Russian gallerist sparks race row
over "overtly degrading" chair

| 16 comments

Russian gallerist sparks race row over "overtly degrading" chair

News: Russian socialite and gallerist Dasha Zukhova has sparked a racism row after a photograph of her sitting on a chair in the form of an inverted semi-naked black woman appeared alongside an interview on a Russian website.

The photograph, which originally appeared on Buro247, was later cropped by the publication to remove the chair but not before it had circulated widely, sparking furore.

FashionBombDaily editor Claire Sulmers, who broke the story, described the image as an example of "white dominance and superiority, articulated in a seemingly serene yet overtly degrading way."

Russian gallerist sparks race row over "overtly degrading" chair
This image: Zhukova sits on Allen Jones Remake by Bjarne Melgaard, 2013. Main image: Dasha Zhukova portrait published in Buro247

"We can't help but be filled with anger and frustration over the onslaught of negative imagery, constant disregard and unabashed bigotry that continues to plague the fashion industry," wrote Huffington Post's Julee Wilson.

The timing of the interview, which was published on Martin Luther King Day, added to the furore.

Russian gallerist sparks race row over "overtly degrading" chair
Allen Jones Remake by Bjarne Melgaard in Gang Bust exhibition at Venus Over Manhattan, New York, 2013

Zukhova defended the image in a statement, saying: "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."

The chair - an example of forniphilia or human furniture - was created by Norwegian artist Bjarne Melgaard and is one of a series of interpretations of pieces originally created by British pop artist Allen Jones in 1969.

Russian gallerist sparks race row over "overtly degrading" chair
The original chair by Allen Jones, 1969

Jones created a series of three artworks called Hatstand, Table and Chair featuring white, female fibreglass mannequins. The first is standing with arms outstretched; the second crouching on all fours with a pane of glass on her back; and the third lying on the floor with her legs strapped to her chest and a cushion balanced on her thighs.

Last year, Melgaard presented Allen Jones Remake, an interpretation of Jones' work featuring black mannequins, at an exhibition called Gang Bust at Venus Over Manhattan gallery in New York.

Russian gallerist sparks race row over "overtly degrading" chair
Korova Milk Bar in Stanley Kubrick's 1971 film A Clockwork Orange

Jones' pieces were also interpreted in Stanley Kubrick's 1971 film A Clockwork Orange, where forniphilic tables and milk dispensers furnish the Korova Milk Bar. Jones allegedly turned down Kubrick's offer to design the bar for free, forcing Kubrick to commission derivative designs.

Zukhova is girlfriend of Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovic and owner of the Garage gallery in Moscow, which is being designed by Rem Koolhaas of OMA. Buro247 is owned by her friend Miroslava Duma.

  • TPaign

    Have you ever noticed that we call footstools “Ottomans”?

    • B-B

      An Ottoman is a specific type of footstool. Originally brought to Europe from the Ottoman Empire. Does it make it racist that a piece of furniture is named after the people that created it?

  • H-J

    Just because the female figure is black, it is a race issue? This same chair has been around since 1969 and is in the collection of Tate, only difference is that the female in that one is white. So apparently it is okay to sit on naked white females, but the moment you want to sit on a black female it is racist? We should be able to sit on chairs of naked females of all race and colour:
    http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/jones-chair-t03244/text-catalogue-entry

    • JH

      This image was released on Monday 20th (MLK Day in the U.S.) a national holiday commemorating a civil rights hero. That can’t be a coincidence. PR stunt gone wrong. This “art” is an obvious rip off of Alex Jones’ work and completely unoriginal. Both pieces are misogynistic( created by men). I have nothing wrong with the chair – its part of a body of work. The image we see in the post above has been taken out of the artist interpretation and is absolutely racist.

      • H-J

        I’m sure Martin Luther King Day is a wide celebrated event in Russia.

  • Leiurus

    So, if a man is sitting on the chair, it is misogynistic. If a woman is sitting on the chair, it’s arty. If a white man is sitting on the black woman chair, it’s misogynistic AND racist. Would a black woman sitting on the black woman chair be okay? Politically correct nonsense.

  • wrong

    Are you sure the Russian socialite is not also part of the chair? It is just the right height to sit on both of them. Very smart artwork.

  • Concerned Citizen

    Some people can’t see the forest for their own prejudicial trees.

  • Lexi Tallisman

    On another completely superficial note, can anyone identify who makes the vanity she’s sitting at?

  • SiberianBeard

    There is no criminal penalty for homosexuality in the Russian Federation while Texas (USA) has.

  • Concerned Citizen

    You speak of homophonic as if it were a bad thing. Why is that? The rest of the comments are simply prejudicial.

  • john

    Yes if a black girl sat on a white girl chair the ‘issue’ remains. The original furniture by Jones was questionable and generally ignored at the time. These remakes are particularly sad because the supporting thesis is clearly of white supremacy.

    These pieces should be categorised not as art but as trite titillation; nevertheless damaging to our collective wellbeing. These ‘remakes’ are not art, they are what we expect from people with too much money and the propensity to exploit everything. The same could be said of Hip hop videos and porn. We need to recover humanity in art.

  • Troy

    Do you know what’s outrageous? That no one is speaking out against Russia’s vicious homophobic laws and their ongoing contribution to the violence in Syria. Seriously people, priorities!

  • bnh_b

    To view this only from a Russian perspective, and to isolate yourself and Russia from the rest of the world is naive. Globalisation and the internet is fast connecting all corners of the world.

    If you wish to remove yourself from this and shut yourself and Russia from the rest of the world again, then don’t use the internet or any other forum that serves to connect you to the rest of the world.

    However, if you accept being part of the global community, then these global issues need to be taken into consideration. It might not be an issue in Russia, but it is a very sensitive issue in most parts of the world.

  • Rage of Nations

    I see nothing wrong with this.

  • TeaOnSunday

    Hey Linda, what exactly is your experience with Russia? Is it just what you read in the news? Have you actually been there, travelled around, met locals? Russians don’t have the same racist history with black people that white Americans do. They had slavery, yes, but of their own people, not of blacks. Russians don’t really care.

    Because they were behind the Iron Curtain for so long, they didn’t get exposed to many different people and didn’t get to travel. Is that their fault? And despite not being able to travel, there were quite a few African students in the major cities (thanks to Soviet indoctrination programs) and they were always treated with respect, because they were guests and because they came from someplace outside the hellhole of the Soviet Union.

    The only people in Russia who “don’t get it” are right-wing skinheads who are a fairly recent (post USSR) development. But they exist in every country in the world.

    So please, learn some history and don’t project your American sensibilities on others.