05.07.1940, Moscow
Graphic artist, book illustrator, painter, theatre designer, jeweller

Kuper is the son of a violinist who was killed at the battlefront. After an unsuccessful attempt to get into Stroganov College, he took private lessons with V.Y. Tarasova (a pupil of Pavel Chistyakov). From 1957 to 1963 he studied at the art and graphics faculty of Moscow State Pedagogical Institute. His work was only exhibited once in the Soviet Union, in 1970, at the Moscow Graphic salon. In 1970–1971 he designed the sets and costumes for Leonid Zorin’s play, The Copper Grandmother, at Moscow Arts Theatre (MKhAT), and for another play at Moscow’s Sovremennik Theatre. From 1970, Yury Kuper’s works were included in overseas exhibitions of the Non-conformists. In 1972 he emigrated to Israel and then moved to London, exhibiting frequently. In 1973 he was given a grant to go to Saratoga Springs in the US. In 1974 he published a novella, Moscow Still Life. From 1975 to 1983 he lived in Paris and since 1983 he has been a British citizen. Also since 1983 he has regularly exhibited at the Claude Bernard Gallery in Paris and New York and worked with the Haaken gallery (Oslo) and others. Basing his aesthetic on ‘nostalgia for the communal apartment’, he depicts simple objects – flowers, spoons, forks, brushes – enveloped in a light haze, mysterious and wonderful. He draws on metal and glass and makes multi-layered collages. He has designed limited editions of Tristan and Isolde (1989) and My Sister-Life by Boris Pasternak (1990). He has studied stage design and worked with theatres in Paris, Marseilles and Rome, and in 1988–1989 he designed the sets for a joint US-Soviet production, the musical Sophisticated Lady (with music by Duke Ellington) at Moscow’s Palace of Congresses, and in 1991–1992 for Robert Altman’s production of the opera McTeague at the Lyric Opera in Chicago. In 1993–1994 he had an exhibition at the Toulon art museum. In 1995 he had his first exhibition at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts. In the 2000s he worked in Russia a great deal. He worked with the director Alexander Sokurov, as art director on the film The Sun (2005), and as designer on Mussorgsky’s opera, Boris Godunov, at the Bolshoi. Also in 2007 he designed the sets and costumes for a production based on his own play, 12 Pictures from the Life of an Artist at MKhAT. He designed limited editions of The Book of Job, Pushkin’s Mozart and Salieri (2009), Gogol’s Dead Souls (2010) and Alexander Vertinsky’s Yellow Angel (2010). He lives in France, London and New York. F.B.

Kuper