium.