Daria Zhukova Garage party defies recession

LAST UPDATED AT 12:33 ON Fri 20 Mar 2009

Dasha Zhukova, girlfriend of the Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, is determined not to let the financial crisis get in the way of a good party. On Thursday night, she threw open the doors of The Garage, the Moscow arts centre she founded last year, for a bash to celebrate the opening of the country's biggest ever exhibition of contemporary art.

However, the 27-year-old socialite, who was recently made editor-in-chief of the British style magazine Pop, did concede that she had had to struggle to stage the show, which is called A Certain State of the World, and is made up of works from the collection of Francois Pinault, the owner of Christie's and the London gallery, the Haunch of Venison.

"Because we rely on commercial sponsors and private donors we're as affected by the crisis as anyone else," said Zhukova. "We've had to make cutbacks, our exhibitions will have to be less expensive."

But she refused to let the financial climate dilute her aspiration to bring new shows to an eager public. "The Moscow public needs, in a way, an introduction to contemporary art and doing a group show like this is a great stepping stone to that," she said. "The Garage will go on."

Among the most famous pieces on display is American artist Jeff Koons's 3 metre-high chromium-plated Hanging Heart, a version of which was sold in 2007 for $23.6m, then a record for a work by a living artist.

Meanwhile, Dasha said she hated being asked which were her favourite artists - possibly after once not being able to conjure up any names when posed the question in an interview. Her preference depended on how she was feeling, she said: "Sometimes I'm in the mood to be challenged about politics, about emotions, and sometimes I just want to look at a beautiful painting." · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.