MOSCOW (Reuters Life!) - Fashion designer and ex-model Daria Zhukova, the girlfriend of Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, has opened a new exhibition celebrating Russian modern art at her refurbished Moscow gallery.
Zhukova, wearing a muted grey dress and black tights, said the ‘Garage’ would display an all-Russian line-up for the first time in its two-year history after a two month shut-down.
“What’s interesting is that these are two different points of view on modern art,” Zhukova told a packed news briefing, explaining that avant-garde and utopian influences on Russian art were on display.
She then posed for TV cameras alongside a tower of florescent lights by contemporary Russian artist Andrei Molodkin.
The ‘Garage’ had been closed while Parisian curator Herve Mikaeloff put together the works by more than 40 Russian artists. The vast open plan gallery was converted from an old Soviet bus depot in 2008, and Zhukova at the time said London’s Tate Modern had influenced it.
Zhukova leases the building from a Russian Jewish organization, although the financial details have not been disclosed. A spokeswoman for the gallery told Reuters her ‘partner’ Abramovich was not connected, though he is widely speculated to have donated some money.
Abramovich, currently Russia’s third richest man, made his fortune in oil and commodities but shot to worldwide fame when he bought London’s Chelsea Football Club in 2003.
Afterwards, revelers downed glasses of vodka and scoffed miniature pancakes at the gallery’s party, held in an empty space reserved for a future exhibition of privately held works by U.S. artist Mark Rothko.
Mikaeloff, a Frenchman who says he has “Russian blood,” told Reuters at the gallery that he had aimed to display traditional Russian work re-modeled for the present day.
“I see a different future in Russian contemporary art, which is nice. It’s not theological anymore and I think the artists are trying to explore different ways of dealing with art,” he said, referring to pre-19th century Russian paintings of icons.
The exhibition features two separate displays. “Futurology” depicts the avant-garde movement of the first half of the 20th century and its influence on Russia’s art scene.
It features abstract works by Kazimir Malevich, best known for his iconic ‘Black Square’, alongside new works including a giant iPhone in the shape of ‘Tatlin’s Tower’ -- a 1919 design for the planned headquarters of the post-Russian Revolution Communist party that was never built.
Other striking displays included several paintings by Diana Machulina of beauty queens and athletes -- including British Olympic rowing champion Matthew Pinsent -- covered in flies.
“Russian Utopias” centres around the phenomenon of a perfect world in Russian art.
Writing by John Bowker, editing by Paul Casciato