Abramovich girlfriend Dasha Zhukova causes race storm by posing on 'black mannequin' chair

Oligarch's girlfriend causes storm with pose on 'black mannequin' chair

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 January, 2014, 10:53pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 January, 2014, 10:53pm


Art gallery owner Dasha Zhukova has caused an internet outcry and faces allegations of racism after posing on a chair fashioned from a contorted lifelike mannequin of a black woman.

It did not help matters that the photo of Zhukova - a Russian socialite and the girlfriend of oligarch Roman Abramovich - was published on Martin Luther King Day, a national holiday in the US.

The photo accompanied an interview with Zhukova about her art magazine Garage on the Russian website Buro 24/7, a project of fellow Moscow "It girl" Miroslava Duma.

It was widely condemned by bloggers and internet users, and has since been removed from Duma's Instagram feed.

But Zhukova defended the image, saying: "This photograph, published completely out of context, is of an art work intended specifically as a commentary on gender and racial politics. I utterly abhor racism and would like to apologise to anyone who has been offended."

In the photo, the mannequin is naked apart from knee-high boots, elbow-length gloves and black hotpants. She is lying on her back with her legs crushing her breasts against her body and her head tilted up.

Zhukova, who has become one of the best-known figures on the international art scene, looks calmly at the camera, resting her back against one of the mannequin's upright boots.

On Tuesday, Buro 24/7 also apologised for any offence caused. "Buro 24/7 is categorically opposed to the idea of racism, oppression or humiliation of people in any form," it said in a statement. "We see this chair purely in an artistic context."

The website did not remove the photo from the article, but cropped it so that Zhukova was visible while the chair was cut out of the shot. Bjarne Melgaard, a New York-based Norwegian artist, created the chair on which Zhukova was photographed.

The New York Times has described Melgaard as a "projectile vomiter" of an artist. His trademark is excess - one of his other sculptures shows the Pink Panther smoking crystal meth.

[It is] intended specifically as a commentary on gender and racial politics

Jonathan Jones, art critic for Britain's The Guardian, said Melgaard's art "may be in bad taste, but I am sure that with this chair he was not intending to denigrate black women".

"It is a comment on the controversial works of the 1960s British artist Allen Jones," the critic said. "It is a pastiche of the pop art of Jones that made women - literally - into furniture. Jones's art reflects the attitudes of the time."