Update: A publicist for Dasha Zhukova has sent a statement which you can find after the jump.
If you thought that Sarah Palin telling President Obama on her Facebook page to stop “playing the race card” was the most tone-deaf and ignorant thing to happen on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, you are actually wrong. That prize goes to the Russian blog Buro 24/7, which published a photo of socialite/billionaire’s girlfriend Dasha Zhukova sitting on a chair made to look like a Black woman.
Zhukova, who co-founded the fashion line Kova & T and is the editor-in-chief of Garagemagazine, was interviewed for Buro 24/7, which is run by a fellow Russian socialite, Miroslava Duma. In the accompanying photograph to the interview, Zhukova poses in blue jeans and a white blouse sitting atop a mannequin, who is turned upside-down with her back on the floor. The mannequin is a Black female with curly black hair, wearing thigh-high black stiletto boots, black gloves and black underwear. Buro 24/7 cropped the image on their web site so the chair is no longer depicted. It issued a statement in apology:
“Buro 24/7 is categorically opposed to the idea of racism, oppression or humiliation of people in any form. We see this chair purely in an artistic context. We apologise to all our readers who were offended by these photographs.”
Dasha Zhukova has also defended the photograph 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.”
It’s unclear who the creator of this particular chair is. However, it is similar to and appears to be inspired by another controversial piece of artwork/furniture made by Allen Jones in 1969, depicting a white woman in the same pose who is also lying on a bear-skin rug. Jones’ piece, which is sometimes referred to as “the bondage chair,” is in the Tate Museum in London:
Both pieces of art clearly make statements about the sexual subjugation of women. But the one of the Black women will inherently have more layers to it, because it also depict the both the racial and sexual subjugation of Black women. White people, including white women, are partially responsible for that subjugation, whether we want to acknowledge it or not. Even if it’s a piece of art work, the racial implications make it inappropriate for a wealthy white woman to pose sitting atop it. Really, how tone deaf can rich, white people be?
Zhukova is the girlfriend of Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, owner of the Chelsea Football Club, with whom she has two kids.
Dasha Zhukova issued a statement about the photograph through her publicist:
The chair pictured in the Buro 24/7 website interview is an artwork created by Norwegian artist Bjarne Melgaard, one of a series that reinterprets art historical works from artist Allen Jones as a commentary on gender and racial politics. Its use in this photo shoot is regrettable as it took the artwork totally out of its intended context, particularly given that Buro 24/7′s release of the article coincided with the important celebration of the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I regret allowing an artwork with such charged meaning to be used in this context. I utterly abhor racism and would like to apologize to those offended by my participation in this shoot.
Garage Magazine has a strong track record of promoting diversity and racial and gender equality in the worlds of art and fashion, and will continue in our mission to stir positive debate on these and other issues.
Email me at Jessica@TheFrisky.com. Follow me on Twitter. [Image via Buro 24/7]