First monograph, with three essays and an interview.
The very comprehensively illustrated catalogue presents the work of one of the highest-profile Bulgarian artists of his generation. Like his career, divided between France and Bulgaria, his work is rich in references to an adolescence and a first contact with art experienced on the far side of the Iron Curtain, but it is also enhanced by extended exposure to idols and fetishes of the (more) western world.
Through a visual repertory which uses the precious, the monumental and the already-made, Stefan Nikolaev produces unusual alliances between popular culture and art history. An often ironical realism, a service weapon inherited from his experience of communism, enables him, in an intelligent and disenchanted way, to broach the anxieties of a consumerist society whose spell is being increasingly dissipated by sirens mainly on the other side of the Atlantic.
Writings and interviews by curators and critics (Iara Boubnova, Paul O'Neill, Emile Ouroumov) help us to explore different facets of this atypical oeuvre, which is one of the rare such corpuses coming from Eastern Europe not to focus first and foremost on a regional attachment, so as to better transmit a discourse going beyond the effects of fashion and folklorism. The interviews also cover the story of Glassbox, an independent space founded by the artist in Paris in 1997.
Born 1970 in Sofia (Bulgaria), Stefan Nikolaev lives and works in Paris. “Stefan Nikolaev's body of work is quite
obviously centered on the multiple
transformations and crossovers between
what we know about objects from
everyday life and what the artist is
making us reconsider when thinking
about the new form and vision he
invests in them. Under the visual
surface of his works there is an on-going
narrative about the complex relations
that the artist has with life and death,
time and space, consumerism and
basic necessities of life. This story has
been unfolding in a fluid current over a
period of more than fifteen years of his
activities on the international art scene.
The plot is far from over and in recent
years it has acquired the kind of depth
and strength of presence that transform
the engaging and playful ideas of a
young artist into a strong statement. He
is extremely careful about the execution
and the form of his works to the point
of obsessive engagement with their
physical presence qualities. Maybe this is his way of making the works attractive
and communicative; or maybe this is his
way of rendering the work durable and
lasting while also overcoming the fears
that are hidden deep into the thinking
behind the works.
The typical for Stefan Nikolaev designrelated
handling of form and ideas
could be described as design with a
twist—there is too much to read in his
works, too much to associate and think
about when in their presence rather
than simply consider them in straight
It is very tempting to
make a claim that Stefan Nikolaev's
work is not only anti-consumerist
but also deeply concerned with the
ultimate matters of growth and decay, light and darkness, up- and downward
movement, while at the same time
employing the seductive language of
attractive and desirable objectiveness.
Stefan Nikolaev comes forward as a
down-to-earth existentialist and his art
as the product of an optimist who is
constantly afraid that his worst dreams
will not come true—after all, nothing is
forever, not even smoking.” (Iara Boubnova)