Oleg Tselkov

Was born 15, July, 1934, Russia – 11 July, 2021, France. He was a Russian post-war period surrealist who began his career with a clear direction in the arts, attending a school for gifted children. The aspiring artist was expelled from schools in Moscow and Leningrad, allegedly on ideological grounds, which is why he stood out. In reality, his expulsion happened due to his unique drawings and an unwillingness to alter his creative direction.

Tselkov found the original language for his art quite early on, and in the 1960s he had a revelation regarding his work, resulting in the production of his first, and only, “portrait.” In this recognisably figurative work, Tselkov created a collective figure with a bald head and mask-like face, which represented everyone and no one at the same time, while having a universality that the artist had long been searching for. This ambivalent sense of persona became the central theme in the artist’s oeuvre.

Alien tribe

Those are the words Tselkov used to describe the characters in his creations. Faces that can be seen in nightmares or appear as creations of the mind while reading an anti- utopian novel about the victims of a disaster and the degradation of society. Executed in an intense palette of colours, the faces before the observer appear to form a poisonous pink, green or purple painted mass, as seen in the composition “Collector and collection” and its variants. In the ghostlike gallery, or the collection of the hunter of the heads, both of which could be adequate descriptions of Tselkov’s work, each face is as a reflection of its owner. The dominant aspect of Tselkov’s canvases are the expressionless figures, often wielding or physically imposing symbols associated with productivity or oppression. Despite the overlapping features of the characters, each of his works is radically individual.

Challenging motifs

Due to the challenging motifs, Oleg Tselkov included in his canvases, controversy became synonymous with the artist’s work. In 1977 Tselkov was exiled from Russia, which led him to move to Paris and continue his artistic career in France. However, the end of the Cold War and the loosening of Russia’s attitude towards avant-garde, contemporary art resulted in a complete reappraisal of his work in the artist’s homeland, and recognition of Tselkov’s impact in the development of contemporary painting. During his career Oleg Tselkov has been honored with significant awards such as the Tsarskoe Selo Prize, the Triumph Prize and the Hermitage Museum Foundation Award, with his paintings being displayed at major exhibitions in Russia, Japan, America, France and Britain. Now his work is held across many important collections, including famous museums and galleries, as well as numerous private collections around the world. Oleg Tselkov is identified by Sotheby's as a non-conformist or a second avant-garde artist among other Escape Artists.

Head with legs

One of his piece’s new homes is yet to be decided and will be done by you. The object of the auction is an oil on canvas painting named “Head with Legs” (2014) by Oleg Tselkov. The image featuring a disturbing, yet gratifying, rendering of a human body, facial expression, and bright contrasting colors could become an accent of a designated place, being as large as 130x195 cm, or the partial possession of a group. Find out which of these options is suitable for you and take matters into your own hands by having a say in the future of this influential piece.