Vladimir Kustov

kustovVladimir Kustov was born in Leningrad in 1959, and lives and works in modern-day St. Petersburg.
He has been working with contemporary art since 1984 – performance, cinema, paintings, photographs, literature and installations. Since 1984 he’s worked on the esthetics of necrorealism with Evgeny Ufit.
In 1999 Kustov and Victor Mazin founded the Sigmund Freud Dreams Museum.
In 2002, together with Professor E. Mishin, he founded the Thanatology Center at the forensic medicine department of the Mechnikov St. Petersburg State Medical Academy. He has organized and supervised artistic projects there and is continuing to develop necrorealistic artistic practice. Kustov’s works have been displayed at the world’s biggest museums. They feature in private collections worldwide and establishments including The State Russian Museum, The Lenin Museum (Tampere, Finland) and the Moscow Museum of Modern Art.


Crystallization is a landmark project for Vladimir Kustov. He draws upon many years of experience in his creative method. The catalyst for the ‘crystallization’ of this project was information about a company that produces synthetic diamonds from dead people against customers’ requests. Its advertising slogan is “gems from a man”.
To make a diamond of a man, the body is cremated and its ashes are then exposed to incredibly high pressures of 50–60 thousand bars at +15000 C. The artist has long had an interest in the effects of high temperature on a man — it can be seen in works dating back to 1995. Kustov visualizes the step-by-step process of crystallization in 64 self-portraits, made with the help of laser engraving techniques inside numbered crystals.
Crystals are arranged in a four-storey pyramid; the order of their placement corresponds to the mathematic law of the “magic square” (the magic square is a square array n х n, filled with n2 numbers so that the sums of numbers in each row, column and diagonals are equal). A square of order eight, where n=8, is called a Mercury square (8 is a Mercury’s number). In Roman mythology Mercury is the main god of commerce and income (a diamond made of relatives represents goods).
Mercury was also responsible for escorting newly-deceased souls to the afterlife. Artistic investigation of the process of turning human remains into a diamond — i.e. into an object having real consumer price — is also demonstration of surprised delight with modern times, an era of total commercialization.
After the crystals are faceted, they are called “diamonds of memory”; one can wear them in a ring or a pendent. But the diamond made can also be sold like any other synthetic diamond, which transfers the theme of death into another deontological dimension.