A gay Russian artist has created a protest piece in response to an image of Dasha Zhukova, the partner of Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich, sitting on a chair made from a black mannequin.
Photographer Alexander Kargaltsev has taken an image of a naked black man sitting on a white man in protest against the image of Zhukova, which was criticised for being racist and was later removed from fashion website Buro 24/7.
Kargaltsev said his photograph is a direct critique of the image of Zhukova, which he described as “an outrageous and tasteless gaffe”.
The artist, who was forced to leave Russia for New York because of the discrimination he experienced as a gay man, said he chose to depict two men sitting on each other to make a statement about racism, xenophobia and homophobia in Russia.
“I'm disappointed that the tradition of xenophobia is so strong in my home country that such an image of Zhukova can appear as if it is normal and unremarkable,” he said.
“Russian people do not seem to realise when people offend the principle of colour, nationality, sexual orientation and so on.”
He added that the image of Zhukova seated on a black mannequin for a fashion shoot represented the “unthinking arrogance” of the Russian elite.
“It seems that she didn’t expect such a negative reaction. The situation reflects the unthinking arrogance of the mega-rich in Russia,” he said.
Kargaltsev said he thought the photograph would be as shocking to Russia as it is to the West, adding: “I will never return to Russia until it is safe for LBGT people are safe to live a normal life. I am not Russian any more, except in my heart.”
The image of Dasha Zhukova was removed last week from fashion website Buro 24/7 and replaced with a cropped picture of the Russian art dealer without the black mannequin.
The chair, which has a cushion on the back of the mannequin's thighs, was based on the pop art fibreglass piece “Chair” by artist Allen Jones.
Miroslava Duma, the editor of Buro 24/7 issued an apology last week after the photo was called “racist”, “disturbing” and “revolting”, with many criticising the decision to post pictures from the shoot on Martin Luther King day.
Zhukova told the Evening Standard last week: “This photograph, which has been published completely out of context, is an artwork intended specifically as a commentary on gender and racial politics.
“I utterly abhor racism, and would like to apologise anyone who has been offended by this image.”
Banned, censored and 'offensive' artworks
Banned, censored and 'offensive' artworks
1/8 'My Bed' - Tracey Emin
Emin, one of the Young British Artists, created arguably her most iconic and controversial piece of art with 'My Bed'. It was short-listed for the 1999 Tuner Prize but sparked public outrage and a media furore. Emin's own bed is displayed here, surrounded by evidence of her sexual, self-destructive exploits. Stained sheets, fag butts, empty beer bottles, condom and worn underwear can all be seen in this image of suicidal depression following a major break-up.
2/8 'Christ You Know It Ain't Easy' - Sarah Lucas
This 3D piece by English artist and Tracey Emin contemporary Sarah Lucas is made from cigarette butts and depicts Christ being crucified on the cross of the English flag. It is thought to be a comment on the difficulty of quitting smoking. Lucas took up the habit aged 9. Much of her work is designed to be shocking and provocative - someone is always offended.
3/8 'Fountain' - Marcel Duchamp
This scandalous porcelain urinal, signed R.Mutt, was rejected by the Society of Independent Artists in 1917 even though the rules stated that any submission would be accepted from artists who paid the fee. Pictured here is a replica of the 1917 piece. The original is believed lost. 'Fountain' is an example of Duchamp's revolutionary 'readymades' - ordinary manufactured objects designated by the artist as art.
4/8 'The Holy Virgin Mary' - Chris Ofili
The provocative Sensation exhibit at the Brooklyn Art Museum in 1999 caused great offence. Nigerian artist Ofili's depiction of an African Madonna surrounded by black bottoms and elephant poo was called 'anti-Catholic' and 'horrible' by New York's mayor at the time. So 'horrible' that Rudy Giuliani filed a lawsuit against the museum.
5/8 'Immersion Piss Christ' - Andres Serrano
Two Catholic activists partially destroyed US artist Serrano's artwork while it was on display in the south of France. Created in 1987, it represents a small plastic crucifix submerged in a glass of the artist's own urine.
6/8 'Western-Christian Civilization' - Leon Ferrari
Argentine conceptual artist Ferrari often dealt with power and religion in his work, using images of Jesus and the Virgin Mary with cages, frying pans and even meat blenders. Showing Christ crucified on a fighter plane, 'Western-Christian Civilization' was a protest work against the Vietnam War. Governments were constantly battling against Ferrari - he was exiled from Brazil and a 2004 exhibition of his work was temporarily forced to close when Pope Francis intervened.
7/8 'Bacchante and Infant Faun' - Frederick William MacMonnies
This bronze statue caused an uproar in 1854 when an architect tried to erect it in the courtyard of the Boston Public Library. Modern viewers will see little to get het up about but the nude Roman wine deity's 'drunken indecency' offended the Women's Christian Temperance Union. It was taken down to the more liberal New York instead and is now exhibited in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. MacMonnies earned worldwide fame as a result.
8/8 'Saint Bartholomew, Exquisite Pain' - Damien Hirst
No stranger to controversy, Hirst's original sculpture had no fig leaf to protect his modesty. The artist added the extra detail to prevent issues with Chinese collectors and left it in when the sculpture was displayed in Qatar. Nudity can offend Islamic culture, particularly in places where the general public has not been exposed to contemporary art.