At the end of 2008, in my capacity as Superintendent of Rome Museums, I had the honour and pleasure to host an impressive exhibition of Mikhail Koulakov's works at Palazzo Venezia in Rome. The exhibition was highly significant and enabled a wider audience than usual to appreciate the importance of a major artist, long-neglected in his own country, who had found a second home in Italy thanks to which his reputation had increased in Russia and was finally being recognised.
His clear and spotless honesty, his profoundly intimate creativity combined with intensely-felt spirituality - all this was evident from the works on display and provided an occasion to retrace, step by step, the life and works of a maestro. The excellent catalogue was a fundamental aspect of the event with detailed contributions from some of the leading art historians and critics of the day such as Enrico Crispolti and Fabrizio d'Amico, to name only two of the select company. It also included a number of essays and writings by Mikhail Koulakov himself which served as a key to understanding the evolution and the true meaning of his work.
Throughout his life, Mikhail Koulakov embodied the idealised image of an earlier age, inspired by the principle of mens sana in corpore sano, enabling him to be, at one and the same time, a formidable exponent of martial arts and Zen philosophy, while also being an outstanding painter who moved, steadily and constantly, between a figurative style reaching for the limits of informality, to pure and absolute abstraction.
But what were the messages he was trying to convey? The question inevitably arose amongst those who visited the memorable exhibition, and still arises even though the maestro's career is over and his earthly passage has come to an end. And what a vast and complex adventure it was, given the tireless and passionate creativity that he displayed throughout his life.
He gained knowledge and strength from many powerful influences that art historians and critics have clearly identified and explained. But his style was always unique, recognizable and extremely vivid and communicative. His career began very early, at the height of the most serious crisis in the history of Western art, a crisis of form and classical expression. It is clear that he was much influenced by informal American art from which he also drew specific technical experience, but his imagination led him quickly to move on and recreate his world anticipating, in certain cases, some of the experiences - many of which typically Italian - that would then characterize the art of the sixties and seventies. His daring visions would soon focus on some immortal masterpieces, both sacred and profane, so he drew inspiration as much from the Bible as from Dante's Divine Comedy. He was tempted by surrealism but his deeply religious and introverted nature led him towards a totally spiritual path in which shapes and forms are no longer immediately recognizable and speak instead of transcendent experiences which are cosmic and visionary, going beyond vision itself. As an author, such a person feels deeply the breathing presence of a world around us, but it is not the reality that we perceive in everyday life. Yet the reality of art seems to want to impose on the reality of day-to-day appearances, and most of Mikhail Koulakov's later activity takes place following a dream of purity and abstraction that led him to produce evermore intense and passionate works.
So he leaves us a legacy of thought and fervour that has few parallels within the current situation of art in Italy and, to some extent, elsewhere. Through his art, Mikhail Koulakov became a citizen of the world - a universal figure, one might say - and as such we honour him on this occasion, and we shall continue to honour him in a tranquil and honest re-evocation of the artistic events of our time.

Paolo Strinati, Il Maestro e Roma, 2015