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Genia Chef (born Evgeny Scheffer, 28 January 1954) is a Russian artist living in Berlin, Germany. International Who's Who 2000 notes that before emigrating to the West in 1985 he was a member of Soviet Nonconformist Art circles in Moscow, a group that included, among others, Ilya Kabakov, Viktor Pivovarov, Anatoly Zverev and Semyon Faibisovich. During that period he began to use the pseudonym "Genia Chef".
His work is represented in the permanent collection of the State Russian Museum in Saint Petersburg. His work is also held in the Norton and Nancy Dodge Collection in the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University, New Jersey; the Kolodzei Art Foundation; the Museum of Contemporary Art in Skopje, Macedonia; the Sigmund Freud's Dreams Museum in Saint Petersburg; and Checkpoint Charlie Museum in Berlin, among others.
Spain's La Vanguardia newspaper has called Chef "[a]n artist of grand culture, whose precise work combines ideas and techniques from both East and West in an effort to portray a new social order that seeks to recapture beauty".
Family background and early life
Chef's father, Vladimir Scheffer, was a photojournalist in Moscow. In the late 1930s he was banished to Kazakhstan on political grounds. It was there that his son Evgeny was born, in Aktyubinsk, on 28 January 1954. In 1961, five years after Nikita Khrushchev denounced Joseph Stalin's crimes in his Secret Speech at the Twentieth Party Congress, Vladimir Scheffer was granted permission for the family to return to Moscow. Chef then studied from 1967 to 1971 at the Art School for Children in Moscow. He was later a student from 1972 to 1977 at Moscow Polygraphic Institute, where he received first prize for his M.A. diploma for his illustrations to Edgar Allan Poe.
In 1985 Chef moved to West Germany, where his etchings based on Marquis de Sade gained attention from the press. In 1988 he was accepted to the Master Class of Arik Brauer at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, Austria. In 1993 the Academy awarded him its Master of Fine Arts degree, together with its Fueger Gold Prize. Metropolis magazine noted that during this period Chef shuttled regularly "between Vienna, Berlin, New York, and the Spanish coastal village of Cadaques", describing him as "a new type of Russian artist with a peripatetic lifestyle, evoking a newly found freedom of global mobility".
In late 1993 he moved to New York City where he exhibited his works with several former members of Soviet nonconformist art circles in a number of group exhibitions. These included Post New World Order: Restructured Myths and Old Symbols / New Icons in Russian Contemporary Art at Stuart Levy Fine Art, Soho; and Monumental Propaganda at the World Trade Center curated by Komar and Melamid. The Wall Street Journal, describing a series of paintings of shoes from this time, reported that Chef "has a good, warped mind". His many solo exhibitions have included shows at Stuart Levy Fine Art, NY; House of Latin America in Monte Carlo under the patronage of Louis Prince de Polignac; and the Italian Cultural Institute, Berlin, among others. In 2007, he participated in the second Moscow Biennale with his installation My Personal Temple which was again featured in the 2009 group show Born in the U.S.S.R. at Berlin's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 2011, he had a solo show with the title "Glory of a New Century" at the State Russian Museum, Saint Petersburg. In 2013, his installation "Dead House" was included in the exhibition "Personal Structures" at the Palazzo Bembo, a collateral event of the 55th Venice Biennale. In 2015, in collaboration with the Russian writer Wladimir Sorokin, he created the "Pavilion Telluria" at Palazzo Rocco Contarini Corfù during the 56th Venice Biennale.
Chef has illustrated numerous books, including Prose and Poetry by Edgar Allan Poe (Moscow: Raduga, 1983); and Nothing Lasts Forever Anymore by Michael Lederer (Barcelona: Parsifal Ediciones, 1999). His own book Finger World was published in 1993 in Nuremberg. His other writings include the essay The Manifesto of Degeneratism: with Regulations on the Universal and Compulsory Wearing of Collars by Degenerates and the Doctrine Concerning the Rectifier (1988: Cadaqués).
- Times of Change, Art in the Soviet Union 1960–1985, Exhibition Catalogue of the State Museum, St Petersburg: Palace Editions, 2008.
- La Vanguardia, 24 June 1989.
- Cover photograph, Izvestija, no. 234, 1 September 1937.
- Who is Who in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland.
- Die Rheinpfalz, Huldigung an de Sade, 27 February 1986.
- Mannheimer Morgen Nr. 43, Ausstellung in Edigheim – Hommage à de Sade, 21 Feb.1986.
- Bietigheimer Zeitung, Geschmack der Freiheit, 5 December 1986.
- Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Catalogue of Diploma Works, Vienna, 1993.
- Metropolis, May 1993.
- Wall Street Journal, 5 October 1993.