Is chair made from model of black woman's nearly-naked body racist?
Dasha Zhukova branded a 'chairhead' for posing on it, but art critic says seat has been 'misunderstood'
THERE is "nothing racist" about a chair supported by a mannequin of a nearly-naked black woman lying on her back, which caused a Twitter-storm earlier this week, writes The Guardian's Jonathan Jones.
He was moved to write a defence of the controversial chair today after a photograph of Roman Abramovich's girlfriend, Dasha Zhukova, sitting on it sparked an international furore. Several commentators pointed out that the picture was particularly offensive because it appeared on the Russian fashion website Buro 24/7 on Martin Luther King Day, a public holiday in the US.
The Sun calls Zhukova - who owns an art gallery - a "chairhead" for allowing herself to be pictured on the offending furniture.
Miroslava Duma, the editor of Buro 24/7, issued an apology for the picture yesterday and the image was cropped to obscure the offending mannequin. But Zhukova said the photograph of the chair – which was designed by Norwegian artist Bjarne Melgaard – had been published "entirely out of context".
Zhukova added that the art work is "intended specifically as a commentary on gender and racial politics".
The Guardian's Jones agrees. The fury triggered by the image "is not about racism as such", he writes. "It is about the clumsy exposure of a strange work of art to popular culture in a way that begs to be misunderstood."
But Hana Riaz, also writing in The Guardian, says Melgaard's chair is a reminder of how black women are often portrayed by artists as "hypersexualised, abused and ridiculed objects".
Riaz adds: "He [Melgaard] might attempt to confront the act of fetishism that is often involved in the gendered racialisation of black bodies – the eroticism and desire that underlies the disavowal involved in racism – but he does so by using black women's bodies as collateral."