Yuri Avvakumov is most famous for introducing – together with other young graduates from the Moscow Architectural Institute such as Michael Belov and Alexander Brodsky – the concept of ‘paper architecture’ in 1984. The term describes a genre of conceptual design in the USSR produced only on paper as a way of bypassing political restrictions and criticizing the dehumanizing nature of Russian architecture of the time. The group, which exhibited collectively under the title Paper Architects in 1984, chose not to take part in a system where buildings had to be erected cheaply and quickly with little care for users, where skilled labor was shunned, creativity stifled and architecture was part of a large-scale bureaucratic machinery. Following this experience, Avvakumov developed , in 1996, the project Russian Utopia, a Depository– an archive for visionary architectural projects created in Russia during the last 300 years that had never been carried out. The artist perceives the project as the embodiment of a collective Russian dream and as a metaphor of a “columbarium for rejected fantasies.” The archive was shown in numerous museums and art institutions, including the Venice Biennale in 1996.

The long-term project La Scala – created by the artist between 1985 and 2005 – consists in an ever expanding series of black and white photographs, sketches and sculptures. Their subject matters are stairways and ladders which the artists has come across, traveling through such different locations as Moscow, Venice, Uçhisar (Turkey), Kaliningrad, Krasnoyarsk, Cannes and Rome. According to Avvakumov stairs are not only the fundamental element of any architectural construction but also a key metaphor which stands for the possible communication between, ‘above’ and ‘below’ and ‘earth’ and ‘cosmos’. Stairways are also an important element of Russian visual culture, famously featuring in Sergei Eisenstein film Battleship Potemkin from 1925. One of the most celebrated scenes in the film is the massacre of civilians on the Odessa Steps which stands in as a metaphor of both the upcoming communist revolution and of the bloodshed it will involve. Since 1986, Avvakumov has worked on a series of drawings and small-scale models called Temporary Monuments devoted to reworking the architectonic and ideological heritage of Constructivism and its protagonists. His approach to the past is at once ironic and sorrowful, elegiac and deeply permeated by disillusion. Those dichotomies are perhaps best embodied in the drawing Flying Proletarian (1989-1994) which refers to a utopian science fiction poem by Russian Soviet poet, playwriter and actor Vladimir Mayakovsky from 1925. The poem is set in the year 2125 and features a giant air battle between the Soviet proletarian and the American bourgeois air forces. Mayakovsky’s utopian vision of the future portrays a world of comfort and automatized labor which allow the communist workers to devote their lives to pleasure, sports and entertainment. In Avvakumov’s work, this futuristic vision is transformed into a drawing of a monumental swing for open-air exercises. Two teams of workers compete how high they can swing on it as if they were children playing on an immense playground. Although the sober aesthetic of the work refers to Constructivism, the drawing’s meaning seems to verge on the ironic: has Mayakovsky’s utopean vision of the future conflated nowadays into pure entertainment and forced naivety.

Yuri Avvakumov is an architect, curator and artist living and working in Moscow. In the early 1980s, he was involved as an exhibition designer in a series of exhibition of Lyubov Popova, Olga Rozanova, Konstantin Melnikov and Vladimir Tatlin. His artistic practice is mostly focuses on the Russian avant-garde legacy and its later revaluation. Since 1986, he has worked on a series called Temporary Monuments, devoted to 1920s Constructivism and its protagonists, which he has shown at the Russian Museum in Petersburg (1992), the State Museum Architecture in Moscow (1993), at the 6th Venice Biennale of Architecture (1996), and in the exhibition Berlin-Moscowat Martin-Gropius Bau in Berlin (2003), among other venues. In 2002, he reconstructed one of Kazimir Malevich’s Architectons. Avvakumov took part in the Venice Biennale in 1996 (Sensing the future. Architect as seismograph) and in 2003 (Utopia station).

His works are in collections of e.g. State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg / State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow / State Museum of Architecture, Moscow / Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow, Moscow Museum of Modern Art, Moscow House of Photography, Centre George Pompidou in Paris, MOMA in NY, Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris, Deutsches Architekturmuseum, Victoria & Albert Museum, ZKM Museum for New Art, Moderna Galerija, Ljubljana, National Center for Contemporary Arts, Moscow, Duke Museum of Art, North Carolina.

Watch Yuri Avvakumov presentation of Paper Architecture and other international projects at Centre Pompidou

Selected personal exhibitions:

1989 AGITARCH. Linssen Gallery, Cologne / LA CUPOLA, LA GONDOLA. DC MELZ, Moscow

1991 WALLS AND LADDERS (with Alyona Kirtsova). State Museum of Architecture, Moscow

1992 ILLIQUID ASSETS (with Sergey Shutov), 1st Gallery, Moscow

1992-93 TEMPORARY MONUMENTS. Russian Museum, St. Petersburg / State Museum of Architecture, Moscow

1994 1:43. Karlheinz Meyer Gallery, Karlsruhe

1996-2000 RUSSIAN UTOPIA: A DEPOSITORY. Russian Pavilion, Venice

                          Biennale / Netherlands Architecture Institute, Rotterdam / State

                          Museum of Architecture, Moscow / Museum and Exhibition Center,

                          Volgograd / State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg

1999 A. S. PUSHKIN AND MONEY. XL Gallery, Moscow

2000 MiSCeLLaNeouS. State Museum of Architecture, Moscow

2005  La SCALA. Krokin Gallery, Moscow

2006  RED CORNER. Stella Art Gallery, Moscow

2007   GAMES. Stella Art Foundation, Moscow

2012   VISUAL TEST. Triumph Gallery, Moscow

2012   MANEGE. Central Exhibition Hall Manege, Moscow

2016  TOWERS. Krokin Gallery, Moscow

Selected group exhibitions:

1982-83 DOLLS HOUSE. RIBA, London

1984 PAPER ARCHITECTURE. Yunost magazine house, Moscow

1986 PAPER ARCHITECTURE. IN SEARCH OF IDENTITY. SKUC Gallery, Ljubljana

1988 FANTASY VS. UTOPIA. Palazzo dell’ Arte, XVII Triennale di Milano

1989 ARCHITECTURE AND IMAGINATION. De Tien van Fort Asperen, Leerdam

1989 ARCHITECTURE ET UTOPIE. Pavilion de l’ Arsenal, Paris/

1989 PAPIERARCHITEKTURE. NEUE PROJECTE AUS DES SOWJET UNION. Deutsches Architekturmuseum, Frankfurt am Main

1990 AVANTGARDE 20/90. Manege, Moscow / IN DE USSR EN ERBUITEN. Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam /CONSTRUIR! Fondation pour l’architecture, Brussels

1990-91 BETWEEN SPRING AND SUMMER: SOVIET CONCEPTUAL ART IN THE ERA OF LATE COMMUNISM. Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma, WA / ICA, Boston, MA /Des Moines Art Center, Des Moines, IA

1991 VISION VON RAUM. FIAC, Paris / Galerie Gmurzynska, Cologne

1991 AVVAKUMOV/BRODSKY/UTKIN: CONCEPTUAL SOVIET ARCHITECTURE. Spectrum Gallery, San Francisco

1992 PAPER ARCHITECTURE. ALMA MATER. Moscow Architectural Institute

1992 3-rd INTERNATIONAL BIENNALE. Istanbul

1993-94 ASPECTS ACTUELS DE LA MOUVANCE CONSTRUITE INTERNATIONALE. Musee des Beaux-Arts de Vevriers /Centre de la Gravure et de l’Image Imprimee, La Louviere

1994 UTOPIA FACTORY. RUSSIAN VISIONARY ARCHITECTURE. State Museum of Architecture, Moscow

1995 ARTE RUSSA. Villa Zorn, Sesto San Jiovanni /EINBLICKE. WERKSTATT MOSKAU II. Akademie der Kunste, Berlin

1996 DIE KUNST DES FLIEGENS. Zeppelin Museum, Friedrichshafen

1996 THE ARCHAEOLOGY OF THE FUTURE CITY. Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo / Hiroshima Museum of Art /Gifu Prefectural Museum

1996 SENSING THE FUTURE. ARCHITECT AS SEISMOGRAPH. VI International Exhibition of Architecture, Venice

1997 LIVING BRIDGES. State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

1999 EASY BREATHING. Moscow Centre for Art, Moscow

2000 VIEW FROM HERE. State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

2000 FIFTH ELEMENT–ART OR MONEY. Kunsthalle, Dusseldorf

2001 FAMILY ALBUM: BROOKLYN COLLECTS, Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York

2002 ART MOSCOW STUDIOS. Central House of the Artist, Moscow

2002 MELIORATION. Klyazma, Moscow region

2003 FORM SPECIFIC. Moderna Galerija Ljubljana

2003 UTOPIA STATION. Venice Biennale

2003/04 BERLIN-MOSCOW. MOSCOW-BERLIN. Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin /State Historical Museum, Moscow

2004 IMAGINE LIMERICK. City Gallery of Art, Limerick

2004 MALIGN MUSES. Mode Museum, Antwerp

2004 CRITIC’S CHOICE. Lodz Biennale

2005 ACCOMPLICES, State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

2005 I CLICK, THEREFORE I AM. M’ARS Center for Contemporary Art, Moscow

2005 RE:MODERN. Kunstlerhaus, Wien

2005 ESSENCE OF LIFE. Ludwig Museum, Budapest /State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

2005 BARBIEZONE. RuArt Gallery, Moscow

2005 MIRACLE OF LIGHT. New Manege, Moscow

2006 ARTISTS AGAINST THE STATE: PERESTROIKA REVISITED. Ronald Feldman Gallery, New York

2006 ARCHSTOYANIE. Open-air festival, Nikola-Lenivets village

2006 DEPOSITORY OF DREAMS. White Space Gallery, London

2006 WHITNEY PEACE TOWER. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

2007 DESIGN OF SIBERIA. 7th Museum Biennale, Krasnoyarsk

2007 BAROCCO. Moscow Museum of Contemporary Art

2007 10 TRIENNALE KLEINPLASTIK FELLBACH, Fellbach

2007 KANDINSKY PRIZE. VinZavod, Moscow

2008 DISCOVERY OF LIGHT. State Museum of Modern History of Russia, Moscow

2008 KULIBIN. Krokin Gallery, Moscow

2008 PERSYMPHANS. State Museum of Architecture, Moscow

2008 TUNGUSKA EXPLOSIVE. Krasnoyarsk Museum Center

2008 CONSTRUCTED. Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich

2008 BORNHOUSE. XI International Exhibition of Architecture, Chiesa di San Stae, Venice

2008 RUSSIAN DREAMS… Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach

2008/09 DIESE OBSKURE OBJEKT: KUNST. Kunshistorische Museum, Wien / Ca Rezzonico, Venice

2009 MOSKVAPOLIS. Perm Museum of Contemporary Art

2009 FALL OF BERLIN WALL. Manege, Moscow

2009 EXPANSE. Krasnoyarsk Museum Center

2009 DOORS OPEN DAY. MMOMA, Moscow

2010 RUSSIAN UTOPIAS. Garage Center for Contemporary Culture, Moscow

2011 SVOBODA. Spazio Carbonesi, Bologna

2011/16 RUSSIAN COSMOS. Castello di Rivoli, Turin / MMAM, Moscow

2013 TRESPASSING MODERNITIES. Salt Galata, Istanbul

2014 ANTARCTOPIA. Antarctic Pavilion, Venice Biennale of Architecture / MMAM, Moscow

2016 RUSSIAN PARTICIPANTS OF THE BIENNALE IN VENICE. SELECTED WORKS. Manege, Saint Petersburg

2016 KOLLEKTSIA! CONTEMPORARY ART IN THE USSR AND RUSSIA, 1950-2000