Rise of Dasha Zhukova: girlfriend of Abramovich to host Serpentine party

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The Independent Online

Some in the art world may have mocked Dasha Zhukova's credentials as an aspiring aficionado and sniggered when she embarrassingly revealed that she couldn't name a single artist. But the 27-year-old girlfriend of Roman Abramovich appears to have had the last laugh.



For yesterday Ms Zhukova announced that she is to host the Serpentine Galley's annual summer party, and revealed plans to forge a long-lasting link between the London gallery and her own art house in Moscow.

The party is one of the art world's most high-profile social events and is regarded by many as the hottest ticket of the season. As the sponsor, Ms Zhukova is in good company. Previous backers include Yves Saint Laurent and Swarovski.

And the company at the bash on Tuesday isn't likely to be too shabby either. Previous years' guest lists have included the Hollywood actors Jude Law, Kevin Spacey, Nicolas Cage and Pierce Brosnan, while the art contingent consisted of Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst and the Chapman brothers. The plan is that, rather than merely sponsor the party, the financial input will extend to a long-term cooperation between the Serpentine and her own gallery, The Garage Centre for Contemporary Culture, which opens in Moscow a week later.

Ms Zhukova said: "I really love the philosophy behind the Serpentine Gallery. It is always quite innovative and open to different cultures. I also like the fact you have great architects like Frank Gehry building these amazing pavilions that mean you can have a party in the middle of Hyde Park." She declined to discuss the financial support she is offering the Serpentine, saying: "This is really a partnership that is being established. We're focused on thinking of how we can work together in the future."

It is unclear whether Mr Abramovich will attend the party. He has spent millions on works of art this year, with reports that he purchased Francis Bacon's Triptych (1976), for £43m – a record price for a contemporary work sold at auction – and Lucian Freud's Benefits Supervisor Sleeping, for £17m, following her advice.

Hans Ulrich Obrist, the Serpentine's co-director of exhibitions, said: "We have focused in recent years on China and India and now it's very exciting to have this dialogue with Dasha and The Garage as our first connection with Moscow "

As both the daughter and girlfriend of billionaires – her father is the property magnate Alexander Zhukova – her early forays into the art world have not been well received by more established figures in that sphere.

The Wall Street Journal described here as, "just another oligarch princess frittering away millions in her quest for social standing and substance," while the celebrity gossip website Gawker said she was "some kind of idiot art-savant".

And she hasn't exactly helped her own case to dissuade people from those thoughts. When asked who her favourite artists were she replied: "I'm like, really bad at remembering names...".

But Ms Zhukova, who also has her own fashion label – on sale at Harvey Nichols – insists she has nothing to prove to those who have decried her appearance on the art circuit.

She said: "I don't feel I've been described in an unserious way or in a way that limits me to simple associations."

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