About the Artist

Awards & Honors














Kandelaki immigrated to the United States in 1990, and, with hardly missing a step, began to paint works which reflected his changed situation. Learning about American holidays and discovering American local color, he has made a Halloween street scene based in Philadelphia. As he said, "I think that the basic symbols of celebrations of different nations are similar." And so a happy pumpkin is paraded through the city's streets.

Just as Kandelaki grew critical of the Soviet system when still in Georgia, so he remains critical to this day. In his series Depredation of Appreciations, begun in 1992, Soviet paper money is shown to have been overcome by American paper money, both a comment on the failure of communism and on the centrality of business interests to the exclusion of other types of concerns in the modern world. In this same series, Kandelaki has created works which consist of fish skeletons, cigarette stubs, and torn Soviet paper money, as if to say that the old system is depleted, defeated, and burnt out.

During the same year, Kandelaki completed a few works on the theme of Lenin in Washington. The idea for these paintings grows from the movies produced in the Soviet Union with titles such as Lenin in Vienna or Lenin in Poland. In the Washington paintings, Lenin arrives in the nation's capital on floating bank notes, unannounced and ignored. Kandelaki's recent works, such as those from the Tree of Life and Nature series begun in 1995, and in works such as Predatory Life, play out on a more phantasmagoric level the destructive qualities of life the artist experienced, that amidst all of the evident possibilities for growth and development, there is always the great possibility for destruction. At the same time, using nature as his metaphor, there is also the promise of great joy. In these works, Kandelaki is addressing the great and lasting themes of art—life, power, youth, aging, the seasons, happiness, sadness. These works are among the most emotional the artist has painted, reflective of the greater sense of psychological openness provided by the American environment.

These works also transcend the particularities of time and place and speak more generally to the human condition—of opportunities missed and solutions ignored. In them, Kandelaki exercises his powers of reflection, his views of life as befits his new circumstances. Probably, as he discovers more American local color, his images will mellow, but not lose their edge.

Of many artists it can be said that their technique does interfere with or limit their imaginations. But with Kandelaki, the reverse is the case. His superb technique liberates his imagination. It is at the service of his imagination. 

Matthew Baigell
Rutgers University

New Brunswick
, New Jersey


Despite its local color, Autumn Celebration awakens other, less local, associations. The architectural perspective of the painting invites comparison with the cityscapes that appear in trecento or quattrocento Italian paintings, for example the famous Effects of Good Government in the City by Ambrogio Lorenzetti (Palazzo Pubblico, Siena). The tightly packed structures, the balconies, the arched windows, and the complex panoramic perspective are similar; and thematically, too, there are parallels.... Although Lorenzetti's Good Government in the City depicts a normal working day rather than a holiday, a circle of dancers in the foreground gives a festive note to what is already a scene of urban happiness and prosperity. Kandelaki's Autumn Celebration may derive from his Georgian experience, but it, too, represents a timeless human dream of communal harmony and well-being.

Holiday Procession is celebratory in a more colorful, straightforward way. It is a sunny scene of abundance, and it incorporates some straightforward elements of modernity. The outsized champagne bottles, the cigarette package, and the box of tea represent Georgian products that are exported to other countries. Once again, however, traditional elements abound. We see fi-uits and vegetables paraded through the streets, there is feasting on every balcony, children play, and wine flows freely. In fact wine appears throughout the composition, contained in bottles, barrels, bowls, and pitchers, as well as a traditional drinking horn. (This last, held aloft in the sky, is no less important than the hammer and sickle.) Colored balloons float over the city, and in the foreground a young girl unfolds a rainbow-colored fan—a captivating image of pure, joyous, unmotivated beauty. There are Communist symbols in the painting—floats, red banners, and various reminders of industrial progress—but these are gently enfolded within the traditional scene. It is only on close inspection that the absurdity of some of these images reveals itself, for example the banner-waving heroes perched atop an awkwardly proportioned globe or the pastoral tableau of shepherd and sheep mounted on a clumsy motorized float.


The impulse to give modern scenes emotional or symbolic depth through association with traditional subjects and symbols from the art of the past can be traced not only in Kandelaki's paintings but also in the work of other artists active in the 1970s within the confines of what was then the Soviet Union. These artists used traditional symbolism and references to old master paintings as an affirmation of their attachment to history, to deeper layers of values, and to the rhythms of the natural world. Their references to historical tradition were in implicit conflict with the Communist ideology of progress- yet at the same time they appealed to a basically conservative set of values: stability, harmony, continuity. Kandelaki's work is, in a sense, both radical and conservative: it is radical in its use of imagery that either implicitly or explicitly entered into conflict with the ruling system yet conservative in its affirmation of community and continuity. 

Janet Kennedy
Indiana University
Henry Redford Hope School of Fine Arts


In a group of panoramic paintings, Kandelaki combines images of festival, celebration, children's games and occupational routine on the streets and plazas of old Tbilisi, Georgia's capital city. They are cherished memories, apparently structured by the winding streets and alleys, but they too are carefully organized.

In these paintings, scale is important both to design and to symbolism. Objects dominate human activity: gigantic squashes, fruits and ears of corn are carried on horsedrawn wagons through the foreground of the paintings; massive wine bottles and jugs dwarf and sometimes replace buildings, a huge meat bone commands the attention of guests at a convivial dinner table, and a paper airplane larger than an air transport glides over the city. Interspersed among family rituals and seasonal festivals, small vignettes of daily routine activate the composition: children's games with barrel staves and slingshots, itinerant knife sharpeners, and coppersmiths hammering out great pots for the hearth.

These large canvases have a kind of choral quality, many voices of different color, range and strength, unified by a melody that all the members of the chorus have known for centuries and sing without reference to a score.

Kandelaki's "Georgian" paintings are nostalgic, but they are also optimistic; they are suffused with light and are full of symbols of hope and strength. The Georgian "Christmas tree", the chichilaki, is made of wood shavings. It sits in a window, set against a sunlit snowscape over a traditional Georgian balcony. It is surrounded by seeds, beans and preserved fruits. It is an ensemble of hope, perhaps a way for the artist to reassure himself of a personal and national rebirth. 

Director, Samuel S. Fleisher Art Memoric.



"Vova Kandelaki is not content with his exhibition"


A brilliant representative of the 70’s generation of the Georgian artists, Vova Kandelaki held a huge exhibition at the Karvasla art center. The exhibition is simultaneously being held in the US.

He displayed a lot of daggers, cradles, old Caucasian musical instruments, saddles, drawings and many interesting things from Georgian culture. As he says it is just a part of his collection. "There was not enough room for everything I have collected, this exhibition hall is too small for exhibiting all of the possessions of mine".


Vova Kandelaki talking to GT said, "I can say confidentially that if these works are in my hands then they cost much more than in someone else's hands". He says that he intuitively feels each thing, finds and gets it.
It took his entire life to collect all these things, but he is ready to presents the pieces displayed at the exhibition to Georgian people. Vova Kandelaki's wish is to hand his whole collection to the Tbilisi museum.
Hereby, we present a brief biography of Vladimir Kandelaki to your reader. He was born in 1943. He graduated from the Tbilisi Academy of Fine Arts. In 1990 he visited America. There he was invited by the joint US-Georgian venture - Lileo Arts. From early 90’s, Vladimir Kandelaki has been working in the USA enjoying wider possibilities for realizing his talent and energy. At the same time he is actively popularizing Georgian culture abroad. Since 1993 he has been working for the UNESCO. In 1998 he established the Vladimir Kandelaki Charity Fund aimed at assisting and reviving the Georgian culture. Alas, the fund in which he invested big capital soon faced the troubles.

"Vova appointed Eter Shavgulidze, Deputy Rector of the Tbilisi Academy of Fine Arts, the director of his Fund. Mr. Kandelaki was providing her with specific aims and carefully-designed budget. Shavgulidze was to organize the Fund activities, but in a three months time there was not a single Tetri left in the fund. It was a shock for Kandelaki when he returned from America. He had transferred a total of $650,000 into the Fund. But the money that was misused by Shavgulidze. “We filed a lawsuit against Shavgulidze, but with such a huge sum in her hands, she could easily bribe authorities concerned. Currently we have renewed the court process attempting to get back at least some part of the sum,” said Kandelaki.
“Shavgulidze was dismissed from her job exactly for that reason" – said Giorgi Totebadze, the acting president of the Fund.


"Georgian Times". 03.11.02




“It Is Impossible to Be Georgian and Not to Know Vladimir Kandelaki”

On October 21 the Tbilisi State Museum of History 'Karvasla' hosted an outstanding action dedicated to today's biggest problem – terrorism and the terrorist act of September 11. It was an exhibition-action which included varied exhibits of old military arms of the Caucasus and other peoples of the world displayed in an anti-terrorist nature. The owner of this unique collection, famous Georgian artist Vladimir Kandelaki, dedicated the exhibition to the victims of terrorist acts committed recently throughout the world – in New York, London, Russia, Israel and other places.

Vladimir Kandelaki, Honorary Professor at the Tbilisi Academy of Arts, Honoured Artist and the Freeman of Tbilisi city, has an international reputation. Many exhibitions in various countries of the world and a vast number of his admirers are evidence of this recognition. Kandelaki’s works are not only original, but also deeply national.

Since the 1990s Kandelaki has been working in the United States, where, due to his talent and hard work, he has greatly expanded the sphere of his activities. He has been tirelessly popularizing Georgian culture abroad. Kandelaki, whose works originated from and are deeply rooted in national culture, has been struggling to preserve and revive Georgian arts. To this end, he has established a charitable foundation. He has distinguished himself not only through his works, but also through his collection, to which he has devoted years of his life. For decades he has been collecting Georgian and Caucasian weapons, household items, musical instruments, etc. His collection is diverse, rich and deeply impressive. It’s clear how precious every item is in this collection which Kandelaki has been gathering for many years.

He comments, 'Today’s action is not an exhibition. It is more an evening dedicated to anti-terrorism. My collection is really one of the largest [of its kind] in the world, and it is dedicated to peace, not war. This is just part of the collection. We don’t have enough space to exhibit the whole collection. And speaking of the main ideas and concept of the event, I think that it is absolutely clear that the issue of terrorism is one of the most burning problems in today's world. This action supports peace and justice'.

The exhibition gathered historians, artists, writers, scientists, and simply admirers of the great patriot’s talent. Many friends of the painter congratulated him and spoke before the audience. Among them were poets who have dedicated their poems to mystery of 'Karvasla' and the rare and amazing exhibition. These poems were also full of great patriotism and deep significance. Emotional speeches of the guests touched upon the problems of war and peace, terrorism as one of the main evils of our century, art and beauty - which can save us - and love, of course - for your homeland, friends, art, and for your own people.

Kandelaki’s friend and patron, the first Ambassador of Independent Georgian Republic in the United States, Mr. Peter Chkheidze, also attended - a man who always stands by his friend Kandelaki, who came to the USA to nurture his amazing talent. Chkheidze stated, '“It is impossible to be Georgian and not to know Vladimir Kandelaki. This man wasn’t born to glorify anybody or anything. He was born the way he is and does what he wishes and loves. Some of the guests here repeated more than once that we might need such weapons to defend ourselves. It’s probably true, but I wish that Georgia – this little country – would never need arms, but would be able to solve everything in a peaceful way'.


"Georgian Times".  24.10.05