Abramovich's girlfriend Dasha Zhukova sparks outrage with controversial 'racist chair' photoshoot

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Art gallery owner Daria Zhukova, girlfriend of Russian magnate Roman Abramovich, sparked outrage over the internet with a photoshoot posted on Twitter on Tuesday.

Interviewed by blogger Miroslava Duma for fashion website Buro247, the 34-year-old posed comfortably and casually sitting on a controversial chair, a work by Swedish artist Bjarne Melgaard.

The problem is, indeed, the chair-artwork itself, a piece particularly disturbing: it represent a black woman, half-naked and lying on her back on a rather contrived manner, her knees squashing her chest down, the legs bent to form the seat and back rest.

The resulting picture is a very strong image and unsurprisingly sparked fierce reactions and was attacked as been racist, to the extent that it had to be removed from Twitter within hours of being published, and replaced with a cropped version that doesn't show the whole chair.

But it was too late, because in the meantime all hell broke loose.

Reactions to the incident went somehow hysterical, stirred up by the fact that the offensive image was also published, out of all days, on Martin Luther King Day.

The questionable artwork has been quickly dubbed 'racist chair' and the picture as a whole almost unanimously interpreted as a demeaning statement on white supremacy.

However, there are few points in this rather sad episode that maybe deserve a little scraping under the surface of appearance, or the superficiality of modern day super-fast, ever-reaching technology.

The more relevant of them being the fact that the artwork itself is a comment on another controversial work from 1969, 'Chair' by British artist Allen Jones.

Jones' Chair represents a woman in exactly the same position as Melgaard's chair, wearing the same black boots, gloves and underwear, the only difference being her fair hair and skin colour. It was part of an infamous trio of fibreglass mannequins of women posing as pieces of furniture which at the time became a focal point of the growing debate about the representation of woman in art, fashion and advertisement.

Terribly sexist, the work was on every feminist hit-list, but nevertheless earned Jones quite a lot of money and a prolific career.

Now, what Melgaard has done is to take this infamous pop art icon and make it even more toxic by adding the further discriminating detail: his mannequin, as we have seen, is not simply a woman, but a black woman. Indeed, it is doubly offensive - and is making people talk about it again.

Regrettable, Zhukova thought she was only posing on a hip piece of contemporary art, but the power of images is stronger than anyone's intentions, and after having unleashed such a wave of resentment and indignation, both the gallerist and the blogger had to apologise profusely to regain some international respectability.

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