MacDougall's Russian Art Auctions 8-9 June 2011

8 Jun 2011

Artist Index / Full Catalogue


Couple ,

* § 328. TSELKOV, OLEG (B. 1934)

Couple , signed, also further signed, titled in Cyrillic and dated 2003 on the reverse.

Oil on canvas, 170 by 200 cm
60,000-90,000 GBP


Provenance: Private collection, USA.

Authenticity certificate from the artist.

Exhibited: Oleg Tselkov, Galerie Minotaure, Paris, 2008.

Literature: Exhibition catalogue, Oleg Tselkov, Galerie Minotaure, Paris, 2008, illustrated.


The monumental canvas Couple is one of Oleg Tselkov's more recent works. However, the composition is painted in the artist's characteristic style and hardly differs from his signature works of the 1970s; painted in just two colours, it quite literally stuns the eye with its sharp, "acidic" blue.

Reality is perceived by the artist as a Janus-faced phenomenon whereby the countenance always has a reverse side, a rotten, putrefying mask of degradation, and his reality is created in accordance with the canons of Surrealist art. These lumps of biomass, of a particularly intense blue, are endowed with human features thanks to the lightest of rays of light from above, snatching fragments of a body from the gaping void. However, the themes of destruction, decomposition and death, much loved by Surrealists in the West, acquire in Tselkov's work pathos for dehumanization which is intrinsic to this artist's world-view.

In constructing his composition, Tselkov employs an inverse logic, characteristic of archaic and folk cultures, which could be considered a kind of parody of high culture and intellectualism. Breaking down accepted stereotypes, he creates a new model, an inside-out world. Here we have constant transpositions - of top and bottom, face and buttocks, stomach and back. Tselkov's works brim over with these: a face grows out of a back, the back of a head becomes a face - sometimes it is quite impossible to determine which direction the protagonist is facing, vis-à-vis the viewer.

All in all, the composition of this painting serves as a logical continuation of Tselkov's cycle of "coupled" portrayals and can be classed as one of this artist's most characteristic works of this century.


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.