Inside the Art Studio with Artist Vasily Klyukin
Vasily Klyukin has had many studios across the globe, whether it’s his home in balmy Monaco, on the French Riviera, in Nice, or previously in Moscow. “But the most important studio I have is always me – in my head,” said the artist.
The artist does sketches on his phone through the Notes app, takes an idea and runs with it. “The final image of my works can take from three minutes to three years to complete,” he said.
Klyukin was born in Moscow in 1976. He became an Israeli citizen in 2004. He came into the art world from the world of business. He was a businessman in the financial sector, and in 2009, was involved in real estate development, repurposing properties, and reconstructing buildings.
But 2011 was a pivotal year for the artist.
He abandoned his business, and devoted his life to art. He got an art studio and began to paint. He had no map, just followed his intuition of what to do next. In 2013, he let his mind roam free and created a series of digital architecture called Designing Legends, creating world-famous buildings in the digital space. No doubt, this series was ahead of its time, as many of the pieces from this series look like buildings we would find in the metaverse today.
His sculpture The Golden Madonnina won the official Design Prize award at Milan Design Week in 2017, and his Beating Heart sculpture was a fan favorite at the Burning Man Festival in Nevada in 2018. And in 2018, he had a solo exhibition at the The State Russian Museum. Many of his artworks focus on environmental problems.
“I hope when visitors see my work, they become considerate of the environmental degradation that they are forcing future generations to endure,” he said. “Now it’s a time of changes, a time when we need to make a serious decision about pollution. We can’t wait any longer. We are responsible. In the past few years, we’ve seen a lot of changes, it’s become a bigger problem. Most people don’t know about the huge Pacific Garbage Patch in the ocean.”
His artworks are collected in Monaco, England, Russia, France, Germany, Spain and the U.S., and has celebrity art collectors like Eva Longoria, Charles Saatchi, and Albert II, Prince of Monaco.
“The final construction of my pieces can be in any country around the world; the materials I use are from Germany, Italy – anywhere,” said Klyukin. “Most of my works are complex constructions that include many parts. When the sculpture is put together, for me, it’s a canvas, so there’s still work to do. I must paint it.”
Klyukin is not only an artist but a philanthropist who has donated his sculptures to be sold at charity auctions, like at UNICEF, the World Wildlife Fund, the amfAR gala, the Andrea Bocelli Foundation, the Prince Albert II Foundation, and the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation. He has been based in Europe since 2010.
Klyukin is known for making architectural works, large-scale abstract sculptures, and kinetic art. His artworks are mostly made of polycarbonate, plywood, glass, steel, and acrylic paint, though some sculptures are made of brass. One, which is called “413” (Triunfo del Sol), is on view in Malaga, Spain, for example. This very piece is a symbol for his entire career, it's an eye-like rounded 3D sculpture.
Many of his artworks look like oversized eyes, and they offer insight not only into the artist’s inner world, but our own inner world, too.
We first caught wind of his work when he showcased his artworks at the 58th Venice Biennale in 2019, ahead of the 700th anniversary of Dante’s death in 2021. Set in the heart of the Arsenale Nord district of Venice, he showed In Dante Veritas, which is inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy. It uses Dante’s 100 vices as a starting point, showcasing 30 sculptures that represent the vices we suffer the most from in modern day. They included flattery, gloom, and anger, as well as betrayal and pollution. “It’s not about sins, it’s about vices,” he said about the piece.
“There’s a big difference; if you accept vices daily, it could become a sin,” said Klyukin. “When I smoke, I accept the vice of suicide. If I eat more than I should, I accept gluttony. The more vices you accept, the darker you are. But everyone can be strong inside.”
Klyukin says that the “Betrayal” sculpture started the entire In Dante Veritas series. “I’m half-Russian, half-Israeli,” he said. “I took advice from advisors, religious figures. I asked a Rabbi, who said ‘You have to forgive people who betrayed you, otherwise you keep the evil going inside of you.’ Now, I don’t feel any more pain or anger.”
He showcased his artworks at Art Basel Miami Beach in 2018 and 2021, respectively. “Miami is becoming more of an art hub, unlike any other city,” said Klyukin. “At Art Basel, it was an honor to be presented among so many outstanding artists.”
He recently had a sprawling retrospective at the Osthaus Museum Hagen in Hagen, Germany, called Mind Space. Featuring over 250 works, it looked into the mind of the artist, and how he helps people realize the power of believing in the impossible and following their own dreams.
“I’ve studied the museum space and was preparing for the exhibition for over a year, creating works specifically for this place, taking into account its scale and heights,” he said. “I was able to go all out, trying not to showcase separate art objects, but to turn each room into a single art space. I did something similar in Arsenale Nord during the Venice Biennale. It's also special because it’s the first ever museum of contemporary art in the world.”
He also recently showed at the Osthaus Museum as part of their Innenleben (meaning “inner life”). The group exhibition looked at how artists view human experience, from self-portraits to portraits, and abstract works. This is where Klyukin showcased his artworks alongside 70 artists, including Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Andy Warhol, among others. “Two of my works that entered the museum's collection, including the homage to Joseph Beuys, called Joseph Beuys 100, are also shown at this exhibition,” said the artist.
Today, the artist is represented by the Serge Sorokko Gallery in San Francisco, which is where he recently showcased his latest artworks in a solo exhibition. “This is the first time I’m being represented by an American art gallery, and I do hope that our collaboration will be long and productive,” said Klyukin.
And one of his sculptures from his In Dante Veritas series called Gluttony was recently acquired by the Das Seewerk Museum in Moers Germany, as of May, and will be on permanent view. Like this piece, many of his artworks are assembled without welding, but rather, his signature technique is fastening the artworks together in a puzzle-like way.
The other good news is that the artist’s Crypto series artworks will also be featured in the first-ever exhibition in the new contemporary art gallery in Jerusalem called the Tower of David Museum. This upcoming exhibition will be called The Navel of the World, which the artist calls “a multi-voiced and multi-sensory, physical and metaphysical exhibition.”
Next up, he will be opening a solo exhibition in London this fall, so stay tuned. Klyukin will also return to Miami to showcase his artworks at Art Basel Miami Beach, something he looks forward to. “Miami is really awesome, but especially in December during Miami Art Week,” he said. “I love how the whole city turns into a giant art scene, where around every corner there is new art, everywhere you go. Hundreds of exhibitions turn the city into an art capital. In many ways, Miami is the capital of art. I’m so happy to take part in it.”
Contact Vasily Klyukin