Born in Tashkent in 1949. He lived and worked in Almaty.
Rustam Khalfin studied at the Architectural Institute in Moscow where he became a close friend and associate of Vladimir Sterligov, one of the last survivors of the Russian historical avant-garde. After graduating in 1972, Khalfin moved to Almaty, where together with his wife Lidia Blinova, formed an art group and started organizing ‘apartment’ shows. Khalfin, working with painting, installation, video, photography and performance has been widely considered as the father of contemporary art in Central Asia influencing many younger artists and intellectuals through his understanding of nomadic aesthetic as primarily tactile experience.
In 1999, after receiving a grant from the Soros Centre for Contemporary Arts in Almaty, Khalfin started realizing his monumental installation Clay Project. Level Zero, which consisted of an 18-meter human figure in clay, which extended over two stories. For Khalfin it was ‘a metaphor for the disassociation, disconnection of people in today's world, and, in particular in our artistic community.’ He wanted it to call for ‘consolidation, in order to understand the situation in contemporary art and working out of a strategy that could introduce Kazakhstan to international art community’. Sadly, the installation was destroyed in 2000, but Khalfin exhibited its remnants at various exhibitions.
Rustam Khalfin was the subject of numerous official and non-official personal exhibitions, including Retrospective. Love Races at White Space in London (2007), Intim – In Time at the Soros Centre for Contemporary Art in Almaty (2007), Nordic Nomads at the Contemporary Art Centre in Vilnius (2003). His works were also exhibited at such important group shows, as Central Asia Pavilion at the 51st Venice Biennale (2005), Off the Silk Road: No Mad's Land: Contemporary Art from Central Asia at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin (2002), re-orientation: Kunst zu Mittelasien at the ACC Gallery in Weimar (2002).
Khalfin’s paintings are in the collections of the A. Kasteev Museum of Arts, Almaty, East Kazakhstan Regional Nevzorovs’ Museum of Fine Arts, Semey, Pavlodar Regional Art Museum, Pavlodar, State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Arkhangelsk Museum of Fine ART, Arkhangelsk, National Centre for Contemporary Arts, Moscow, M HKA, Antwerp and Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, New Brunswick.