Roman Abramovich’s Girlfriend Sparks Race Row

Dasha Zhukova – gallery owner and girlfriend of Roman Abramovich – pictured sitting on a contorted, near-naked mannequin of a black woman.

The original photo of Dasha Zhukova in Buro 24/7

The image before it was cropped. Photograph: Buro 24/7/screen grab

In an airy white blouse, art gallery owner Dasha Zhukova poses serenely on a chair, in a photograph taken for a Russian fashion website. The only problem: the chair is fashioned from a contorted lifelike mannequin of a black woman, sparking an internet outcry and allegations of racism.

It did not help matters that the photograph 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 photograph accompanied an interview with Zhukova about her art magazine Garage and was published on the Russian website Buro 24/7, a project of fellow Moscow “it girl” Miroslava Duma. The picture was widely condemned by bloggers and internet users, and has since been removed from Duma’s Instagram feed.

Zhukova, however, defended the image in a statement: “This photograph, which has been 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 by this image.”

In the photograph, the mannequin is naked, save for 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, possibly in pain. The Russian gallery owner, 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.

The chair echoes a 1969 artwork by British pop artist Allen Jones and belonging to the Tate gallery in which the mannequin is white.

The website that published the article apologized on Tuesday for any offence caused.

“Buro 24/7 is categorically opposed to the idea of racism, oppression or humiliation of people in any form,” said a representative of Buro 24/7, reading from a statement. “We see this chair purely in an artistic context. We apologise to all our readers who were offended by these photographs.”

The website did not remove the photograph from the article, but cropped it, so that Zhukova was visible but her mannequin chair was cut out of the shot.

– The Guardian